Election 2011

Labour failed to learn National's lesson from 2002 and paid the price, so it's now time for the party to get start selling Brand Shearer

A wise old mate once told me that if you want to understand any industry, enterprise or activity, just do the worst job it has to offer. There can't be any worse job in politics than being a scrutineer at a recount where your candidate slowly, vote by miscounted vote, loses a tenuous hold on an electorate.

With the specials about to be announced, what are the ramifications for the new government? And what's likely to happen next?

Won't tomorrow be fun? It's like election day all over again. Except National may not enjoy this one as much as two weeks ago.

Yes, the specials are confirmed tomorrow and the final shape of parliament will be known. Plus, the small matter of our electoral system will be decided.

The news declared that the National Party had had a 'historic' election victory on Saturday but, if that was true, National Party people would be looking happier. The reality is much more complicated

Here's the bullet-point version, to begin:

So the names for the Labour leadership are now in the hat. The caucus has a decent buffet to choose from, but need to remember it's not all about them

It's hard to know what to say about Labour's leadership tussle. There's a logic inside the beltway and even inside the caucus room that doesn't always translate to the rest of the country. But it's the rest of the country the caucus needs to keep front of mind.

Let's take a look at the seats you might want to take a look at tomorrow night

It's MMP and it's all about the party vote, of course. But this election a bunch of electorate seats actually look really interesting. And it's not just the obvious ones.

The stand-out two are Epsom and Ohariu because entire parties - and coalition partners for National - depend on them. Can ACT and United Future, respectively, stay alive?

Only hours to go, so let's take a run through all the parties and see where we stand. You've got to say, there are a lot of known unknowns

Well, it's nearly here. A short and sharp campaign that, regardless of the result, has changed the policy landscape for the next election or three and intensified the 2014 race. Let's run through what we've learnt since the All Blacks won the World Cup.

Picking winners in the Maori electorates isn't an easy game. The Pundits are sometimes guilty of picking the losing horse and the polls tend to do no better. Today guest Pundit Morgan Godfery offers his picks in the Maori seats

With only a few days left until polling day I thought I’d give you a run down on my picks for the Maori seats. Some of the most interesting battles are happening in the Maori seats, or so I think anyway, and the ramifications of a Maori Party win or a Mana Movement win are significant.

The Conservatives a laid a platform for 2014 this campaign, coming from nowhere to be a polling party. It won't be an easy road ahead for them - or National, as its potential partner

It's been tough being Conservative this campaign. With a capital C that is. Being conservative is de rigueur this election. But the nascent party being built with Colin Craig's millions has had a tough time getting attention.

Phil Goff took over as interviewer at times and generated the news headlines in tonight's final TV debate. But a measured John Key stood firm and calm as he rammed home his anti-debt message

Phil Goff had the details and the studio craft, but after a nervous start John Key had the authority. It's one of the things that a Prime Minister gains simply by going into work every day - and Key got the tone right to edge Goff in tonight's debate. Not that the legacy of his night's work won't have ramifications.

In the final week of the election campaign, it's all about set-pieces, especially on television. Can the main leaders keep their heads and hit their marks as the pressure hits fever pitch?

Five days to go and the stages have been set; the only question left is how the leaders will handle their lines.

What do we know about how the campaign will evolve over the next few days? Quite a lot already, as it happens.

The tea tape is making even sensible people like David Farrar say some pretty silly things. Lucky I'm here to put him back on course.

Despite the various calls to "move on" from Teapot-not-quite-gate, it's still bubbling away (see what I did there?) And it's producing some strange reactions in people who normally you can rely on to be sane and sensible in a crisis.

Little more than a week out, National is still holding a majority in the polls. It's time to talk about what it means if that's how it winds up on election night

So, let's just say it out loud, shall we? What do you think about National governing alone? Well, not precisely alone because they will wear a fig leaf of coalition deals with United Future, the Maori Party and perhaps ACT, if voters permit. But what do New Zealanders think about the prospect of having a single party having a majority of votes in the House?

It took the Labour Party an age to release its Maori policy statement, but the wait may have been worth it. Guest Pundit Morgan Godfery discusses Labour's risky move

With the tea tapes dominating political discussion at the moment, you’re forgiven if you find this post a little bland. I’m going to deal with a dry topic – Maori policy.

John Key's famous cup of tea is at risk of leaving a sour taste as the story drags on and public opinion turns. But what does it mean for the election?

The teapot tape fuss seems to have turned in the past 24 hours; not in John Key's favour and not entirely due to anything he's done wrong.

John Key's decision to speak out against MMP smells of partisan greed and hubris. It also raises questions for women, Asian and Pasifika voters and about what his tactics have been all along

I was staggered to hear on television Prime Minister John Key say that although he was "not entirely unhappy" with MMP, he intended to vote for change. The PM said while he likes proportionality, he "slightly prefers the characteristics of Supplementary Member (SM)".

Natural and international disasters have absolved National of the usual competency tests, but do New Zealanders really want a single party majority government?

As polls continue to show National postioned to govern alone just two weeks out from the election, voters are going to have to confront a stark choice. Do they want any government, let alone this one, to govern on its own.

Winston Peters wins the oxygen of media attention and gets back in the game. But do we really want him back? Or has his time passed?

Is Winston Peters the luckiest main in New Zealand right now?

He should make sure he buys a lotto ticket this weekend, because lady luck has settled on his shoulder.

The Epsom candidates' debate last night drew out the bizarreness of a race where the frontrunner would rather lose and the ACT candidate is rallying behind the leader of another party. At least the unacknowledged presence in this race was finally discussed by name

It had all the fun a candidates debate should: ACT's John Banks said Pita Sharples and Tariana Turia - enemies on most policies - were high quality MPs and a great ad for MMP; Davia Parker said Labour should have introduced a capital gains tax when last in power, but was not brave enough; Paul Goldsmith said it was tough to be a man and wanted to be a man's MP; Green David Hay sang a Dear John

It hasn't been the most scintillating of election campaigns, but is it really necessary to rate the sex appeal of our politicians in an effort to enliven proceedings?

When David Farrar asked the question on Facebook, "Should a journalism school be asking the question of its students, 'what politician would they most like to fuck'," I thought he was kidding. But the link he provided backed up the poser.

The Greens' success could be down to Labour's struggles or a sign of the times. But it could also be down to a carefully crafted game plan that seems to be pushing all the right buttons

As the days roll by and the Greens retain their giddy, double-digit heights in the polls, it's time to wonder whether the perennial underperformers have finally cracked it and convinced a new cohort of voters that the party can be trusted with their vote.

Organisation will be key to winning the Maori seat on the Auckland isthmus. But guest Pundit Morgan Godfery says even Labour's well-oiled turn-out machine will find Pita Sharples tough to topple

Shane Jones knows it's do or die in Tamaki Makaurau. A win equals redemption; a loss spells the end of his career.

Even if you think it's smart to stimulate the sharemarket and create some capital, is it the right time to sell portions of our state assets? It's a telling question and you'll be surprised who asked it

Voters don't like it, don't want it, but the polls say they'll most likely go along with it – National's plan to sell off chunks of five state assets.

It's his way or the highway for Winston Peters, after a speech today ruling New Zealand First out of government. Either the disgruntled rally to his flag or he's history

That may be the sound of the door slamming on Labour's vain election hopes. Winston Peters has just announced that he won't enter a government with anyone after this election. Not National or Labour. Or the cat's mother, for that matter. To quote his speech:

The “show me the money” costings war is a credibility test for both John Key and Phil Goff

Phil Goff says he will “show John the money” today, providing Labour’s costings for its various policies. He says he will borrow about $2.6b more than National over the first three years.

National is still defying gravity in the first polls of the campaign proper. But there are  talking points emerging on the right and potential decisions looming for John Key

Ok, two polls late today, but one clear message. While the green shoots of spring are popping up around the country, it's still winter in Labour-land. While the party can't have expected a serious swing so soon, it must feel as if someone has just burst its balloon. It would have hoped for some sign of change.

TVNZ 7 will end in June 2012 when its funding runs out. This will make NZ the only developed country without a Public Service Broadcaster, but it doesn't have to be this way

New Zealand’s only dedicated public service television channel, TVNZ 7, will cease in 2012. The government has chosen to discontinue it’s funding.

Is National really what it seems on welfare reform? I don't know about you, but I'm getting really mixed messages. I'm also not sure the second child/one year policy will survive the election

So National's welfare policy is out. I'm not in a position to piece together much analysis, but here are some pointed thoughts:

Remember the Bush-Gore debates in 2000? We may see the same thing in NZ with the 2011 Election debates. Goff would have surpassed the expectations of many, but that doesn't necessarily win elections

I'm suprised by the commentators who have talked about John Key winning last nights One News Election debate. It's true that there were no killing blows and on points of substance the Prime Minister often seemed more authoritative. Thing is, that's not what people takeaway from a debate such as this.

A question to Q+A about those welfare bludgers emphasises why the conversation about superannuation reform is so vital... but also comes with risk

I wrote this post for TVNZ yesterday, but wanted to share all of it with Pundit readers, because it's something we've discussed more than once and several of you have really helped me get my head around this... It's why superannuation matters, how it's perceived as the "good welfare" and how the real problem we face is from the "bad welfare". Anyway, here 'tis:

Labour's big bang campaign strategy is high risk... But is there a bigger plan at play here?

Timing is everything. Whether it comes down to the woman of your dreams, the perfect job or when you get into the All Blacks, timing is of the essence. It's the same in politics.

And Labour is rolling the dice when it comes to the timing of its policy announcements and campaign strategy.

National, Labour, the Greens and ACT have all set out on different routes to victory in the country's toriest seat. The billboards dotted around the electorate lay the strategies bare

A drive around the Epsom electorate is a study in campaign strategy. Here, the machinations of the country's best political minds are painted in vivid colour.

Hone Harawira hung onto Te Tai Tokerau in the June by-election after he left the Maori Party. But things have changed since then, which means Mana can take nothing for granted

The minor parties are going to provide much of the best action in this election, and none more so than the Mana Party as Hone Harawira fights to hold Te Tai Tokerau. And while he's starting in pole position, I suspect he's got a struggle on his hands.

Three new polls reinforce an unchanging overall political landscape and underscore a recent trend that is bad for Labour, good for the Greens, and bad for the left generally

Three new polls came out over the weekend. Collectively, they show National gaining further ground, increasing its support to level last seen in late 2009. All the smaller parties are slowly losing ground.

The double downgrade is exactly what the government didn't want eight weeks out from an election. But is it really so bad? Or does it speak to a larger narrative?

While today the men of New Zealand have joined the women in their fascination with Daniel Carter's groin, the New Zealand economy is looking like it's pulled a muscle as well, after the double downgrades on Friday. Neither are good news for a government hopeful of an easy run-in to November's election.

But neither are as bad as you may think.

For all the volatility in the latest round of polls, not much has changed. Indeed, change seems to be the last thing voters want right now

Just a note about the Poll of Polls, which Rob has kindly updated. It includes the two television polls from the weekend, but not yet the newspaper efforts from the past two days.

Looking back over New Zealand elections past, 1963 is another with a familiar look about it

Past elections, with their moods, trends, characters and issues can offer a window on what's happening now. A oft-repeated line at the moment is that this election is looking an awful lot like 2002.

But what about further back?

If we want to gain insight into this election by looking at elections past, we have to look way back – to the last time National was as dominant in the polls, to a time with some uncanny similarities

Labour's descent to barely 30 percent in recent polls has prompted repeated comparisons to National's steep slide in 2002, when Bill English led National to its worst ever defeat. In this scenario, Phil Goff is this year's English and Labour is set for further pain as its support evaporates to 21 percent.