PM won't 'knife' McCully for less than three per cent

STACEY KIRK
Last updated 07:59 19/07/2014
Colin Craig
DAVID WHITE/Fairfax NZ
AMBITIOUS: Conservative Party leader Colin Craig.

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For Conservative Party leader Colin Craig to have a hope of winning the East Coast Bays electorate, incumbent MP Murray McCully has to be removed from the ballot, a conference of party faithful heard. 

Speaking at the Conservatives' annual conference last night, Right wing commentator Matthew Hooton told the party's rank and file that nothing less would deliver a win for Craig.

The annual three-day conference kicked off last night, with speeches from Hooton and party president Christine Rankin.

Law and order and the nanny state were set to be dominating themes. 

In a thinly-veiled message to the party, Hooton said the Prime Minister would not "knife" McCully for anything less than a three per cent party vote from the Conservatives. 

"I'm told National has done some research and polling on this matter, and it reckons it would lose a couple of per cent of the party vote if Key pulled McCully and endorsed Craig."

Hooton, who has had strong ties to National in the past, said it would be a big decision for the Prime Minister.

"If he's going to knife McCully, and assuming he was to survive having done so, John Key needs to know that you're going to bring in at least three per cent."  

In the latest Stuff.co.nz/Ipsos poll, Conservatives pulled 1.3 per cent support - that was up from 0.9 per cent in June. In a recently-released Roy Morgan poll, the party registered one per cent.

Speaking to Fairfax, Rankin said the party's own internal polling was hitting the 3.8 per cent mark. 

She denied speculation the party had already spoken with National Party campaign director Steven Joyce, about a long-rumoured electorate deal in East Coast Bays.

"That is not true, I haven't seen Steven Joyce, I saw him at an airport once a few years ago and we didn't speak then and we haven't spoken since. 

"And I don't mean that there's any reason we can't or shouldn't, we just haven't."

But Rankin was confident the party would get to the 3.5 per cent threshold regardless. 

The first of two nationwide leaflet drops would be carried out over this weekend as the party looks to boost its profile in all regions outside Auckland. 

Leader Colin Craig is set to outline his vision for the party in a keynote speech this afternoon.

His speech is expected to centre on the size and reach of government, as well as the party's policies calling for tougher sentences and a tax-free band. 

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Craig is set to butt heads with NZ First leader Winston Peters this weekend, with that party also holding its conference. 

Peters has criticised Conservative Party policy as "plagiarism", lifted from the online policy documents of NZ First.

- Stuff

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