Politics is a dirty business and politicians are usually public enemy No 1. Probably quite deservedly as well, given the long list of disreputable politicians with names like Donna Awatere Huata, Taito Philip Field and David Garrett heading the "roll of dishonour".
One politician yet to be elected to Parliament and fast becoming the political enemy No 1 is Conservative Party leader Colin Craig. If you believe what the present crop of politicians have to say about Mr Craig, you would expect to meet a crazy man, a religious zealot, a homophobe or even a skinny Kim Dotcom.
It's not just the politicians lambasting Mr Craig. Media commentators have been like sharks on a feeding frenzy, with many of them showing nothing less than pure cynicism towards him.
Definitely shark bait of the day if three articles in the Sunday Star Times are anything to go by; they barely had a good word to say about the guy.
But personally, I hate to see a good man being kicked in the guts when he is simply trying to make a difference to our country. I first met Mr Craig at the Queen St "March for Democracy", an event he organised in 2009 in response to the Government ignoring the smacking referendum.
This was the first and only protest march I have ever participated in and I did it out of concern for our democracy when the Government, yet again, ignored another referendum-refusing to listen to the wishes of New Zealanders.
Since those days Mr Craig has gone on to stand as mayor for Auckland and then set up the New Zealand Conservative Party. No doubt you have an opinion or perception of Mr Craig, but having met Mr Craig on several occasions I have to say you wouldn't find a nicer, more genuine Kiwi bloke-I've seen nothing crazy or zealot-like about him.
I might not agree with everything he has to say, but here is a man prepared to put his money where his mouth is to try to make a difference for New Zealanders. Yes he might have religious leanings, although he is not a regular church attendee. In fact, I would say that Whanganui MP Chester Borrows is far more of a religious zealot than Mr Craig, but when the new boy on the block poses a threat to the establishment, the knives quickly come out.
Why do you need to know this? Well there's a very strong chance that Mr Craig and his Conservative Party could win one electorate seat at the next election, or even get past the 5 per cent threshold to get a number of MPs into Parliament and this could affect the whole outcome. Prime Minister John Key is no idiot, he knows the Labour and Green gangs are out to get him. He needs to bolster his gang with a coalition partner to hold on to the monofilaments of power and he also needs to do what he can to help get Mr Craig elected-hence the proposed cup of tea (check for hidden microphones Colin!).
It's also important because this might also mean that New Zealand may finally get binding referendums, if the Conservative Party is elected and National needs them as a coalition partner-which is extremely likely. That's because the Conservative Party has stated that binding referendums are one of their major policy platforms and in his words to me, "a non-negotiable condition for any coalition agreement".
The good thing about this is that even if Mr Craig and his troops get into Parliament and pass laws you don't like, you can have a binding referendum to stop them. Mr Craig is prepared to abide by the "will of the people" even if he doesn't agree with them-how refreshing.
Now I might be a little biased here, having campaigned for binding referendums for nearly 10 years, but given that New Zealanders like a bit of third party insurance when it comes to general elections (to avoid unbridled elective dictatorships) my money's been on Mr Craig for some time now.
That prediction is based on the impressive result he achieved at the last election having only launched his party just a few months prior and the fact that Mr Craig is simply a decent bloke, which I'm sure you would agree with if you get the chance to meet him one day.
• Steve Baron is a Wanganui-based political scientist, co-editor of the book People Power and the Founder of Better Democracy NZ.
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