Conservative Party doesn't want Colin Craig back

Colin Craig with his wife and the Dirty Politics leaflet (Getty)
Colin Craig with his wife and the Dirty Politics leaflet (Getty)

"It's not happening."

With those words, the Conservative Party has perhaps dealt a blow to what remains of Colin Craig's political ambitions.

The party's founder and former leader hasn't ruled out returning to politics once the dust from his legal battles settles. But it probably won't be with the party he spent millions of dollars bringing to life.

"Colin Craig is not a member of the party, he has no position in the party, he hasn't been offered a position in the party and he hasn't asked for one, so it's not happening," board chairman Leighton Baker told Paul Henry on Tuesday.

"Colin resigned as a member of the party, so he's got nothing to do with the party anymore."

There's a chance when the next election rolls around, they won't even be calling themselves the Conservative Party anymore, the brand is so damaged.

"A lot of people have put that to us in the last couple of days, and as a board we'll sit down and definitely have a look at that," says Mr Baker.

"But at the end of the day New Zealand still needs a conservative voice, and at this stage we're going to be it."

Conservative Party doesn't want Colin Craig back

Leighton Baker

Mr Craig, who poured millions of dollars of his own money into the Conservative Party, isn't quite ready to cut his losses - not ruling out a return to the political fray, with or without them.

"Politics for me is really on hold until I get through the various legal issues I am working through. So any discussions about any role I may play in the Conservative Party, or any other party, is a little bit premature at this stage."

With the election only about a year away, Mr Baker admits there's even a chance they may not contest it.

"We haven't sat down as a team yet and discussed it."

Potential candidates are also a bit thin on the ground, with Mr Baker saying only a "few" of the 50 who stood in 2014 have expressed an interest in having another go.

"We sent a letter out to them, but only last week - then the news on Friday wouldn't have helped our cause."

Conservative Party doesn't want Colin Craig back

Colin Craig, the moment he found out Rachel MacGregor had resigned

On Friday, a jury found Mr Craig had indeed defamed a political rival, Jordan Williams, and was ordered to hand over more than $1.2 million.

And on Monday it emerged Mr Craig was forced to pay his former press secretary Rachel MacGregor more than $128,000 after he broke a confidentiality agreement they had.

The party managed 4 percent of the party vote in 2014, but has disappeared from the polls as details of Mr Craig's behaviour have emerged over the past year.

"We've had a huge hit over the last few months, the mountain in front of us is massive," says Mr Baker.

"But we're Kiwis, we don't give up. We're not going to lie down. We'll have a go, do our best, and see how we get on."

He couldn't say how many paid-up members the party had, except that it was more than the 500 legally required to register with the Electoral Commission.

"The Conservative Party still exists," he insists.