The Conservatives a laid a platform for 2014 this campaign, coming from nowhere to be a polling party. It won't be an easy road ahead for them - or National, as its potential partner
It's been tough being Conservative this campaign. With a capital C that is. Being conservative is de rigueur this election. But the nascent party being built with Colin Craig's millions has had a tough time getting attention.
Mostly for good reason. They don't have a track record or a coherent policy platform. It's a one man band. But it's amazing what a few million and troubled times can get you (just ask Ross Perot). From nothing the party has won a percent or so in the polls, and it's been a while since a brand new party with no parliamentary connection has done that. The Greens would be the last.
In many ways they are the natural home for soft National Party supporters who want to rein in National; they haven't won sufficient numbers because they haven't looked able to win a seat. Colin Craig has stood in Rodney, and while National looked weak there after their selection scandal, it's a pretty safe Tory seat long held by Lockwood Smith.
Imagine if Key had chosen to have his cup of tea in Warkworth rather than Newmarket. The Conservatives would have made for a much more malleable and less toxic partner than ACT.
On the other hand, The Conservatives may not make life easy for National. The anti-debt belief would be the same as would the impulse to be tough on crime and reform welfare. But the Conservatives believe in no state asset sales, giving parents the right to smack their kids hard, repealing the ETS (the literature is openly climate skeptic) and Marine and Coastal Act altogether and binding referenda. Whilst Craig says his is a non-religious party, his own conservative Christian worldview does colour the party's policies.
In many ways they're a walking, talking talkback radio programme with a sprinkling of dust from The King James' Bible.
I'm frustrated that I didn't write this blog two months ago, after I had a coffee with a party press secretary. I came away from that meeting saying this was a party which had identified a gap in the political marketplace.
But it also had obvious tensions. I had a bunch of notes from that meeting, but when I lost them I never got around to writing this post. And I'm struggling now to remember them... But there seems to me to be a tension between being pro-family and anti-welfare. The party, for example, wants "no pay without work". Now, do they force parents back to work or encourage mothers to stay at home with the kids - both are core to their ethos, but mutually exclusive. And it wants to discriminate in favour of "committed couples" on welfare - does that ultimately mean punishing the children of sole parents?
The party also seems to be making in-roads into the Pacific communities with its pro-family values push and church connections. But it could come up against some walls with its anti-climate change approach and willingness to raise the retirement age.
So, tensions ahead. (I can't remember the others!)
Of course, it means nothing without Rodney. This is an unlikely hypothetical (until 2014). And presumably it's too late for John Key to have a cuppa with Craig to make it real. National must still be confident it will either get enough on its own or its polling in Epsom must be giving it hope that John Banks will come through.
Still, the Conservatives are a party worth watching. They haven't done it yet, but if they can grow from nothing into a parliamentary party, that would be the first time since Labour nearly 100 years ago that a party was built from scratch.