Deep Dive: Kate Cruz MP

When Kate Cruz was announced as the Sanctarian Conservative Party leader in 2018, after the party suffered horrific losses in the preceding general election, some commentators didn’t think she’d last very long. The first female leader of the SCP, the party had enduring a bitter leadership election, with the more extreme elements of the party backing then MP Andrew Silk; the severe divisions in the party were laid bare. Then, in 2019, 47 MPs left the party to form the New Sanctaria Party. It was a major test to her leadership.

Cruz, however, hung on, and hung on decisively. The harbingers of doom back in 2018 misread the focused, hardworking MP as timid and wary of the limelight. But Cruz’s time in government, as Secretary for Social Welfare, and latterly as Secretary for Homeland Security, should have indicated she can take on big jobs and succeed. She successfully corralled the remaining SCP MPs around her after the mass defections of Silk et al to form the NSP, and diffused any tensions or concerns about her leadership with a barnstorming performance in a closed parliamentary party meeting; her imitation of Silk and her caustic jokes about the defectors had SCP MPs in tears with laughter, and her reshuffle of the SCP frontbench the next day, and refusal to take the split seriously, or treat the NSP seriously, inspired renewed confidence in her leadership.

Going into the general election, she has a certain popularity with the undecideds too. Unlike the new DLP leader Ethan Ringrose, Cruz can point to almost 2 decades of service in the House of Deputies, as well as five years of cabinet experience in two budget-heavy, detail-oriented portfolios – Social Welfare & Family Affairs, and Homeland Security. Though her introduction of ID cards was initially controversial, five years later they’ve been accepted as a facet of life, and it’s unlikely it’ll be used as a stick against her. For SCP members, her record in government on defence and on fiscal spending in the black hole that is usually Social Welfare stands her in good stead; for casual observers, Cruz has performed well in weekly Leaders Questions, and is a good communicator on television and radio.

Cruz, however, while a conservative, isn’t typically viewed as “traditional”. Married with two children, Cruz has said she feels Sanctaria should offer enough support so women don’t need to stay at home to raise a family, and has said “a woman’s place is in the workforce, not at home”. She was involved in pro-choice and pro-LGBTQ+ campaigns while in college in the 80s, and was publicly in favour of same-sex marriage while a councillor in the late 90s, before many of her SCP colleagues. She is considered, though, a hawk; she questioned Sanctaria neutrality while Homeland Security Secretary, and has said she would seek a referendum to ditch it if she gets into government. She has endorsed the DLP government’s spending on defence, though has said that Sanctaria should do more to protect democracy in the International Democratic Union. Unlike some members of her party, though most with this viewpoint split to join the NSP, she supports the World Assembly, and believes it is better to be a member working from within to better the world, than being outside of it.

She is not believed to be a great delegator, however. Though her colleagues, on all sides of the House, praise her, those who have worked with her in government have said she commits to a lot without first determining if she has the time or energy to do so. Critics have said she spreads herself too thin to be effective and that, if she became Chancellor, she would be more of a chieftain than a chairwoman. She does take on other people’s opinions, and she is known to be open to, and does actively, compromise on policy positions, but she does overwhelm conversations and debates with her presence.

In the election campaign thus far, Cruz has committed to gutting a number of government departments, increasing the number of devolved functions to the States, and keeping the new federal government out of citizens day-to-day lives. She has said she would keep the Sanctarian Health Service, one of Sanctaria’s sacred cows, but would like to explore more private partnerships to keep the costs down. She believes in limited social safety nets, and has said she believes vulnerable and disabled people should not be “coddled”; while those who could genuinely not be integrated into society’s workforce should receive enough to live comfortable, businesses should be forced to change to ensure disabled people can work and earn a good wage with them, rather than have to rely on disability pensions or other social security supports.

However Sanctarians in general are still wary of trusting the SCP with power again. Having been in power for 18 years, between 2000 and 2018, and though Sanctaria prospered in that time, but the time they left the economy was stagnant, leading SCP MPs were being openly bigoted, and backbench MPs were getting arrested for sexual assault or corruption. 18 years in power left a bad taste with many ordinary Sanctarians, not least for pensioners, the bloc most likely to vote, who actually saw a real time value of their pension decrease over the almost two decades because of inflation and a reluctance on the behalf of many SCP Social Welfare Secretaries, Cruz included, to increase the state pension. Cruz will have to do a lot of outreach to this group, and assure them she will keep the DLP investment in social welfare, to have a shot at catching their votes.

JOEY SESSIONS, Political Editor

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