Lesbian Labour MP hands National a post-2014 support partner
Well, Louisa Wall just gave National’s 2014 election prospects a big leg up.
The lesbian Labour MP’s bill allowing gay marriage was pulled out of the members’ bill ballot this week and it puts the issue squarely onto the political agenda.
It is the best news the country’s leading Christian-based party, the Conservatives, could have had.
The party got 2.65% at the last election despite a nationwide publicity campaign costing its founder and funder, Auckland businessman Colin Craig, nearly $2 million.
But that is a larger percentage than the Act Party (1.08%), United Future (0.6%) and the Maori Party (1.43%) – National’s other support partners. There are few prospects of any of those parties getting a larger vote next time.
ABOVE: John Key says he doesn't oppose gay marriage. On Twitter, Conservative leader Colin Craig takes a different tack.
New Zealanders are increasingly liberal on the issue of gay marriage – the National Party conference, which, pretty much by definition, is one of the country’s more conservative bodies, voted last weekend in favour of gay adoption.
And various polls show a fair majority of New Zealanders polled are in favour of allowing gay marriage.
Most New Zealanders, in fact, regard matters of religious faith as being something best confined to the private sphere, like folk dancing or masturbation.
New Zealand’s culture is a long way from that of the US, where overt and often rather self-dramatising religiosity is part and parcel of the culture; where Christian voters carry a great deal of clout, and, indeed, have formed what might be called the Levitican or the Pharisaical wing of the Republican Party.
But a small but significant chunk of New Zealand voters march to a different drum.
One poll, in the run up to the 2008 election, showed that about 15% of New Zealanders polled would consider voting for a Christian-based party.
That has not happened. The closest was in 1996, the first MMP election, when the Christian Coalition got a bit more than 4% of the vote, frustratingly close to the 5% threshold – and then fell apart shortly afterwards amid rancour and division, and, after an interval scandal.
It has always been on the cards that a Christian-based party could perform, for the liberal-conservative side of New Zealand politics, a similar service to that performed by the Greens on the socialist-Marxist side of the spectrum.
That is, pull in voters who are animated by causes other than those which have traditionally divided the Left and Right – although the Greens have, in recent years, shed some of this aspect and are now more a traditional radical leftist party, with instincts and attitudes derived from a combination of Marx and Malthus.
It is not too difficult to see a Christian-based party pulling in some churchgoing Labour voters, especially from the Pasifika community.
Mr Craig is already campaigning hard on the issue. It is a gift from Heaven for his party, and his party’s approach to politics is much more aligned with that of National than of Labour.
National’s greatest weakness, going into the 2014 election, was always going to be weakening coalition partners.
The battle over gay marriage is going to strengthen National’s best bet for a post-2014 administration.
Labour may yet rue the day this bill was outed in the ballot.