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FISHHEAD_THE CREATION OF COLINIf you missed it late last year, let me remind you. Prime Min­is­ter John Key cel­eb­rated his five years in office in a very, very odd way. In his ‘one-on-one’ inter­views with Press Gal­lery journ­al­ists, he ser­i­ously talked up the Con­ser­vat­ive Party and its lead­er, Colin Craig.

Key basic­ally invited someone else to the party and let him have the stage – he breathed life and oxy­gen into anoth­er politi­cian and his party. Strange? No. Not this time. It was big-pic­ture think­ing from a Prime Min­is­ter who is slightly desperate.

He’s think­ing about the next big party, the elec­tion later this year. Key needs allies; he needs friends if he wants to get a third term. He has a crisis on his hands with his sup­port parties, so it is ‘Crisis Colin’ to the rescue.

Clearly, his cur­rent crop of sup­port parties – John Banks and Peter Dunne – offer little now, if any­thing at all. They are polit­ic­al corpses. They cer­tainly don’t offer Key what he needs – a strong coali­tion part­ner, with num­bers, to get him across the line.

At the time of writ­ing, Banks looked shot, with or without a court case over his elect­or­al returns, and Peter Dunne brings noth­ing to the table – except him­self. So Key went shop­ping. And he picked Craig. Key clearly doesn’t want to work with Win­ston Peters – there’s too much bad blood. He’s figured that if Peters gets into a pos­i­tion where he has a choice of gov­ern­ment he will pick Labour.

So Key has gambled early. He has reached out. I have no doubt that Nation­al will do an elect­or­al seat deal with Craig – Key is bank­ing on Craig to bring four or five MPs with him. That would give Key the num­bers to get past 61 seats.

My money is on a deal in the East Coast Bays seat. Cur­rent mem­ber Mur­ray McCully will be a list-only can­did­ate. He’ll be happy with that: after 20 odd years it will be a relief to McCully any­way. He has big­ger fish to fry, hob­nob­bing on the world stage than open­ing schools in Mair­angi Bay.

And the Con­ser­vat­ives should be easy enough to work with. Craig is anti-asset sales, but it’s too late for that. The assets are sold and Key has already pledged there are no more sell. Nice tim­ing, that state­ment from the Prime Minister.

And if Craig wants to cam­paign on bring­ing smack­ing back Key might just let him, but surely Craig will see sense and focus on a new, pos­it­ive plat­form. And they appear to be an organ­ised party, if not a little odd. They have money and sup­port­ers, and a few weird ideas. Craig won­ders if chem-trails from planes are some sort of mass con­spir­acy against the human race.

But they are pop­u­lar, too. In the Christ­ch­urch East by-elec­tion, they got nine times as many votes as ACT, who got the same num­ber as the Aotearoa Leg­al­ise Can­nabis Party.

At the 2011 elec­tion, the Con­ser­vat­ives got 2.65 per­cent – but it was a wasted vote because they didn’t win a seat and didn’t crack the 5 per­cent threshold. This year Key has real­ised he can’t afford to allow that centre-right, con­ser­vat­ive vote to be wasted. He needs it, and he needs Craig to bring in a hand­ful of MPs to help him get a third term. Key is simply being prag­mat­ic. MMP demands it.

The oth­er option is los­ing, and Key hates that. He always has. He loves win­ning and he’ll do any­thing, pretty much, to get there. Colin Craig MP and Min­is­ter… watch this space.

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