It’s been a tumultuous campaign. Russel Norman, Co- Leader of the Green Party
Three more Key years
By Roger Childs
Despite Dirty Politics, spying allegations and the disgrace of Judith Collins, John Key led National to a huge election victory last night, guaranteeing three more years on the Treasury Benches. Another success story was the unexpected increase in support for New Zealand First, but Winston Peters has been denied his traditional role as kingmaker. Ironically the big loser, Labour, didn’t concede any electorates and actually gained four, but was slaughtered in the party vote. The Greens did not do as well as expected and the big spending Conservatives and Internet Mana, bankrolled by Colin Craig and Kim Dotcom respectively, went down the tubes.
Steering the eight home
Whatever your politics, you have to marvel at the campaigning skills and resilience of the prime minister. Nicky Hager dropped the Dirty Politics boulder in the National pond three weeks out, but only Key’s henchwoman Judith Collins was swept away. The detail of the book revealed an orchesteted litany of dirty tricks by the Nats over many years and should have derailed the government’s bid for a third term.
However once he realised that Collins was probably the main target, the prime minister cut her loose and she happily(?) took one for Team Key. The cartoonists made a meal of John Key’s guilt by association and the complicity of his staff with right wing bloggers, however the mainstream media eventually let him off the hook. Unfortunately many of the political commentators and jounalists hadn’t bothered t o read the whole book.
So it was back to campaigning as normal:
- the friendly smile
- the glib one liners
- the selfies and other photo opportunities
- the mall and street strolls
- pressing the flesh and
- kissing the babies and some of the mothers.
The Nats also had a large war chest which enabled them to litter the rural and urban landscapes with blue hoardings showing the smiling face of that nice Mr Key.
Red – a world about to dawn!
Sadly for Labour, as in Les Miserables, the dawn didn’t break the way of the Reds. Labour was the big casualty in the election. To receive only a smidgen over half National’s party vote was devastating. Relatively new leader, David Cunliffe, after a few stumbles and issues early on, campaigned doggedly and lost nothing in the debates with the prime minister.
The sideshows of Dirty Politics, Hone Harawira’s surprising sellout to Kim Dotcom and the spying revelations of a week ago, did not help Labour and distracted media and public attention away from the issues.
Labour did offer a credible and worthwhile alternative to National’s steady as she goes approach to government. They had several excellent polices which should have received widespread support
- proposals for affordable housing
- a capital gains tax
- compulsory Kiwisaver
- adjusting Kiwisaver contributions with the rate of inflation
- raising the minimum wage
- creating a single buyer of power which would lower bills for families.
However, all these very good ideas had trouble gaining traction in the media flurries over right wing blogs, Kim Dotcom and the allegation of GCSB’s snooping into people’s lives.
What of the leadership? One wonders whether a person with only minority support from his caucus in the leadership race can keep the top job. There will be plenty of what went wrong analysis and soul searching as Labour licks its wounds in the coming months.
On the positive side, they picked up four electorate seats, didn’t lose any, won handsomely to push National out of Napier and cleaned out Hone in the far north. Palmerston North and Hutt South were considered under threat, but these were held, and the likeable and capable Jacinda Adern ran Nikki Kay close in Auckland Central.
Can’t buy me a seat
Colin Craig’s Conservatives seemed to be making a late run last week in the bid for 5% of the party vote. However the well publicised resignation of his press secretary and Winston having his say on Craig’s alleged manipulative style, saw the personally funded right wing party fall short.
Their demise was perhaps symbolised by a mid-week incident in Rimu Road, Paraparaumu. An elderly voter from a nearby retirement village had just deposited her ballot paper at the Library and was returning home on her mobility scooter. However she collided with a Conservative Party billboard and ended up down a bank against a fence. She was unharmed, apart from a small loss of dignity and was soon back on her scooter and tootling home. Meanwhile Colin Craig was left sprawling on the footpath.
Big money also went into the Mana campaign of Hone Harawira courtesy of Kim Dotcom. It was Hone’s big mistake. Many people couldn’t connect the colourful Maori MPs concern for the poor with accepting megabucks from the German tycoon.
Strategically National and New Zealand First did not contest the Te Tai Tokerau seat so it became virtually a straight race between the sitting MP and Labour’s capable Kelvin Davis. The rest is history.
It’s not easy being Green
The Greens fought a very clean campaign with appealing polices designed to create a more even spread of wealth in the country, a cleaner environment and a sustainable economy. They seemed to be heading for close to 15% of the party vote, but fell well short of this.
As co-leader Russel Norman remarked late last night, the Greens, like Labour, couldn’t get enough publicity for their policies in amongst the media frenzy over dirty tricks, emails and spying.
The bit players
- The evergreen Peter Dunn of United Future had a close win in Ohariu and should be rewarded with a cabinet salary in the new government.
- ACT Epsom lifeline remains, as David Seymour cruised to victory.
- Te Ururoa Flavell won his Waiariki seat, but saw his party lose two of the Maori electorates. The Maori Party may well be regretting throwing their lot in with National in recent years.
Looking ahead: issues over tactics
National bolted in, possibly beyond their wildest dreams. However although they can rule alone, they will probably find space for Dunn and Flavell in cabinet. Meanwhile, Labour needs to have a long hard look at its party organisation, leadership and policy delivery.
However a large question mark hangs over the issues raised in Dirty Politics about National’s tactics and the manipulation of public opinion. There is an investigation coming up looking into the behaviour of Judith Collins.
However, that will not settle all the concerns over unethical and possibly illegal interference with the democratic process. There are more stories to emerge.