Election 2017 looked to be one of our most boring yet, with Labour on the sidelines a whipped and whimpering cur while National rode the last swell from Hurricane Key into a historic fourth term, despite the incumbent Prime MInister being a fill-in nobody wanted the first time around.
Then all hell broke loose. Resignations, ascensions, buzz words. Positive campaigns, negative campaigns, a lot of what were probably lies. The media machine has devoured it all, spewing out so many takes it’s hard to remember what happened last week, let alone last month.
And so, as we limp down the final stretch, join me in taking a look back at the eight most significant moments of Election 2017.
The resignation of Andrew Little
Poor old Andrew Little! After enduring three years of needling at the hands of John Key, historically low results at the polls lead him to effectively douse himself in petrol by admitting senior Labour officials had discussed a possible resignation.
As Simon Wilson wrote at the time, Little remained before the public, lighter in hand, screaming ‘You wanna see me burn?’ and counting on the fact that nobody wants to watch that. Of course, it didn’t work, and two days later he stepped aside to make way for...
Baecinda, Taxcinda, Tinkerbell, Stardust, the Pretty Communist - no politician in New Zealand has been given so many monikers in so short a time. Neither, however, has any politician reversed their party’s fortunes so rapidly. It’s almost like relatable leaders drive voter engagement or something.
The story has gone around the world: a young, enthusiastic, left-leaning woman took it to the establishment, and the nation rose up to support her. For a while, anyway. Recent weeks have seen Ardern endure more difficult times, forced into a tax U-turn and punished for mishmashing by the National attack campaign. And regardless of the result this weekend further questions remain, particularly around the value of eating your Greens.
Not two weeks after Andrew Little bit the bullet, Metiria Turei loaded it into a handgun and blasted herself in the foot, losing control of a narrative which begun when she revealed she had lied to the Ministry of Social Development to receive higher benefit payments as a law student in the 90s. Regardless of the merit of her point or the necessity of her actions, there’s no denying the Greens took a major hit, losing two of their senior MPs and any chance of playing King Maker without some miracle at the voting booth. And as a strong Green party historically comes at the expense of a weakened Labour party, the resurgent reds are cannibalising the Green vote.
With Jacinda Ardern seemingly nonplussed with the Memorandum of Understanding the two parties share, this Sunday could be particularly grim for the Greens, who risk being removed from Parliament entirely.
Incredibly Explosive, Volatile and telling, Dramatic and Devastating; nobody has delivered more poll-related adjectives than Patrick ‘This is the fucken news’ Gower. And he hasn’t always been ludicrously over-the-top, as first the polls showed Labour’s ridiculous climb, up 20 percent in a matter of weeks, and then, in truly dramatic and devastating fashion, a National resurgence indicating they could in fact govern alone. But if the most recent election, burned into the psyche of the Western world, is anything to go by, what do polls know about anything?
Sean Plunket, media man
Ah Sean! Our very own Scaramucci! Who but Sean Plunket would be fit to hold the title of...what’s his job again? TOP Communications director? Something like that. Anyway, Plunket is the guy who called Spinoff editor Duncan Greive naughty words for suggesting that deputy TOP leader Geoff Simmons wouldn’t be as good as Gareth Morgan at The Spinoff’s Great Debate. He also has a weird habit of pestering anthem singer/blogger Lizzie Marvelly on Twitter.
What I’m saying is the guy is a bit of a rooster, and one who punches far above his party’s weight in terms of media cut through. I don’t know how the seemingly right wing Plunket became BFF’s with tax reform champion Morgan, but it’s made for one of the more entertaining sideshows to the election this time around.
Lipstick on a pig
And Plunket has had his work cut out for him, as the aforementioned Morgan managed to put foot into moustached mouth time and again, apparently oblivious to the irony of doing so while championing ‘policy over personality’, most notably when he referred to Ardern as lipstick on a pig. A great line, he later said, almost as good as cats-to-go. What?
Duncan Greive’s feature chronicling the final days of TOP’s campaign is required reading for anyone who wants a better understanding of New Zealand’s most enigmatic political figure. Champion of the young, or just another Kim Dotcom-esque rich guy with a vanity project? Maybe it’s still hard to say.
Bill English’s descent into trench warfare
Poor old Bill! Seemingly gifted an election by the departing Sir John Key (anyone heard from that guy?) English looked certain to cruise home to an easy win, his only challenger a Labour party on something like 24 percent. Then came Jacinda, champion of the left. Almost overnight English was on the back foot, slammed by everyone from Matthew Hooton to Mike blimmin’ Hosking, surely Key’s most sycophantic supporter. The last few weeks must have felt like a horrific acid flashback, all echoes of his historic 2002 defeat. Something had to break, and it was Bill’s moral code.
Spearheaded by Steven Joyce’s non-existent ‘fiscal hole’ and relentless tax scaremongering, National has committed firmly to attack politics in the face of Ardern’s campaign of relentless positivity. And it may still deliver the W, the election is by all accounts excruciatingly tight. But if 1 News political editor Corin Dann’s interview with the prime minister was anything to go by, it’s taken its toll on a genuinely decent Bill English.
The rise and rise of Tom Sainsbury
The emergence of Tom Sainsbury, master of satire, has made Jacinda’s ascension to leadership seem like a Player of the Day award at a game of Ripper Rugby. Perhaps no pundit has his finger so firmly on the pulse of middle New Zealand. And the rest of New Zealand.
He’s all things at once, a shapeshifter extraordinaire, holding the nations’ id in his hands and molding it like clay into the takes of your everyday Kiwi. And all of it on Snapchat. Check out some of his work, maybe this one, you’re likely to see something of yourself. Or at the very least have a good laugh, which, by God, we all use.