A Burnt Child With No Fear Of Fire: New Zealanders expect their leaders to make informed and sensible political choices. We do not expect them to thrust their hands into one avoidable fire after another and allow them to be burned black.
COLIN CRAIG suffers from the political equivalent of leprosy. He lacks the acutely sensitive nerve-endings which allow professional politicians to avoid issues that are too hot to handle. Again and again, Craig has thrust his hands into the fire of political controversy, seemingly oblivious to the increasingly debilitating consequences.
An experienced politician would never have written – let alone posted to every New Zealand household – a detailed response to the accusations of his political enemies. If what your opponents are saying about you has gained sufficient currency to require such denials, then it is almost certainly too late for them to do any good.
And yet, this is exactly what Craig did. Worse, he wrote the pamphlet himself. Had he employed the services of a professional publicist (who would almost certainly have begged him not to do it) the excruciating embarrassment of the past few weeks could have been avoided.
Insulation from reality is, however, one of the besetting tribulations of great wealth. Ordinary folk must present a convincing case for spending millions of dollars. As a highly successful businessman, however, Craig possesses the resources to give his whims and fancies concrete expression. Had these been sound, he could have been another Michael Bloomberg. But, they were not – and he ended up in court.
In defending his reputation, the Taxpayers’ Union founder, Jordan Williams, has simultaneously driven a stake through Craig’s political heart and mortally wounded the Conservative Party. Over the weeks of Williams’ defamation action, the nation has looked on, in head-shaking disbelief, as a grown man has been forced to acknowledge, under oath, behaviour that would embarrass a spotty adolescent.
Day after day the public has been treated to example after example of Craig’s appalling judgement. New Zealand voters are prepared to cut politicians a great deal of slack when it comes to the sins of the flesh (just ask Shane Jones!) but they will not forgive a consistent pattern of bad decision-making. We expect our leaders to make informed and sensible political choices. We do not expect them to thrust their hands into one avoidable fire after another and allow them to be burned black.
But even as they write him off as a passing political curiosity, New Zealanders will likely experience a twinge of sympathy for Craig. From the moment he entered the political arena in 2009, his endearing, almost childlike, faith in the democratic process has touched the hearts of many. Unfortunately, just like Tom Hanks’ character in the movie “Big”, Craig’s teenage-boy-in-a-man’s-body pursuit of godly goals has also been the source of considerable mirth.
Craig professed to be shocked by the “dirty politics” of his foes. It is astonishing that he took so long to realise that there is no other kind. He knows that now. In the words of the inimitable American humourist, Mark Twain: “A man who carries a cat by the tail learns something he can learn in no other way.”
This essay was originally posted on the Stuff website on Friday, 30 September 2016.