Steve Braunias’ Campaign Diary: Day 12
DAY TWELVE: IN WHICH CONSERVATIVE PARTY LEADER COLIN CRAIG STANDS ON THE SIDE OF A ROAD AND SMILES AND WAVES AT PASSING TRAFFIC – AND MIGHT BE THE MYSTERY MAN SCORING A COUCH IN EXPLOSIVE NEW FOOTAGE WHICH HAS JUST NOW COME TO LIGHT (GAMECHANGER!)
Photo by Alistair Guthrie.
Election 2014 on the negro streets of dawn in Albany at 7.30am! You could detect in the faces of the commuters driving to work along busy Oteha Valley Rd this morning that they were starving, hysterical, naked. They had had a gutsful. At least the traffic was moving but they had their radio tuned to Newstalk ZB and there was Mike Hosking giving his daily lesson that life was narrow and pointless. The weather was lousy – a day in spring, which in Auckland means it’s colder and shitter than a day in winter. They repeated their dreary morning vows: “I will be true to the wife, I’ll concentrate more on my work.” Caught between Ginsberg and Auden, between The Rock and the hard place of Hosking’s usual bullshit, it was just another goddamned day for the toiling wage slaves of Auckland. Who would release them? Who would speak for them?
He would! That guy! That guy standing on the side of the street in a nice warm coat from Rodd & Gunn and a nice blue suit from The Italian Shop in Newmarket! He smiled. He waved. He smiled and waved at the same time in a manner that recalled the innocent, carefree days of Key Before Hager. Faces brightened; they tooted their hooters; the average day was given a lift by the sight and promise of that most singular figure in contemporary New Zealand politics, Conservative Party leader Colin Craig.
Craig was not too proud to stick it out for an hour this morning by the Oteha Valley Rd offramp opposite the Mobil Station and 18-hole Albany Minigolf in a cold wind and hint of rain. A band of five supporters alongside him held up Conservative Party posters. They included the party’s Epsom candidate, Christine Rankin, and Craig’s father, Ross. They were active and resilient and full of beans, or whatever muck was inside the green smoothies they shared between them. They were a happy sight and they constituted a promise of strange days to come in the next parliament. How strange? Most peculiar, and maybe worse.
Political commentators and other fools dismissed Craig when Key cut the Conservatives out of a deal in the East Coast Bays electorate. They said that without the gift of a safe seat, the Conservatives were dead in the water. They said it was all over and better luck next time, pal. Did Craig listen? He listened not. Did Craig care? He cared not. He just went out and worked like a dog. He has fought for every vote. He has fought the best campaign of anybody in Election 2014.
He has! Look at the figures. In July, the party was polling 2 per cent. A month ago it was 3.2 per cent. Last week it was 4.7. And tonight TV3 brings the results of a new poll which Steve Braunias’ Campaign Diary: Day 12 is embargoed from revealing until 6pm, but put it this way – Steve Braunias’ Campaign Diary: Day 12 was standing next to Craig this morning when his press secretary, Rachel MacGregor, told him the news, and the leader said, verbatim, “Wow.”
Within minutes, TV3 political reporter Brooke Sabin had arrived on the scene for a comment. No, not from Steve Braunias’ Campaign Diary: Day 12, although heaven knows he missed an opportunity there. Sabin had come for Craig. Sabin! Sabin, 25, wearing the ring given to him by his high school sweetheart, in no way or form the “puffed-up little shit” as Internet Party PR trout Pam Corkery famously abused him a few weeks ago; Sabin, there to pay court to Colin Craig, that “appealing eccentric”, closer than ever before to dreaming his dreams in parliament.
What can stop him? Scandal? Impossible! Unless… it doesn’t really count as scandal, but… well, it’s like this. Footage has been discovered which shows A Mystery Man Scoring a Couch, and it could be political party leader Colin Craig.
Everyone knows the well-worn story of how Craig, a millionaire businessman, once saw a couch left on the side of the road (“I tested it out. It was comfy!”) and took it home. A Metro reader called Adam has belatedly left a comment on the profile of Craig in the April issue, saying, “We lived on Fairview Ave [in Albany] in 2011, and caught this mystery man on our security camera one night in August.”
Adam then asks: “Could our mystery man be Colin Craig?”
Is it? Is it? Is that you, Colin?
At 60 years of age, Christine Rankin remains in possession of two of New Zealand’s best legs. Hot legs! Rod Stewart’s saucy encomium came to ear as Rankin, number two in the Conservative Party hierarchy, stood on the verge of Oteha Valley Rd in a tight black skirt and waved her placard at the dense commuters. HONK! She was having a very good time. “I’ve never done anything like this before.” HONK! “I love people! It’s exciting.” HONK!
She said, without much hope, “I’m hoping to cause an upset in Epson. I hope Act’s gone.” A rage burned to life, and brought colour to her cheeks. “David Seymour – he wouldn’t shake my hand! I met him, and what does he do? Kept his hand behind his back! Pathetic. If I can save the people of Epsom from that, that would be good.”
And then she lost her mojo. A massive silver earring – Rankin will forever be remembered for the size of the pendants swinging like monkeys around the side of her head – fell off onto the grass verge. Its absence acted like kryptonite. Her powers waned, and she scrambled in the grass like a beggar.
Her boss was further down the line. O Col! The leader, swish in his expensive garb, waving and smiling and smiling and waving. HONK! HONK! HONK! “The vibe on the ground,” he said, “is positive!”
His own polling has the party on about 5.5 per cent; National’s polling, he reckoned, has the Conservatives on 6 per cent. He knew who it worried the most: Winston Peters. “He won’t even ride in the same lift as me! He won’t sit in the green room if I’m there!” He marvelled at his opponent’s fear.
And then he got back to marvelling at himself. Key’s weakness is his sheer nastiness; Craig’s weakness is his vanity. But he had every right to be impressed with his own amazing path to parliament. So close. So close. How close? He said, “I’m now having to think about what to say to the Prime Minister when he phones me up on Saturday night to congratulate me. And about what sort of team we’re going to have to put together for our MPs.”
Craig is a fan of the strategy board game Diplomacy. He’s also very good at it. Were there similarities between the way he plays it, and the way he’s played the campaign? He said, “Well… in Diplomacy there are some countries that are hard to predict. We’re like Austria or Italy.”
Herr Craig! Signor Craig! He talked about the party’s strategy meetings these past few weeks, where the message was to just keep doing what they were doing, keep up the hectic pace, attend every public meeting, do the street corners, wave and smile on busy intersections.
Right at the start of the campaign, before the Hager book Changed Everything, the Conservatives set the pace with their revelations about the foreign land sale of Lochinvar. It was their own Big Reveal but it felt strange they didn’t follow up with another Big Reveal, a son of Big Reveal, Big Reveal II.
“We’d like to have,” said Craig. “There were other potential options, but…”
“You can say,” said Rachel McGregor.
“Well, they were related to foreign land sales,” he said.
“Something like that. It was something I was working on. I went overseas and checked it out.”
“I found the time.”
“Can’t say. But I had phone conversations about this as late as last week.”
What’s it all about?
“I can tell you that it’s very dodgy,” he said. “There are people who genuinely think their lives are at risk, so I have to respect their confidentiality. But I expect to be able to use the information fairly soon.”
He was engrossed in the interview. Too engrossed! His father Ross walked over. He was very tall and foreboding. He looked cross. He commanded his son, “Do your waving.”
“Uh,” grunted the son, reduced to adolescence – the sudden sulk, the dismissive noise. And then he turned his back on his father. Family dynamics on Oteha Valley Rd! Do your waving. Tidy your bedroom. Follow The Way. Uh!
Ross! What was Colin like as a kid?
“He was the oldest child, so he was the one that always called the shots,” father said. “But he was a pretty compliant bloke. He followed our values and standards.”
Did he have to be put in line?
“It got beyond correction,” said the patriarch.
What does that mean?
“You know what that means,” he said, with a chilling severity.
No, what does it mean?
“I used to teach,” he answered. “Take away corporate punishment from schools, and behaviour drops.”
Rachel McGregor said, “Colin doesn’t believe in corporate punishment!”
The father sighed. He stood on the side of the road and stared at the traffic like a Jehovah come to rid the world of its sins or something. The honking had stopped.
The son had somewhere else to go. He crossed the road and got into his blue Honda Edix. There were coathangers in the back seat, an open packet of Vocalzone throat lozenges in the glovebox. Next stop, Takapuna Intermediate Normal School. After that, a stand-up with young Sabin. After that, with every second, closer to Wellington.
Previously: Celebrated hacker and fugitive from justice Edward Snowden appears at the Town Hall to inform New Zealanders that their private email and texts are routinely intercepted by spy networks with the full knowledge and backing of Prime Minister John Key – and Julian Assange says something or other too.