Election 2008

A bunch of less-loving questions about the new coalition deals, like how badly the Maori Party's mana has been damaged by its deal and whether Sir Roger Douglas will be on the leadership council

As much as I hate to mess with Jon Johansson's uplifting mood of aroha and the media's uncritical reports of National's coalition-forming honeymoon period, I've got some questions. Lordy, do I have a lot of questions. And they're not full of love.

Herceptin and hunting, trading schemes and taxes... Is the new government's policy platform what we expected before the election?

With the release of the coalition deals yesterday, we get a closer look at the policy direction we can expect from the new National-led minority government.

Labour and the Greens both need to improve their election night support by more than two percent to pick up seats through the special votes, but they have a lot to gain if they can swing it

David Farrar at Kiwiblog has got some specifics on the Specials, due out on November 22.

Cementing the National Party in the political centre – that is John Key’s major challenge in building a government capable of taking New Zealand through the recession and back to health. Reaching out to Maori is a good start.

John Key has made a couple of hard calls that signal he is not going to be Mr Flip-Flop in government.

Appointing Phil Goff as leader is an admission of guilt by Labour, not the visionary step forward it needs. But they had no choice, because the obvious candidate to replace Helen Clark isn't even in parliament yet

As National presents a forward-looking face to the electorate, with a fresh leader reaching out to Maori and planning to enter the world stage with urgency, Labour is today taking the dispiriting step of electing Phil Goff and Annette King as leader and deputy, respectively.

Jon damns the media coverage in this campaign, reviews the Clark era, and picks his standout moment of election night.

I wrote the following piece on Thursday last week and submitted it to the Sunday Star-Times the following morning. Despite a few anxious moments along the way there was no reason to change it on the night. I understand this piece was published in the Times' first edition but not its second, so for any who did not see it on Sunday I thought I'd reproduce it in full:

Trying to get our head round what Saturday's results mean, we survey the outcomes for each party. You can add your own positives and negatives...

It's Monday after the election. So, at first glance, what's the good and bad news for each of the parties as the dust begins to settle?


The good news for National:

National takes the spoils to lead what looks like a very right-wing government. But if John Key wants to survive more than one term, he will have to stick to his centrist mandate

The electorates told the story last night. Odd as it may be for an MMP election, where it's the party vote that counts, it was the numbers coming out of seats such as New Plymouth, Auckland Central, and West Coast-Tasman early in the night that suggested Labour had failed to contain the swing to National and the mood for change. And so it proved.

The Roy Morgan poll says it's close, and Pundit can exclusively reveal that internal Labour polling has the centre-left bloc AHEAD

Just to add some spice to your last minute calculations and political ponderings, Roy Morgan has released its election eve poll and, at odds with the other polls, it has National just 7.5 percent ahead of Labour and the Maori Party holding the balance of power.

UK-based NZ voters have struggled to find more than a handful of mentions in the papers. And those were hardly helpful

I cast my vote in the New Zealand general election yesterday, by fax. No pilgrimage down Haymarket to New Zealand House this time – just log on, print off PDF voting form, tick boxes, struggle with fax machine, turn fax machine on and off, press send. Easy.

The print media has let down its readers today with poor coverage of the last polls. At odds with their reputation, it's the blogs which are offering the superior journalism on the last day of the campaign

As you probably know, Pundit is only six weeks old and I've spent most of my journalistic career in the print media. It's been fascinating for me to join the web community this election, no more so than this morning.

Crunching the numbers in the last, late polls. Is there a swing further right? Is Winston toast? Has the Maori Party lost its kingmaker's crown?

The final polls, after weeks of volatility, have finally found some common ground. Coming from quite different positions two weeks ago, they now all agree that National, ACT and United Future will be able to govern without the Maori Party

What impact would the Greens have on a fourth-term Labour-led government? And the truth about the difference between the right and left in this election

If Labour, the Greens and the Progressives are able to pull enough votes together between them to form, or at least be the basis of, a centre-left coalition, what policy direction can we expect them to take? Given that Labour and Jim Anderton have been in power for three terms now, the past is the best indication of what the future would hold.

The leader of New Zealand's Presbyterian church warns against slogans and utopian visions, arguing the best that we can do on Saturday is to consider the wellbeing of those around us

If you believe Helen Clark, this election’s about trust; if you believe John Key, it’s about change. The truth is, it’s about neither, because electioneering has very little to do with truth: it’s about persuasion.

If you are hoping for change as New Zealand heads for the polling booths, be careful. You are going to get it – whoever wins

Campaign ’08 has been a curious affair. So little seemed to have been changed during its course, but so much will change when it ends.

Follow our commentary of the New Zealand leaders' debate tonight on TVNZ

Welcome to the final leaders' debate. Just three days to go to the election.

7pm: The first question is about the US elections. John Key talks about a free trade deal, Helen Clark calls the Democrats a "sister party" and reckons Barack Obama will withdraw troops from Iraq. Will she go back to the war issue more often this night because of the latest Bill English tapes?

What changes would a centre-right coalition government make? Look for more roads, pieces of privatisation, and tougher prison sentences. Then there's bulk-funding...

If National can hold its vote in the high 40s, it will probably be able to form a right-of-centre coalition government in the coming weeks, joined by ACT and United Future. While the media focus has largely been on potential partners and bottom-lines, there has been little analysis of how such a coalition would govern.

Jon makes the case for greater bi-partisanship between Labour and National and sets a challenge for Saturday night's winner

In 1992 James Carville, Bill Clinton’s chief strategist, wrote what turned out to be a winning campaign haiku. One of its lines read; ‘change versus more of the same.’ This, it seems to me, is the crux of this year’s tepid election campaign on our side of the Pacific.

Scoop's Selwyn Manning has dug deep into the oft-forgotten electorates and made some intriguing predictions as the country swings right

In case you haven't seen this, read Selwyn Manning's brave and thorough survey of the electorates in this election.

By claiming their support for National stems from their "spiritual values" two former All Blacks are crossing a dangerous line

Michael Jones was one of the greatest All Blacks to ever wear the number seven jersey, but his endorsement of National yesterday was foolish in the extreme.

While the outcome of the election hangs in limbo for a few more days, one thing is sure – Labour is fighting desperately against a mood for a change which has been entrenched for many months

If we look back almost a year to the day, a basic rolling average of the six most recent polls at 30 October 2007 gives a result which bears striking similarity to current rolling polls.

On the surface John Key sneaked a win in last night's TV3 debate. Yet the National leader remains a mere outline, a stranger, a man who simply wants to get a job rather than lead a nation

The short reply to last night's debate, is to say that John Key was marginally superior. Whatever points he gained in the first debate for seeming to be more polite were lost, as he talked and talked and talked over the top of host John Campbell and prime minister Helen Clark. Towards the end there was so much Key talk that I could have sworn he was talking over the top of himself.

Jon explores our democratic deficit, arguing that a democratic summit be convened irrespective of who wins power on Saturday

“A Government that does not know what to do

Sarah Campbell, a list candidate for the Alliance, writes about her frustration at the media ignoring small parties and the 5% threshold

As a candidate for the Alliance, a party that is temporarily resting outside of parliament, I have come to realise in the past few weeks how difficult it is for such groups to get any coverage this election. Not only is the whole campaign being portrayed as a two horse race by Clark and Key, the media is only paying attention to the parties which have MPs.

Why the left might be happy to see National win this election

With the polls so close little over a week from the election, core supporters of all parties are focused intently on pushing their causes, hoping for enough votes to be central to coalition negotiations come November 9. So it's hardly the time to talk about the positives of losing, right?

If National's only pretending to be 'centrist', it's a very good act.

Most lobby groups ramp up their activities in election year. The Business Roundtable gets quieter. Emails might fly behind the scenes (as they did in 2005), but the organisation aims for a low public profile.

National's campaign is hiding a front bench full of 1990s-style free marketers behind John Key's well-scripted one-liners

The combination of a National-ACT Government (if elected next week) and the current world financial crisis will result in Ne

As we all try to make sense of pressuring emails and undeclared shares, can't we agree that it's time for some real transparency?

I must admit it is surprising to hear Gerry Brownlee as point man for National's attacks on Winston Peters and Helen Clark today.

The polls are closing, making even the smallest parties significant players over the next two weeks

This week's poll of poll results shows the gap closing between the parties of the right and those of the left (with or without New Zealand First). The big movers are the Greens, up 0.7 percent, with National the big losers, slipping by almost a full percentage point. Still, pull the coalitions together and a National-led government remains on the cards.

Peter Dunne's cosying up with National is less ideological and more a practical reality of minor party survival, plus more poll analysis

I’ve always suspected Peter Dunne wants to be Prime Minister. It sort of befits someone who was reading Hansard when others were smoking behind the school bike-sheds. The dim prospect of that dream eventuating became apparent early on in

Jon explores the gambles underpinning John Key and Helen Clark's electoral strategies and says it's no good blaming the roulette wheel if we place all our money on only one number.

I’ve long had a theory about my own vices. I call it the ‘pillow theory'. If you punch a pillow in one spot it tends to balloon out somewhere else. So too with vices. Give up smoking and, hey presto, another vice quickly fills the void.

Labour says it's being "prudent" by reining in its spending plans, but it may come to regret not giving the economy more of a boost from the public purse

What might have been? It's a question we all ask ourselves at some stage in life, but it's especially pertinent now that Labour has announced it's reining in its strategy–some may say instincts–to make significant increases to social spending in the lead up to the election.

Colin Espiner has promised to eat his blog post if the Maori Party does a deal with National. I think he's right, and here's why...

With Labour's announcement last weekend that it would be making no more major spending promises, the refreshing policy focus of this campaign came to an abrupt end. The media stuttered and stalled briefly then, in fear of running out of things to say, started talking about coalitions. (Until Lockwood Smith kindly offered himself up as the clown of the week. But that's another story).

The New Zealand campaign isn't one of the five ugliest in the world, it isn't even as bad as America's. PLUS: An exclusive interview with the journalist who called our campaign ugly.


Talk of the election campaign turning dirty has been sprinkled through our political debate this week. Labour released its Two Johns ad, which Helen Clark labelled as "humorous" and John Key called "down and dirty".

The Maori seats are here to stay. NationaI has been purposefully vague about its abolition plans, and even if it was serious, getting the job done would mean a long and complex process of constitutional reform


Pita Sharples and John Key have aired their differences over what they did or did not agree about the future of the Maori seats – but they will both bury them if their differing interpretations of a private conversation two months ago is the only issue standing in the way of a partnership in government.

As we approach the last fortnight, it's gun-to-the-head time in our election. With Labour's private polling suggesting it's closer than we think, the test for Helen Clark and John Key will whether they can keep a cool head

In 2003, Howard Dean was taking on the Democrat party machine in their presidential primaries, pioneering the use of the internet as a political tool. Front-runner John Kerry’s campaign was under serious threat from Dean’s assault. Then,

With little movement this week's poll, we look at bottom-lines and why New Zealand First seems to be anchored at around three percent

I've just updated our PollWatch Poll of Polls and there's no change in the number of seats each party is likely to hold after the election.

An important dimension underpinning generation change is political language. Jon Johansson analyses both main party leader's opening addresses and finds scant evidence of any new paradigm emerging.

One of several concepts that underpin the idea of generational change is the degree to which political language matches changes in the thinking of the rising political generation.

While the polls tell Pita Sharples that a coalition with Labour is the only realistic strategy, Tariana Turia is escalating her efforts to attract National and its base

I’ve rarely seen Dr Pita Sharples squirm, so when it happens it’s noteworthy. Last week on Marae (hosted by the excellent Shane Taurima, who also asked the hardest questions in TVNZ’s leaders' debate), Sharples was undoubtedly squirming as the talented Labour candidate Louisa Wall pressed him on the issue of the party vote.

Which are the electorates that will be most hotly contested in this election?

Interesting analysis of some battleground states by the NZPA today. MMP has taken the political and media focus off electorates, and to be honest I kind of miss that.

Labour goes for leasehold, but may still be hiding some trump card up its sleeve

Helen Clark announced new housing policy today, the very policy that Idiot Savant and I thought could be their trump card in this campaign. Well, if housing is the card Labour strategists have been keeping up their collective sleeve, they haven't played it yet.

Helen Clark and John Key went head-to-head, but by ignoring the big issue neither were able to offer a defining moment

It was the moment of engagement that voters have been longing to see. Clark and Key went head-to-head. Old media ran interference.

John Key showed he could master policy and presentation in tonight's debate, but he failed to master Helen Clark.

Helen Clark and John Key tonight both got what they wanted–a head-to-head debate without the minor parties. Strategists from Labour and National respectively concluded that this one-on-one format was just what their leader needed and would give him or her the edge. One team of advisers had to be wrong.

Clark hints that Labour will pin its re-election hopes on a new housing scheme for first home buyers

It's been clear for months that Labour was going to need more than a steady-as-she-goes platform to win this year's election. Behind in the polls for so long, they needed a circuit breaker. The global financial crisis has given them one, and in these first few days of the campaign Helen Clark has used it to great effect, ramming home her message of experience and competence.

Starting with the campaign launches, the momentum of the campaign has shifted sharply. Labour has seized the initiative, but can its surge last through to voting day?

Sunday’s two major party election launches presented a tale of two New Zealands, according to media who were surely truly blessed in being

Pundit picks which questions will be asked tonight and predicts which party will benefit most from the YouTube format. What are your picks?

When TVNZ announced a couple of weeks ago that it would be joining with YouTube for the first leaders' debate, featuring questions from ordinary New Zealanders, they said it would be "history-making".

Steve Grove, Head of News and Politics at YouTube, said “this debate and give all New Zealanders the chance to have their questions heard - and answered.”

Just what has been moving the polls around this week?

Today's new polls of polls adds the oddly erratic polls from the weekend, which saw at least one polling company embarrass itself with a poll that was wildly out of kilter with public opinion. But which one? TV3/TNS and Roy Morgan had Labour within six points, TVNZ/Colmar Brunton had National holding on to its comfortable double-digit lead.

Jon argues that 2008 is rife for preparatory leadership, but wonders whether National's small-target political strategy has blunted Jon Key's ability to deliver it.

In last week’s post I talked about our big change periods and the longer periods of consolidation between them. Today I want to explore more closely the cycles of our politics since 1984, because even within overarching periods of consolidation there are more subtle movements taking place within our politics.

Labour calls for trust. National wants change. Now it’s cards-on-the table time – for both major parties – as the heat from the Wall Street burnout registers in Main Street, New Zealand.

Both our major parties are locked on parallel courses at the start of this election campaign. Both offer modest tax cuts. Both are committed to sustaining the current level of Government spending. Both will borrow to fund the tax cuts and sustain the spending.

Roy Morgan poll just released shows National down seven points and the Greens up

A new Roy Morgan poll from early October shows National shedding seven percent of its support from two weeks earlier, down to 40.5 percent. Labour is up one percent, but more significantly is just three points behind on 37.5 percent. The Greens leap to nine percent, up 2.5 percent.

Rodney Hide dominates bloodless debate

Rodney Hide strides up to the counter and helps himself to a cup of tea. He confides that he lost "50 kilos of fat" on a rowing machine. He collects compliments, as he always must when sharing this information, and heads off to schmooze.

As markets tumble, will New Zealanders demand change to make a political flight to safety?

With all the political theatre and national conversation around tax, prisons, and more tax this week, commentators and political reporters have spent the last few days declaring that these are crucial issues at a crucial time in this year's campaign. They're not wrong, but I've always thought this year's election would ultimately come down to shoes.

National and Act seem to have come to an arrangement over the Epsom electorate, so why is Richard Worth still fighting?

Richard Worth is on the phone to the mayor’s office. He’s trying to clarify some points of protocol for an up-coming do, patiently explaining to the person on the other end of the line that “we want to run it the old way”. In his blue and white striped shirt with its crisp white collar, the 60-year-old former lawyer has a lot of the old way about him.

I'm moderating a debate between Epsom electorate candidates at Somervell Presbyterian on Remuera Rd from 7.30pm tonight

Epsom is the country's smallest, wealthiest and least Maori electorate. It is also the seat where the Act party lives or dies and could have a crucial impact on potential coalition deals after the election. So if you're around Auckland tonight come and meet the candidates (and me), ask some questions, and drink some coffee at a town hall-style meeting.

From BEFU to PREFU, from budget to election, our politicians are having to flip and flop to make their policies fit the times

Sometimes Michael Cullen can be too smart for his own good. This looks like being one of those times.

A new Maori Television poll shows Maori support for Labour and Helen Clark remains high

Despite its remarkably steady poll lead, as shown in the latest Pollwatch poll of polls here on Pundit, National is taking a considerable gamble in this election.

Clark and Key aren't arrogant, they'd just rather campaign than debate

In Australia’s 2007 general election, there was a single televised leaders’ debate. So too the previous election. In

Jon explores the 'four torrents' of New Zealand's political history, concluding that in this year's campaign the big ideas that could represent our next big change period are being subsumed by small ones.

“The Time, so misordered, does crowd and crush us to this monstrous form”

Voter expectations could be higher than National realise, and higher than they can afford

Reading the papers this morning, there are hints that National’s $50 tax cuts plans might not have the punch the Opposition would hope.

Pundit member Hayden Wilson discusses why the Electoral Finance Act could make this election campaign the nastiest in New Zealand’s history.

Dancing Cossacks and the Exclusive Brethren notwithstanding, New Zealand

Why Helen Clark and John Key are right—TV networks collude—and MMP purists are wrong

Helen Clark and John Key are right—a series of eight-way television debates during Campaign 08 would be a waste of their time, and a tax on the patience of viewers and voters.

Owen Glenn's mis-steps have given the New Zealand First leader a lifeline. But Helen Clark may just be the one to grab it

Politics not policy is dominating the opening skirmishes of the election campaign. Much of the focus has been on the dark knight of New Zealand politics, Winston Peters, and whether he survives a third ministerial sacking. If he does, there is some small irony in the fact he can thank Owen Glenn for saving him.

TV3 and TVNZ make a joint plea to leaders for multi-party debate

A joint letter from news chiefs at TV3 and TVNZ last Monday pleaded with both Helen Clark and John Key not to turn their backs on multi-party debates, insisting they were of "fundamental importance in an MMP environment".

Little change in seat numbers. So what will it take to shake up the polls before the election?

Pundit's Poll of Polls, brought to you by the good folks PollWatch, adds two new polls this week, from the New Zealand Herald and TV3. There's little change from last week, with just the Greens losing a seat under the new numbers.

Only some YouTube questions will be posted on the TVNZ website, but we will get to see the third party leaders debate after all. Just on their own.

The TVNZ PR folk have kindly returned my call and tried to clear up my questions about the YouTube debate. As I noted earlier this afternoon, CNN kept a tight rein on its YouTube debates in the US last year and chose which questions were asked.

YouTube debates won't be as interactive and revolutionary as they'd like you to think

TVNZ and YouTube have announced that our state broadcaster will follow the CNN model from the US primaries and allow voters to post questions for the party leaders on the video website.

Jon's column introduces the concept of a generational shift and asks whether this election will see a 24-year cycle of politics finally come to an end.

National and Labour refuse to debate the minor parties. It's a disgrace

I'm wondering whether you were all as disappointed as we were to see that Helen Clark and John Key have both refused to appear in an election debate with the leaders of the minor parties. It seems the only thing the pair can agree upon is to disrespect our MMP political system and the democratic importance of a stern contest between all those who seek power in this country.

MPs climb off the benches and onto the campaign trail

With the valedictory speeches spoken and the last niggles niggled, parliament wrapped up its business today. Enjoy a quiet weekend, because it'll be all-out campaigning from next week.

Start taking bets on how soon Labour will start using the 'novice' tag

Gordon Brown's big finale speech to the British Labour party conference offers a template for New Zealand Labour's approach to the election campaign here.