So what will the world’s leaders make of Chris Luxon’s first pronouncements?
Given the context, they might be surprised to discover that his conversion therapy reference was not to the alchemic process by which an amiable executive became the leader of one of the western world’s historically most successful political machines.
Does it perhaps signify a liking for political philosopy?
If so, the aversion to conversion is odd.
New Zealand has a rich tradition of nurturing doctrinaire cranks proclaiming the truth: Radiant Livers, communitarians, New Ageists, most socialists. Liberals mostly enjoy and ignore them – unless they break the law.
So how will Luxon take forward his exegetic reasoning.
Is it based on the need for evidence to confirm the existence of the ‘gay gene’? Or does he essay down the path of evolutionary selection of culture?
There’s risk and opportunity with the latter, because at times most factions have run that argument.
If you subscribe to cultural Darwinism, you can’t really avoid tackling the hypothesis that homosexuality has an evolutionary purpose (apart from enraging certain old-school conservatives). Which would give big state supporters a chance to urge its active and compulsory promotion (call this reverse conversion, or perhaps reversion on a grand scale?) Luxon should be able to take refuge in the causes of small government and non-interference.
But he’ll need to be careful of being overly philosophical in debates over selective abortion based on genetic typology – gay gene or not.
Jacinda Ardern does appear to believe in something (however harmful and divisive some people might think it is). An early job for Chris Luxon – and not an easy one in the circumstances – will be to show that he is not one of those centre-right politicians who will believe in just about anything.
So clarity on his political philosophy – and on its continuity with the historical traditions of the National party – might actually be pretty important. And it might be useful to keep in mind that line from Yeats’s Second Coming (“The best lack all conviction … “) – still something of a gold standard in troubled times.