Colin Craig, who formed the Conservative Party in 2011, was meant to be with us much longer. He’d declared during the 2014 election campaign that he’d one day ascend to the top level of the Beehive as a true conservative. But Craig is dead. The party he created kicked him out and no longer wants him and the nation is collectively pointing and laughing.
In 2015, TV3 report David Farrier interviewed Craig in a sauna. Days later, when Craig resigned as Conservative leader, the news media had fun linking it to the sauna spectacle. Someone, apparently Hitler, once said: “No politician should ever let himself be photographed in a bathing suit.”
His own party, which never won any seats in parliament despite a campaign budget rivaling Labour’s, is not the only victim he leaves behind. Last week it emerged that the Human Rights Review Tribunal ordered Craig pay his former secretary, Rachel MacGregor, $128,780 in damages plus costs for breaching the confidentiality of a settlement which resolved issues regarding a pay dispute and a sexual harassment claim.
The look on Craig’s face when reporters told him just two days before election day 2014 that MacGregor had resigned will forever be burnt into my imagination of New Zealand politics. That and of course the Good Wife-esque scene of his wife, Helen, by his side in press conferences and the infamous pamphlet moment, when Craig symbolically crawled up onto a cross to be crucified as a Roman soldier. Whaleoil blogger Cameron Slater and Judas times two, Taxpayers’ Union lobbyist Jordan Williams and former Conservative Party board member John Stringer looked up, satisfied.
It was that pamphlet that would lead to Craig being found guilty by a jury last week of defamation and ordered to pay Taxpayers' Union founder Jordan Williams $1.27 million in damages. The trial brought to light Craig’s dodgy sexual advances towards MacGregor, who worked for the party for three years. Testimony showed that the false prophet of a ‘Christian movement based on family values’ had sent poems and “sexts” to her, including “I slept well because I dreamed that I was on your naked legs.”
Craig plans to appeal the decision and there’s also two cases pending against Slater and Stringer—cases that will likely bring to light more colourful information about god knows what as various players give evidence.
Craig says he’d love to continue the fight for social conservatism in New Zealand, something that has become less important in a post-Brash National Party. Maybe Craig will morph into a Kiwi Anthony Weiner and naively return a few years from now to electoral politics, fully convinced that his sexual advances don’t define him in the public’s eye.