Voters reject riding on the coat-tails

VERNON SMALL AND ROB KIDD
Last updated 05:00 23/06/2014
Colin Craig
DAVID WHITE/Fairfax NZ
AMBITIOUS: Colin Craig has confirmed he will stand in the ultra-safe National seat of East Coast Bays, held by Foreign Minister Murray McCully.

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Voters have overwhelmingly rejected the "coat-tail" practice, just as Conservative Party leader Colin Craig eyes a deal with National that would let him win an electorate and bring in more MPs from his party.

At the party's campaign launch yesterday, Craig confirmed he would stand in the ultra-safe National seat of East Coast Bays, held by Foreign Minister Murray McCully.

Craig said he expected National to stand aside for him at the September 20 election, and Prime Minister John Key has said the Conservatives are one of the parties he could work with.

Key reiterated yesterday he would announce any "electoral accommodations" with other parties, which are likely to include ACT in Epsom and UnitedFuture in Ohariu, closer to the election.

However the latest Stuff.co.nz/Ipsos poll shows voters want to see the back of the coat-tail practice, which National and its allies, as well as the Internet-Mana alliance, aim to exploit. It allows parties that fall short of the 5 per cent party vote threshold to bring in extra MPs if they can secure an electorate seat.

The poll found 81.6 per cent of voters did not support coal-tailing, compared with just 13.8 per cent in favour.

After hearing public submissions last year, the Electoral Commission recommended the practice be dumped, as part of a suite of recommended changes to MMP, but the Government refused to back the move.

Opposition parties - including Internet-Mana - have said they will scrap the coat-tailing convention if they win power.

McCully said yesterday that Craig's announcement he would stand in East Coast Bays changed nothing, and he was pleased to have been selected for National.

"I have enjoyed strong support from the people of East Coast Bays in past elections. This year I will be campaigning strongly to seek their support again."

But he has previously left the door ajar for a deal, saying MPs need to understand leaders and party boards sometimes made "strategic decisions" - although he had heard no suggestion they were in the process of doing that in East Coast Bays.

National's campaign strategist, Steven Joyce, said there was a lot of water to flow under the bridge yet.

"If I was Colin Craig, I wouldn't be presuming anything."

In 2011, McCully won 21,094 votes in the seat, which he has held since 1994, against just 1614 who backed the Conservatives' Simonne Dyer.

Craig's announcement came during the party's campaign launch at Rangitoto College, on the edge of the East Coast Bays seat. He said he expected his party, polling about 1.5 per cent, would be thrown a lifeline. But he said the target was to cross the 5 per cent threshold.

"This campaign is all about party vote. Last time we achieved 2.7 per cent with a five-week campaign. This time we have a full campaign period and the Conservative Party's goal is to exceed the 5 per cent threshold . . ."

Party chief executive Christine Rankin said its polling showed it was already above 5 per cent. Craig said the party's polling of three North Shore seats, including Rodney and Upper Harbour, showed he would do best in East Coast Bays.

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He denied any deal had been done with Key before his announcement. "I've had no conversation with National. What they're doing is up to them," he said.

"We're not asking for anything. We've based our decision on what's best for our party."

- The Dominion Post

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