As the political year draws to a close, for our last State Of The Race update before election year, it’s time to look back on the year that was. For the most part it seemed like a highly tumultuous year for global politics, mainly due to the rise of populist nationalism, but we were later to learn New Zealand wasn’t exempt from a year of high grade political drama with the resignation of former Prime Minister John Key.
FEATURE: The star performers and big losers of 2016
The big losers (local):
Nick Leggett (Wellington) – lost heavily to Justin Lester in the Wellington mayoral election despite receiving $125,997 in donations and spending up large on the campaign. Had a nice nasty falling out with the Labour Party, later defecting to the National Party for whom he may stand as a candidate in the Mana electorate.
John Palino (Auckland) – started his political campaign by throwing an actual tantrum at media. Ran in 2013 against Len Brown’s as the centre-right’s primary candidate. In the end, his vote fell from 31.6% in 2013 to 5.6% in 2016.
Lucy Schwaner (Auckland) – the wife of Botany MP Jami-Lee Ross was elected as a member to the Howick community board before resigning immediately after her maiden performance and walking out, costing ratepayers thousands.
The star performers (local):
Andrew Judd (New Plymouth) – named by some as ‘New Zealander of the year’ for leading nationwide dialogue over Maori rights and representation on a local government level. Judd, now a member of the Maori Party, has described himself as a “recovering racist”. He did not seek re-election.
Efeso Collins (Auckland) – gave an inspiring and emotional maiden speech upon being elected as one of the councillors for the Manukau ward on Auckland council. Started an important discussion over racial inequality following his family’s poor treatment at his swearing-in ceremony.
Justin Lester (Wellington) – running and winning exceedingly well as a Labour candidate while his party failed to fire over all. Rose to national prominence following the Wellington and Kaikoura earthquakes.
Local honourable and dishonourable mentions:
Tim Shadbolt (Invercargill) – honourable for being elected to a record-breaking eighth term as mayor of the Southland city and reminding us all why he’s so loved for his dorky nature by riding a scooter to his local dairy.
Lee Vandervis (Dunedin) – dishonourable for telling a disabled council candidate he was unfit for the job because he could “barely breathe or speak” and was “wheelchair bound”.
The star performers (national):
Christopher Bishop (National) – extremely positive first term as an MP, introducing bipartisan legislation to the house and building a solid name for himself as a local politician in Hutt South, gearing himself up for next year to take the seat.
Julie Anne Genter (Green) – capitalised and spoke well to the major issue of public transportation in Auckland, placing her as the obvious candidate for the Greens heading into the Mount Albert by-election.
Marama Fox (Maori Party) – in many ways brought her party back to mainstream discussion, supporting many policy initiatives through their confidence and supply agreement with the National government and, at the same time, criticising them where necessary. Stood up to Imperial Tobacco’s Axel Gietz during a live television interview on TV3’s The Nation.
Jacinda Ardern (Labour) – continued to outshine her friends on Labour’s frontbench this term, proving herself as able in front of media. Scared off the National Party from standing a candidate in the upcoming Mount Albert by-election.
David Seymour (ACT) – whilst his party may have failed to gain back traction in the polls, a poll commissioned by the ACT Party has found 13% have a positive view of Mr. Seymour compared to 9% who have negative view. He has brought the ACT Party back to the national political discussion and emphasised its right-libertarian messaging as opposed to its anti-Maori privilege sentiments explored previously.
The big losers (national):
Nick Smith (National) – with the housing crisis continuing to prove a pain for the government, Nick Smith was exceedingly average in combating questions from media and finding solutions to the ever-growing crisis. His proposed changes, which included major rollbacks of the RMA (Resource Management Act) were defeated in a parliamentary vote.
Judith Collins (National) – defeated in the leadership contest following the resignation of former Prime Minister John Key. The public’s reaction to her potentially winning that contest proved she is still viewed with major suspicion and negativity by a large proportion of the public.
Andrew Little (Labour) – for failing to get any major traction following a reasonably smooth first two years as leader. Usually leaders are responsible for creating an air of change in the 365 days before election year. He’ll be hoping to up his game with less than a year to go from his current 8% preferred Prime Minister rating.
National honourable and dishonourable mentions:
Gerry Brownlee (National) – dishonourable for swearing at a Kaikoura earthquake victim.
Bill English (National) – honourable mostly for leading a clean leadership battle and being unanimously backed by his colleagues to lead the country.
Peter Dunne (United Future) – dishonourable for calling Helen Kelly’s plea for medical cannabis “emotional nonsense”.
Fresh candidate selections
One term Taranaki-King Country MP Barbara Kuriger has been reselected as National’s candidate for the 2017 general election. Kuriger replaced long-term MP Shane Ardern in 2014 for the very safe National seat that spans from the central Taranaki town of Midhurst in the south, Raglan to the north and Te Awamatu to the east. Kuriger won 68.1% of the vote in 2014 and National won 61.4% of the party vote to Labour candidate Penny Gaylor’s 16.9% and Labour’s 13.5%. Kuriger is a farmer and was previously named Dairy Woman of the year.
Labour has named its candidate for the safe National southeast Auckland seat of Botany. Botany covers the suburbs of Tamaki East, Huntington Park, Flat Bush to the south and Cockle Bay to the northern coast. The seat, held by Jami-Lee Ross was contested last election by Labour’s Tofik Mamedov who won 22.9% of the vote to Ross’s 63.8%. Mamedov will once again be Labour’s candidate in 2017. The Labour candidate arrived in New Zealand aged 16 as an immigrant from Azerbaijan and left school soon after to take up a job as a fast food worker to help his mother financially. He later became a business owner, real estate worker, insurance professional and banker. Ross won the seat in a 2011 by-election following the resignation of Pansy Wong. The electorate has a large Chinese community which primarily favours National.
McCully disappoints friends of Israel
Following the United Nation’s Security Council decision to condemn Israel on Christmas Eve, there has been an outpouring of anger from a range of groups. Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netenyahu called foreign minister Murray McCully to label New Zealand’s support of the resolution as a “declaration of war” and New Zealand Jewish news website Shalom Kiwi described the government as “one-sided” and “anti-Israel”.
This prompted right-wing blogger Cameron Slater to ask party leaders where they stood on Israel and the resolution after what he described as “disgust” at the National government from his readers. The first leader to respond to Slater was Labour leader Andrew Little who wrote;
It would be a weird friendship if one of its conditions was to accept uncritically everything it did. While I respect Israel’s right to defend itself against hostile neighbours, and it has a few, it doesn’t have the right to appropriate land that is not legally its land. The world is prepared to support a peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, and is frustrated Israel says it wants peace but acts in ways contrary to it. I want peace for Israel, and peace for the Palestinians. I also want both to observe the international rule of law.
ACT leader David Seymour also responded, taking a more adamantly pro-Israel stance;
I am pro Israel because I believe that democracy and individual freedom are more important than the will of the mob. As goes Israel, so goes freedom for us all. On the current topic you have to look at the resolution itself and the U.S. Ambassador’s speech to the Security Council. It is possible to be pro Israel and yet question the settlements. What is dumbfounding is why New Zealand chose to take a leading role. With the Saudi Sheep schmossle and now this, McCully can’t go fast enough.
Internet Party comeback on the cards
Internet Party founder Kim Dotcom has signalled his failed political movement could return in 2017. Talking to his 550,000 Twitter followers, Mr. Dotcom wrote, in a series of tweets;
Internet Party could return in 2017. Independent and with bright young minds who can create a prosperous digital economy for NZ… [Donald Trump] and Brexit have shown that the biased mainstream media can be beaten with a strong social media campaign #InternetParty… I had the toughest 5 years of my life in New Zealand. Corruption, persecution and utter injustice. But I still want my kids to grow up here.
The Internet Party recently recorded 0.5% in a Roy Morgan poll, putting it on level with ACT, the Maori Party and the Conservatives. United Future and the MANA Movement both polled 0%. The Internet Party would not contest the 2017 election in collaboration with MANA, as it did in 2014 under the Internet-Mana brand.
The Internet Party stood a range of candidates in electorates in 2014 and during the election campaign Mr. Dotcom said he would not rule out attempting to run for parliament himself the following election.
MPs resigning in 2017 (so far):
Labour: Clayton Cosgrove (List), David Cunliffe (New Lynn).
National: Chester Borrows (Whanganui), John Key (Helensville), Jono Naylor (List), Hekia Parata (List), Lindsay Tisch (Waikato), Maurice Williamson (Pakuranga), Sam Lotu-Iga (Maungakiekie), Craig Foss (Tukituki), Murray McCully (East Coast Bays).
Green: Catherine Delahunty (List), Steffan Browning (List).
MPs standing again, but only for the List (so far):
Trevor Mallard (Labour) MP for Hutt South since 1996, MP for Pencarrow from 1993 till 1996 and MP for Hamilton West from 1984 till 1990.
Annette King (Labour) MP for Rongotai since 1996, MP for Miramar from 1993 till 1996 and MP for Horowhenua from 1984 till 1990.
Auckland Central (held by Nikki Kaye of National by a 600 vote majority versus Labour).
Hutt South (held by Trevor Mallard of Labour by a 709 vote majority versus National’s Chris Bishop. Virginia Andersen will be Labour’s candidate in 2017, replacing Mallard).
Ohariu (held by Peter Dunne of United Future by a 710 vote majority versus Labour).
Te Tai Tokerau (held by Kelvin Davis of Labour by a 743 vote majority versus the MANA Movement’s Hone Harawira).
Latest poll (as of Thursday, 22 December 2016) (No change)
Roy Morgan poll for November/December
National 45.0%, Labour 28.5%, Greens 14.5%, NZ First 7.5%, Maori 0.5%, ACT 0.5%, United Future 0.0%, Conservative 0.5%, Internet Party 0.5%, MANA Movement 0.0%
(GOVERNMENT 46.0% OPPOSITION 50.5%).
Poll change: National -4.5, Labour +5.5, Greens +0.0, NZ First -0.5, Maori -0.5, ACT -0.5, United Future -0.5, Conservative +0.0, Internet Party +0.5, MANA Movement +0.0.
GOVERNMENT -6.5, OPPOSTION +5.0
Poll average: National 47%, Labour 28%, Greens 11%, NZ First 9%, Maori 1.3%, ACT 0.5%, Conservative 0.2%, MANA Movement 0.1%, United Future 0.0%.
The leaders’ social media performance:
Facebook ‘likes’ as at Thursday 22/12/2016.
1) Winston Peters 70,843 (+149)
2) Bill English 52,700 (+7,398)
3) Andrew Little 29,257 (+33)
4) Metiria Turei 13,248 (+14)
5) Te Ururoa Flavell 12,632 (+7)
6) Marama Fox 7,901 (+26)
7) James Shaw 7,629 (+11)
8) David Seymour 4,145 (+19)
1) Metiria Turei 21.4K (+.2)
2) Winston Peters 13.7K (+.1)
3) Bill English 12.5K (+.8)
4) Andrew Little 11.7K (+.1)
5) Peter Dunne 8.1K (+.1)
6) James Shaw 6.2K (+.0)
7) Te Uruora Flavell 5.3K (+.1)
8) Marama Fox 3.6K (+.0)
9) David Seymour 3.5K (+.0)
– Bennett Morgan, Capital HardTalk.