I would understand Garth’s McVicar's decision to accept nomination for the Conservatives, though he could have had a more assured path to Parliament.
After 13 years of dedicating his time, the time of his wife Anne, the cashflow from his farm, his enormous emotional resilience, and his ability to learn, almost exclusively to the cause of victims, he’s perhaps decided to go for broke. I know he’s been asked to stand for Parliament a number of times before . He’s agonised over it. But he’s never had anyone to take the leadership torch.
There have been people who’ve worked generously on funding, on policy, on the website, on the branch structure and membership issues, and on the exhausting task of helping victims that few see, especially the desperately bewildered and hurt families steered to him by the Police, by victim support people, by lawyers, and by earlier victims. They’ve sent them to Garth because he’s been able to do what they cannot, say the things they dare not, give the victim families hope that their loss may not be entirely pointless, if the law that has allowed it can be changed.
And only Garth has pulled it all together. He’s inspired his volunteers, given them the courage to stand up before Select Committees, and to turn up to court.
But a year or so ago Ruth Money was drawn into a full-time role in the organisation. She has been juggling many of Garth’s roles, and obviously now he feels he can hand over.
Many will be puzzled by his choice of the Conservatives to run for. It does not surprise me. He is unabashedly conservative. In the criminal justice areas most important to him, he believes our grand-parents did a better job than us.
It is hard to disagree. The reoffending rate from our prisons was much lower than now. Most prisoners had 40 hours per week of useful work. Prison discipline was simple and much more arbitrary than now. Our victimisation rates were trivial compared with now. The most reliable figure of all to judge changes in crime rates, is the murder rate. New Zealand averaged 2 murders per year from 1920 to 1960. That included the years when over 100,000 men came back from years of killing and witnessing slaughter, when firearms were in most homes.
And Garth is not much influenced by popular or media stereotypes or prejudices. He would base his assessment of Colin Craig on meeting him, not how he is described by tribal opponents. That willingness to look past elite consensus is why he had so much friendship and help from people who shared that ability, people who respected his abilities and achievements despite media demonization.
They included the late Greg King, Winston Peters’ lawyer Brian Henry, Auckland Crown Prosecutor Simon (now Justice) Moore and many others. So I have to assume that he has looked at the Conservative’s policy suite, and decided that it would be the least problematic for him to hold his nose and support, as the unavoidable cost of going to Parliament to fight to complete the criminal justice reforms in which he has been so influential for so long.
Good luck Garth. You'll make the Party vote choice more difficult for many people.
Former ACT MP and National candidate Stephen Franks is principal of Wellington commercial and public law firm Franks and Ogilvie.