Conservative Party leader Colin Craig cuts a likable, boyish figure: whether managing his billion dollar property portfolio, canvasing for votes in his home turf of Auckland’s North Shore, or lathering himself with soap as he prepares to show me around his new hi-tech pleasure dungeon, Craig is unceasingly cheerful and energetic.
‘I bought this place to relax,’ he explains, a little sheepish about splashing out on such an indulgence. Craig is famed for his frugality, furnishing his home second-hand on Trade-me. But all the leather, chrome and rubber decor in ‘Colin’s Crypt of Agony and Ecstasy ‘ is brand new and gleaming, ready for use. ‘At the end of the day I’m wiped out, and I needed a way to wind down,’ he added.
And is it relaxing?’ I ask.
He grins and tosses me a towel and a leather ball gag. ‘You tell me.’
Craig is in pretty good shape for a man in his mid-forties. There’s a hint of a belly, but his arm muscles are defined – ‘All that political hand-shaking,’ he says, rolling his eyes – and the snarling wolf’s head tattooed across his buttocks still conforms to the ripe curves of his gluteal muscles. ‘The tattoo artist warned me it would sag,’ Craig said, adding simply, ‘He was wrong.’
Many people have been wrong about Colin Craig, dismissing him as a political lightweight or a bible-thumping, homophobic misogynist reactionary dick, but Craig simply shrugs off the criticisms and when you see him squeezing into a red latex dress and tugging a chain-mail hood over his head you realise there’s more to Colin Craig than his critics are willing to allow. They underestimate him at their peril.
But what is it about the Conservative Party leader that sets him apart? I’d arranged this interview to try and solve this mystery, but as I hung upside down beside him, both of us screaming in exaltation and pain while hot wax from the candles strapped to our ankles ran down our thighs, I couldn’t decide what it was that separated him from other minor party political leaders. Was it his faith? His candor? His status as an outsider? Or his controversial statements about homosexuality and female promiscuity, which were as inflamed as our perineums after the wax pooled and hardened?
Craig denies that his statements on contemporary morality are dominated by his religious upbringing, or the fact that I was kneeling on his throat while grating his nipples with a citrus zester. ‘I stand by my statements, no matter how much blood I’ve lost,’ he explains, a little defiant. ‘And I’m very proud of my background,’ he adds, rubbing vinegar on his lacerated chest. ‘I’m not a regular church-goer, but I cherish the Baptist values I was raised with, and the Scottish emphasis on frugality which has been passed down to me.’
And Craig is certainly frugal, even in his hobbies. Every centimeter of electrical tape and every liter of urine that enters his pleasure crypt is closely monitored and accounted for. ‘And I’ll bring that same level of attention to detail to government if elected,’ he vows.
Craig also intends to repeal the anti-smacking legislation and get tough on violent criminals. He speaks at length about the need for greater efficiency in the public service, reducing waste, getting rid of red tape. The familiar litany of conservative policy platforms. Sometimes his voice fades as his knees press against my ears, but I don’t feel like I’m missing anything. Craig’s political agenda isn’t what makes him special. It’s something else.
Eventually I opened my eyes, expecting to find myself staring into the wolf’s head, but instead I found myself face to face with Craig, his eyes rolled back, his cheeks flushed and his teeth clenched, and I finally realised what made him different from, say, Peter Dunne or Hone Harawira. It was those eyes: glittering, chromatic, fragmented: they captured the light and threw them back at me, and I gasped in sudden comprehension.
His eyes were fifty shades of Colin Craig.
(Written in solidarity with The Civilian, who is being sued by Craig for defamation.)