Editorial: Back-room deals aren't the way

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Prime Minister John Key. Photo / Greg Bowker
Prime Minister John Key. Photo / Greg Bowker

God has a mischievous sense of humour. That has to be why He (or She) awarded the Christian Coalition 4.4 per cent in the first MMP election, ensuring they narrowly missed the 5 per cent threshold and were denied any seats in Parliament.

And now, how else to explain the divine intervention that saved our Prime Minister from himself this week? There was Key, dead-set on forging a governing coalition with the Christian-Lite Conservative Party and its troublingly dim leader, Colin Craig.

Craig is a man who doesn't believe in evolution, doesn't accept anthro-pogenic climate change, and blames New Zealand's woes on its "promiscuous young women".

This is a man who wants a seat in Parliament and the accompanying $147,800 salary but refuses to do an MP's job and make informed, principled decisions. Instead, he would refer every major decision back to voters for them to decide in a referendum.

Smacking? It's up to the public to decide. Asset sales? Up to the public. Tax or spend? Too hard - leave it to the voters.

It is this man, this limp, anaemic excuse for a leader, whom John Key is grooming as his new coalition partner. Key is desperate to find anyone to take the place of the foundering Act, United Future and Maori parties - but really?

Colin Craig has many things going for him. He is a nice fellow. He has a boyish enthusiasm. A loving family. A lot of money. What he lacks is street smarts. He would be eaten alive in Parliament. Ruthless MPs on either side of the House would chew him up and spit him out, leaving the bloggers and tweeters to bicker over the soggy, half-masticated scraps.

If Colin Craig is the answer to John Key's problem, then National is in trouble. Whenever Craig speaks, he makes a gaffe - and that's even before he is properly tested in the heat of an election campaign or in Parliament.

Key shared cups of tea with successive Act leaders to help get them elected to Parliament. His predecessor Jenny Shipley invited Mana Wahine MP Alamein Kopu for cups of tea to retain her critical vote in Parliament.

But it would take something stronger than tea to turn Craig's Conservative Party into a viable governing partner.

This week, the Representation Commission announced the boundaries of the new Upper Harbour electorate, which Key had expected would provide Craig with a convenient launch-pad into Parliament. Instead, the new seat's boundaries took in much of Westie welfare minister Paula Bennett's Waitakere seat, death metal, black jeans, leopard-skin jackets and all.

God laughed mischievously. Bennett chortled gleefully and, within 20 minutes of the announcement, had claimed the seat as her own. Straitlaced Colin Craig blanched and wished he had attended church more often.

Key should be down on his knees, thanking the Lord for saving him from the humiliation of having to rely on the Conservatives.

Now, John Key has a God-given chance. He lost face with the cuppagate debacle in Epsom last election, and in the attempt to gerrymander Upper Harbour this time. He can gain back that self-respect. If he wants a third term as Prime Minister, he should not rely on back-room deals and electoral loopholes. He must win fair and square. He must lead a Government that people want to vote for.

- Herald on Sunday

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