In a whirlwind of controversy, Colin Craig has been one of the standout characters of this year's colourful election campaign.
He had to compete hard with scandals, surprises and bombshells to stay in the headlines. His extraordinary comeback (after being written off in July) even included his own mini-scandal with the sudden resignation of his press secretary, Rachel MacGregor.
Newstalk ZB's political editor @barrysoper broke the news on Twitter: "Have just spoken to @ColinCraigNZ long time press secretary a tearful Rachel McGregor who has resigned saying he's a very manipulative man!"
TV3's @BrookSabin, who was the first to tell Craig the news, on camera, tweeted: "Houston, we have a problem. Being called manipulative by own press sec does not fit with family values Colin Craig campaigning on."
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Jokes at Craig's expense were aplenty. This from Gareth Richards (@garethmr): "Sounds like Colin Craig is going to need a binding referendum to get his press sec back." And Dave Armstrong (@malosilima) tweeted: "Sits vac: Press sec. Must be bright, good with hair and be able to spell Gomorrah, promiscuous & referenda correctly. No science grads plse."
All politicians come in for their share of ridicule on Twitter but Craig seemed to be a popular target. After Labour's @TrevorMallard floated a plan to bring back the moa in June, Duncan Garner (@Garner_Live) tweeted: "Colin Craig supports the Moa idea and wants to take one to the moon to be the first thing to ever walk there." And after John Key ruled out a deal with Craig in East Coast Bays, TV3's @TovaOBrien tweeted: "Goodbye Colin Craig. It's been real."
The Conservatives' other candidates also came in for criticism. @JarrodGilbertNZ tweeted: "Bloody hell, if Garth McVicar became Minister of Justice we'd be reminiscing fondly of the good old days of Judith Collins." And @JGreenbrookHeld wrote: "It takes a lot for me to turn off @RNZ-Sunday-am but I will be when Christine Rankin comes on."
Supportive tweets were thin on the ground and Craig (@ColinCraigNZ) only occasionally tweeted, such as Wednesday's "Amazing scenes of support at Oteha Valley. Lots of waves tooting horns. Vote Conservative Vote Colin Craig." And former Act MP Stephen Franks (@franks_lawyer) cited the "Conservatives as National's non corrupt alternative to NZ First".
The untidy end of the campaign did generate some sympathy. Paora Ropata (@kiaora4that) tweeted, "I actually feel sorry for Colin Craig. The press secretary blindsided him and that's unprofessional. Craig didn't deserve the set up." And Guy Williams (@guywilliamsguy) was left asking: "Is it weird to say that I feel a little sorry for Colin Craig???" Otago University political experts
Dr Bryce Edwards (@bryce_edwards) and Geoffrey Miller (@GeoffMillerNZ) are following the impact of Twitter on the election campaign.