It’s that time of the year where people are being chosen as New Zealander of the year and prize giving is going on throughout the country in all our schools. It is also that time of year where a number of pundits look at the politicians and vote on the winners and losers. Given this was an election year, the kudos rides with who wins or loses the Treasury benches.
On that basis alone, the sensational standout for 2017 has to be Jacinda Ardern who breathed life into a Labour Party election corpse. She singlehandedly and in Lazarus-like fashion resurrected Labour, who were looking terminal 12-weeks out from the General Election. She took over the leadership, changed the party slogan, and new billboards promoted this fresh-faced leader who had never been in a Cabinet. Jacinda not only saved the Labour Party, but won enough votes to place her in a strong position to negotiate and eventually take on the job as the Premier of our nation. Her early leadership forays have been seamless and exceptional, whether it has been on the commentary on Manus Island or in having the integrity and credibility, like no other prime minister has, in seizing responsibility for child poverty.
The rise of Jacinda saw the demise of Bill English– a very capable National Party Minister and Prime Minister. He ran an incredible campaign and won the majority minority vote. But the born-to-rule arrogance and entitlements that resonated with some of his colleagues did not go down well. That aside, Bill’s concession speech demonstrated the type of mana this man has and sets him aside from all of his National Party colleagues.
The mercurial Winston Peters has appeared on our political stage for the past 40 years. During that time, he has stared down prime ministers’ and cabinets and has won and lost elections. In historical terms, the New Zealand First leader’s name will be revered as one of the most successful New Zealand politicians of all time, especially when you take into account his longevity. Winston has always been in the top ten performers in the House for over four decades and has achieved significant policy wins – more than some Prime Ministers – over this period for his party. He has won everything but the top job. Ironically Winston could have had that role had he pulled his head in, sold his principals and stayed in the National Party. Winston chose Jacinda and Kill Bill was the political sequel.
Green Green Grass of Home
James Shaw led his party to over the 5% threshold and ensured the Green Party survival against the fast-finishing resurgence of Labour that had slowly pulled back the Green vote. What is more remarkable about James Shaw’s feat is he did this despite his party imploding and disintegrating over the Metiria Turei affair. As everyone knows, when you go to confessional, you tell the priest everything. But Metiria confessed new sins on a weekly basis. In politics, you can be forgiven for one confessional dump but you cannot survive the type of gift Metiria kept giving to the National Party Government, Green Party supporters and the public. During this very public fallout, James Shaw also had two very high calibre, high profile MPs who let go with some sticks of gelignite in his caucus. He sized them up, worked through the Metiria catastrophe and delivered the Green Party its first 3 Ministers in over 20-years of trying. That’s a remarkable outcome for James Shaw, who had been acting as sole leader since August 9, 2017, when Metiria resigned as co leader following her public cleansing.
The ACT Party polled 0.5 of the vote and would be dead in the water if National had not gifted David Seymour the well-to-do seat of Epsom. And for a chap that struggles to win a seat and can only collect 13000 votes up and down the country on election night, he has got to be worried about his and his party’s political future. This maybe the final Act for the party started by the father of Rogernomics – Sir Roger Douglas.
Dunne and Dusted
Peter Dunne threw his United Future Party onto the train tracks just four weeks out from the election when he announced he was quitting politics. Dunne actually jumped before he was pushed and thereby assigned his party to political oblivion. That deliberate act demonstrated the United Future Party had no infrastructure or systems to turn out any votes or candidates outside the Ohariu electorate. National were also caught short by Dunne’s announcement, as they had campaigned for United Future.
The Noveau Zealand
The Māori Party got smashed in all seven Māori seats and what is strange about Te Ururoa Flavell and Marama Fox’s campaign strategies, is they did not fully understand or comprehend that the vast majority of Māori are on low incomes, by way of the benefits or unskilled occupation, and who have daily wants and needs. They do not mix and mingle with the rich Iwi Leader groups, they are the ones trying to sort out daily bread and butter issues for their whānau. Another nail for the Māori Party coffin is that the party looked to represent a small and loud entitled noveau rich group of Māori and not the Māori in the hood.
Hone Harawira and his Mana Party played a high stakes game of political Russian roulette when they brokered a deal with the Māori Party. The Māori Party agreed not to run an opponent in Northern Māori – Te Tai Tokerau, leaving Hone a perceived toe-to-toe battle with Labour’s Kelvin Davis. But once Kelvin became Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, and given his strong performance in opposition, it became a death wish – one that I believe has killed off Mana once and for all.