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Monday 21 April 2014


Spotlight: Christine Rankin

Posted in: Comment
By Craig Young - 7th November 2013

She's viewed as more of a fiscal than social conservative, so what is former WINZ CEO and Families Commissioner Christine Rankin doing in an outfit like the fundamentalist-dominated Conservative Party, given its strong social conservative profile? Craig Young takes a look.

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As speculation rises about the potential viability or otherwise of the Conservative Party as a possible National Party coalition partner, the Sunday Star Times has focused its attention on Christine Rankin, the Conservative Party CEO.

Rankin has had a chequered career- former WINZ chief executive, former Families Commissioner, former For the Sake of Our Childrens Trust Director, and now Conservative Party CEO. Rankin was also one of two Conservative Party successes at the Auckland local body elections last month, elected to the Upper Harbour Local Board. She's understandably scathing about Len Brown, albeit for reasons of supercity centralisation rather than his recent extramarital peccadillos, as one might expect from such a resolute fiscal conservative. She dislikes the Child Youth and Families Service, arguing that it is "out of control" and that its "liberal philosophies" endanger children- which will no doubt earn a rebuke from Social Services Minister Paula Bennett, one of the core National Cabinet members within the Key administration and facilitator of controversial welfare retrenchment policies. There may well be a new Auckland electorate as a result of population-based seat allocations after November 21 and the Conservatives are hopeful that it will play into their hands, given that their party HQ is situated in Rosedale.

Given the demise of ACT, the weakness of United Future and the ebbing of the Maori Party, panicking centre-right commentators seem to place hope on the prospects of the Conservatives. Rankin is scathing about "liberal media" designation of the Conservatives as a "Christian party", which might be partially understandable, given that she once described her own religious views as Soka Gokkai Buddhist, and boasts that the Conservatives are a 'pluralist' party, which contains Muslims, Buddhists, atheists and other fiscal and social conservatives. It is not "liberal media" designation, however- any online profiling of the party will reveal that its candidates are predominantly conservative evangelical/fundamentalist Protestant Christians, albeit with one or two conservative Mormons and Catholics sprinkled in. Moreover, at least she's honest about Colin Craig's own fundamentalist Baptist background, for a welcome change.

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Christine Rankin's choice of partners leaves much to be desired...
Rankin also denies that the Conservatives are a "rightist" party- so why name it after the leading British centre-right party, in that case? She disparages National for consisting predominantly of centre-right pragmatists, as opposed to doctrinaire (and unelectable?) "core" fiscal and social conservatives. Granted, but if she decided to run for Parliament on the Conservative ticket, then she may have to enter coalition talks with those same individuals. More acidly, one could also comment on the hodgepodge of Conservative policies that also include rejection of National's core fiscal policy, asset sales, and Labour's capital gains tax alternative, as well as its anti-Treaty stance and compulsory land repurchase in the context of Auckland property left fallow. She's right- on some issues, it does seem all over the place. Right now, she's announced an intention to clobber the Auckland Council for alleged poor fiscal management in the context of her Upper Harbour Local Board position. Will she stand for Parliament? If Colin Craig asks her, although she wants to concentrate on local body politics and her family, for the time being.

Which is all very well. What is one to make of this media release, no doubt orchestrated by Conservative media manager Rachel McGregor? I suspect that by focusing primarily on Rankin's core fiscal conservative credentials and policy strengths, it is consciously intended to appeal to any National Party-oriented readers through allaying any potential fears that they might have that the Conservatives are a wilfully sectarian, primarily religious social conservative voting bloc that are a potential liability to the viability and stability of any future centre-right government. Granted, author Colin Espiner refers to the temporary advent of United Future (2002-2008), but neglects to mention its rapid electoral downfall (2005, 2008) because mainstream voters were turned off by its excessive religious social conservatism. Espiner's piece is primarily one of Conservative spin, then. Rankin might look attractive to many National voters, but she's not all there is to that party.

Recommended:
Colin Espiner: "Rankin file conservative" Sunday Star Times: 03.11.2013: http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/9351710/Rankin-file-conservative

 
Craig Young - 7th November 2013

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