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Don't bet the ranch on McCully standing aside for Craig — PM

UPDATE / June 23: Prime Minister John Key is being coy on whether long-time East Coast Bays MP Murray McCully will stand aside for Colin Craig.

The Conservative Party leader reiterated last night that he would not seek a cup-of-tea deal from National — but if the party stood down Mr McCully he would not object.

Could it happen?

"Don’t bet the ranch on it. It's not how we've not typically how we’ve operated," Mr Key said on Breakfast this morning. "It would be a pretty big call. We’d have to look at the repercussions of that."

However, the PM also indicated he was keeping his options open (perhaps, pundits will suspect, polls closer to the election give a more clear picture of whether National will need another ally."

He noted that strategically, National was already half way there. The Conservatives are one of the parties with which it's willing to do an MMP deal

"Tactically, it's a matter for another day," he said, adding:

"MMP’s a funny beast. No one likes these sorts of associations on one level.

"On the other side of the coin, the public sure as hell know we need to form groupings to become the government."

What do you think? Should National stand down Murray McCully in East Coast Bays?  Click here to vote in our subscriber-only business pulse poll.

June 22: Colin Craig to take on Murray McCully in East Coast Bays

UPDATE:  At his party's campaign launch this afternoon, Conservative Party leader Colin Craig has confirmed he will stand for the East Coast Bays electorate, currently held by National's Murray McCully.

Two other candidates were announced: Callum Blair in Upper Harbour and Mel Taylor in Northland.

The most high profile Conservative Party member beyond Mr Craig — former Work & Income NZ (Winz) head Christine Rankin — was not named to a seat. Mr Craig said it was still possible she would stand. Mr Rankin won a local board seat in Upper Harbour at the Auckland Council elections late last year, standing under the Conservative banner.

Mr Craig said the party's main focus would be on the list vote.

Getting to the 5% MMP threshold would require 40,000 more votes than the 59,237 (or 2.65% of the vote) his party  got in 2011. 

It is still not clear if National will extend Mr Craig's party an Epsom-style deal.

On June 14, the Conservative leader said he could not beat a sitting National MP.

He would not seek out a cup-of-tea from National, but would accept one if offered.

Veteran MP and party strategist Mr McCully — recently credited with luring Shane Jones out of Parliament — holds East Coast Bays with one of his party's largest majorities.

At the 2011 election, he got 21,094 votes. The second placed candidate, Labour's Vivienne Goldsmith, got 6453.

National recorded 21,079 list votes in East Coast Bays.

The Conservatives, who did not field an East Coast Bays candidate in 2011, got 1254 list votes from voters registered in the electorate.

RNZ reported Mr McCully saying this afternoon that Mr Craig's East Coast Bays nomination changed nothing. He would campaign strongly in the seat.

Mr Craig used the campaign launch to underline several existing policies, including that the Conservatives want Citizens' Initiated Referenda (CIR) to be binding. If adopted by National, the policy would represent a marked depature. Successive National and Labour governments have ignored CIR results — including last year's referendum that found 67% against asset sales.

The Conservatives also want tougher penalties for criminals, a flat tax after the first $20,000, and no more separate Maori seats (a policy National flirted with during its Kiwi/Iwi billboard phase before ultimately allying with The Maori Party and maintaining the status quo).

Craig to reveal which electorate he'll stand for — at event in East Coast Bays electorate

EARLIER: Colin Craig will announce which seat he will stand for this afternoon — at an event at Rangitoto College in the middle of the East Coast Bays electorate.

"The suspense is killing me," quipped commentator Toby Manhire as the Conservatives named the location of the big reveal.

Mr Craig has indicated interest in safe National seats: East Coast Bays (held by Murray McCully) and Rodney (held by Mark Mitchell). His party has also been eyeing the new Upper Harbour electorate, where Paula Bennett will stand.

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Comments and questions

That's why John Key and his government should implement the recommendations by the electrol commissioner to remove coat-tailing, but he wont because he wants to hold to on to power.

It's not coat-tailing that has kept the Key govt. in power so far. Nor will coat tailing be necessary to ensure they win this time. It is the electorate seats their potential partners gain that gets them over the 50% hurdle; and that will always be necessary with or without coat-tailing under MMP. If there are extra MPs to coalesce with the lead party, brought in through coat-tailing, it is almost certain that lead party will have sacrificed their own party vote, which is hardly what any party wants.

First rule of politics: stay in power.

Binding referenda on the bigger issues is what this country desperately needs. Dictators masquerading as Prime Ministers, making all the big decisions isn't democracy. After elections have taken place analysts are left wondering why voter turnout is low. Colin Craig has highlighted CIR with a binding outcome as a very important issue but mainstream media is unable to shift from their fixation on whether men have landed on the moon.

It is their campaign for binding referenda that stops me dead in my tracks from voting for The Conservatives. You may not like some govt. decisions, but I can promise you that you would not like all legislation resulting from a binding referendum either. You cannot expect the hoi-polio to have much more than a half-baked opinion from a public bar debate, or something picked up on a talk-back show. Very few will have studied both sides of an argument. It's a dangerous way to run a country.

Switzerland works just fine with binding referenda in place. It keeps the servant from becoming the master. Maybe I wouldn't like all legislation resulting from binding referenda, you're right, but that isn't where I'm coming from... the result would be from the will of the majority of the people who choose to vote, Not like at present where a Prime Minister has ultimate power... Clarke and Key are in the same boat in this regard because there's no need to consult with the public beyond the submissions process, which is just theatre and tokenism. That process serves to keep bureaucrats in jobs; little more.

Have a look at the binding referendum process used in Switzerland. It works well, with safeguards against bad legislation. The current referendum setup in NZ is a cynical joke.

I am not too concerned with binding referendum. It just means politicians need to be able to sell all their policies.

Of course the first one should be "should CIR be binding on the government?".

Go CONSERVATIVES!! Last right wing party left in politics!

The sooner NZ gets back to FPP the better off this country will be. Both fiscially and literally

It looks like the election outcome will be decided in East Coast Bays.
No Colin Craig = No National led government.

A politician with courage - gets my vote for that alone

No Murray, not good for Trevor Janes

JK knows how to play Texas Hold'em. The song says- know when to hold 'em
Know when to fold 'em

Murray will be on the list - then given Mike Moore's diplomacy job up in poker country