The advent of another self proclaimed family-values politician facing a morality-linked comeuppance may be compelling to watch, but the reality is it is no longer a surprise.       

I am watching the Colin Craig train wreck from 14,300 kms away.

I am sure Mr Craig would like that sort of distance from his own, as he calls them, “face-palm moments”.

Cute if you are Homer Simpson...perhaps.

However Mr Craig seems to be joining an endless line of self-described Christian conservatives who preach a subjective notion they call “family values”, but fail to practice what they preach.

Perhaps I can blame distance for not actually knowing the details of the allegations, although it appears only Craig, his former press secretary and their lawyers hold all, or if indeed any, gory details.

Quite frankly I don’t much care what they are, except if whatever has prompted this meltdown caused physical or psychological damage to another person.

Disappointing party members comes with any political territory.    

That said, whatever the mystery is, it is serious enough for most of the party’s board members to take flight.

As Christine Rankin said she lent her brand to the party and now she’s “had enough”. Rankin knows only too well how tough it can be when politics turns feral.

And so Craig, with his wife by his side, held an excruciatingly embarrassing press conference to talk in riddles and possibly breach the confidentiality agreement he had signed with Rachel MacGregor.

Apparently on some occasions his and his press secretary’s “conduct was inappropriate and we have acknowledged that so that we can both move on”.

Only his actions this week have denied MacGregor any immediate moving on.

Without MacGregor’s consent, Craig engaged in a very public self-indulgent blaming and shaming in order to inject just enough innuendo to make whatever it is not seem too serious and, most importantly, himself appear as only one of two participants and now dutifully contrite and therefore deserved of the undying support of his wife...and hopefully what’s left of the party he’s poured millions of dollars into.

Helen Craig, playing the role of countless political spouses before her, insisted her husband had been “falsely accused” and she will stand by him.

Falsely accused of what exactly?

So what is it about those who sermonize while falling short of their own oration?

I remember so clearly arguing with former Christian Heritage party leader Graham Capill who was nothing short of obsessed with his “pro family” policies denouncing sex before marriage, prostitution and a raft of other issues which brought the government into the nation’s bedrooms.

As we all know Capill’s fall from grace was spectacular, and in 2005 he pleaded guilty to rape, unlawful sexual connection, and indecent assault against young girls.

A general search of moralists who go into politics only to be caught as anything but paragons of virtue, delivers a deluge of hypocrisy. The US and Britain certainly have quite the (dis)honour role.

Discussing apparent politician self sabotage with a colleague, she put me on to the concept of ‘the bigger the front, the bigger the back’.

It is worth a read in the context of the Craig fiasco.

American psychoanalyst and author Stephen Grosz deals with this baffling behaviour of people - for example conservative Christian moralizing politicians who, to put it kindly, don’t quite live up to their own expectations.

Psychoanalysts call it ‘splitting’, although Grosz like the bigger the front the bigger the back concept because they are both part of the same person. 

Essentially it is an “unconscious strategy we all use that aims to keep us ignorant of the feelings in ourselves that we’re unable to tolerate”. Outwardly we compensate for what we can’t accept within ourselves and the size of the deceit is commensurate with what is being denied. 

Grosz says we “want to see ourselves as good and put those aspects of ourselves that we find shameful into another person or group...splitting is one way of getting rid of self-knowledge.”

Apparently in the short term it may give some relief but then in “denying and projecting a part of ourselves into another we come to regard these negative aspects as outside our control”.

(Then comes the ‘stand by your man (usually)’ press conference.)

The concept comes to mind for Grosz when he “hears about some homosexuality-is-a-sin evangelist found in bed with a male prostitute”.

He finds the dynamics of projection and splitting alive and well in church and political debates where gender and sexuality are concerned.

Who knows if the shambles Colin Craig now stands neck deep in is due to any unconscious splitting.

What is obvious to date is another kind of splitting - that of his precious vehicle from which he preaches good old family values.

If the Conservative Party survives and he again leads it, he will be in charge of a politically toxic illusion of his own making.

As Pyrrhus said after defeating the Romans, “another such victory and we are lost”.


Comments (1)

by Geoff Fischer on June 27, 2015
Geoff Fischer

I can understand that Jane Young as a political columnist would have a jaundiced view of what she calls the "subjective notion" of "family values".  Politics is a game played by egoists and watched by cynics, and Jane is at one with the majority of New Zealand society which is overwhelming liberal in its social views and political philosophy.  

The entire political spectrum, from the ACT party on the right to the Green Party on the left, and pretty well everything in between, adheres to the liberal ideology.  Does the overwhelming liberal consensus mean that the "sermonizing" of moral conservatives is necessarily and inherently flawed?   Does the exposure of Graham Capill and the humiliation of Colin Craig provide evidence that we should eschew moral values, or might it even suggest the contrary?

Jane could perhaps make a case that the political process in New Zealand tends to elevate egoists and self-seekers, and that therefore the moral conservatives would be best advised to withdraw and surrender the field of politics to secular liberalism.   That in fact was the view widely held among many moral conservatives long before the rise and subsequent fall from Grace of Colin Craig and Graham Capill, and it remains true today.

However the conflict between conservative and liberal positions demands serious, intelligent and informed debate, which, regrettably, seems not to be on offer within the political realm.  

Jane's argument is that "moralists who go into politics" are "in general" hypocrites and I am not in a position to dispute that particular judgment, but on the other hand I am not willing to surrender the field of political discourse to those who are openly cynical and proudly amoral.

Jane, for her part, would do her readers (and arguably herself) a service if she was to provide a more objective analysis of the supposedly "subjective notion" of "family values" and the wider arguments of moral conservatism


Geoff Fischer

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