An election campaign can be judged by the election night party and I have been to a few.
For national elections the 2008 party was tinged with sadness, not only because Labour lost but Helen Clark decided to go.
The 2011 night was worse. Labour went from 34% to 28%. And even though Phil Goff in my view performed well he decided to go.
The 2014 was a debacle. David Cunliffe gave it his best but the party was hopelessly divided. The stuff that happened after the election result brought the party to its knees. Andrew Little’s work in restoring unity and cohesion is something that should always be acknowledged and remembered.
Last night’s party was bitter sweet. I have never been to an election night party where Labour increased its party vote by 11% points. Normally this would be reason for dancing on table tops. But even though Labour’s performance was dramatically improved there is still the nagging thought that it could have done even better and supplanted National.
Jacinda gave a great speech and is loved by the party. We are all ready to line up behind her and give it a go in three years time. She will be a great Prime Minister and the sooner the better.
The campaign emphasises the divide in New Zealand politics. Labour-Green are now a good 42% chunk of the electorate and after special votes are counted I expect them to head towards 44% of the vote. One more seat for the left is almost inevitable and two more seats are a possibility.
National dropped one point to 46%. But there will have been some movement of the vote as the Conservative’s 4% of the vote has disappeared. This probably mostly went to National which in turn shed votes to Labour.
They have held on to their poodle party and Epsom continues to get two MPs for the price of one. Seymour is ahead by 4,700 votes and David Parker gained 5,000 votes. Maybe Labour should consider not standing a candidate there next time.
It feels like we are in a country that is completely divided. One half want tax cuts and do not care about how their neighbour’s kids are doing and the other half think it is a travesty that we have a housing crisis, a poverty crisis and an environmental crisis and a Government practiced in doing the incrementalist absolute minimum about these issues.
The Maori electorates impressed me. They all swung towards Labour and Labour now has a lock on all the electorates. The Maori Party is no more. Clearly Tangata Whenua expect the Government to do something about child poverty and homelessness and can see through the lies that this Government has told. If only my fellow pakeha showed the same concern.
So where to from here?
We will now have a negotiation process where Winston Peters tries to get every benefit he can get. I expect him to put up a requirement that the Greens are not part of any Government and I personally believe that Labour should walk away from such a deal.
But I can understand the temptation to seek power. There is so much at stake.
For now we should celebrate that Labour has thirteen more Members of Parliament. And Lydia Sosene has a chance of making it in on the list after the specials are counted.
Labour’s new MPs are Duncan Webb, Priyanca Radhakrishnan, Jan Tinetti, Willow-Jean Prime, Kiri Allan, Ginny Andersen even though she lost Hutt South, Jo Luxton, Deborah Russell, Liz Craig, Marja Lubeck, Paul Eagle, Tamati Coffey, Jamie Strange, Anahila Kanongata’a-Suisuiki, Kieran McAnulty, Angie Warren-Clark, Helen White, Greg O’Connor and Steph Lewis.
Electorate results will take some digesting. I was really confident that we would win Maungakiekie and Hutt South given the surge in polling but in both seats well established National identities held out against Labour candidates selected from outside of the electorate.
The Greens get the impressive Chlöe Swarbrick joining their ranks with the possibility of a further MP following the counting of special votes.
National gets one new MP, Nicola Willis in off the list. Although I would not unpack her bags yet if I was her.
And in New Zealand First Shane Jones returns.
So the next couple of weeks will be interesting. There are still the numbers for a Labour-Green-New Zealand First Government. No matter what happens to specials National and New Zealand First can form a Government quickly. But I don’t think that New Zealand First will rush into things.
Update: Sorry my calculations are too optimistic. Helen White is right on the cusp.