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