Craig's gay marriage views 'don't matter' - Key
Prime Minister John Key says Colin Craig's deeply held opposition to gay marriage won't be a stumbling block when it comes to forming a potential coalition after next year's election.
With National's poll ratings beginning to slip and current partners ACT and United facing oblivion, Mr Key has in recent weeks begun openly courting Mr Craig's untested Conservative Party.
Polling at 2.7 percent in the latest 3 News/Reid Research poll, if the Conservatives were to win a seat they could be National's ticket to a third term in power. And with the latest census showing strong population growth on the North Shore, the creation of a new electorate overlapping Mr Craig's support base could see the two leaders sit down for a 'cup of tea' ahead of the election.
They're yet to meet face-to-face to discuss a deal, but Mr Key says that's likely to change in the new year.
"I think he can read the public messaging that I've been putting out there, and he can also read your poll and see that in principle, if he won a seat it would be a guaranteed National-Conservatives government," Mr Key said on Firstline this morning.
"There are an awful lot of National supporters I think who would say they don't want a far-left-wing government that the Greens and Labour represent."
Mr Craig says he's got Mr Key's messages loud and clear.
"I understand how MMP works, and I think at the end of the day, so does John Key, and he's done the numbers, so he's making comments and perhaps not surprisingly, given the polling."
Mr Craig is confident the party will lift its polling well above the 2.7 percent it got in the latest 3 News poll, and the 2.65 percent it achieved in the 2011 election, after only being registered for a couple of months.
"I want to be a representative. I like people, I like representing people. Where, is an undecided question.
"Of course, we've still got to find out where the new seat in Auckland will end up, and once where we know where that is, then I guess we sit down and start doing the calculations."
Mr Craig however is outspoken in his opposition to the Crimes (Substituted Section 59) Amendment Act 2007, popularly known as the "anti-smacking bill", which removed the defence of "reasonable force" in cases where parents were charged with assault on their children. As a Christian he also opposes gay marriage, which was legalised earlier this year.
"I always think there should have been a referendum, and I still think that," says Mr Craig. "Why don't we put it to the people of the country?"
But Mr Key, who helped pass the anti-smacking law by securing the right for police to use discretion in prosecuting parents, says Mr Craig will have a difficult time overturning the policies – particularly gay marriage.
"The fact we have different views on those things doesn't really matter because they're ultimately a conscience vote, so if he wanted to push those issues and he was a member of Parliament, he would have to get 61 members of Parliament… to vote for that, and that as we know, wouldn't be easy."
But some form of compromise will be essential if the two parties are to work together. Mr Craig has indicated he would like to see binding referenda and an end to Treaty of Waitangi settlements.