Jacinda Ardern becomes the youngest ever New Zealand Prime Minister

It’s official. Shortly before 1900 hours last night, New Zealand First Leader Winston Peters – after 26 days of waiting, and nearly two weeks of negotiations – has announced that his party will support a Labour-led Government.

The next Prime Minister of New Zealand – the 40th – will be Jacinda Kate Laurell Ardern. Youngest Prime Minister of New Zealand in 160 years.

This is a truly historic moment. Not only has Ms Ardern become Prime Minister, but it is important to remember that not even three months ago, Labour were staring down the gun barrel of a four term National-led Government. It was dead in the water. Nothing was going right – no policy releases, personnel changes or attempts at positivity were working. National had every right to think it was going to win. Both it and its leader Bill English were kilometres ahead of Labour and its leader Andrew Little on 31 July. Despite having suffered a bit of a hit over the Todd Barclay saga, ongoing issues with housing and immigration, National did not seem to have suffered any lasting damage.

But few could have possibly predicted the effect of Ms Ardern being made Leader of Labour on 01 August. From dead in the proverbial water, Ms Ardern was off to a flying start. Over night nearly $250,000 was donated to Labour in 24 hours.

The first poll taken showed a huge spike in Labour support. Young and charismatic, seen as a breath of fresh air Ms Ardern might have lacked the skills and experience in the eyes of many. But she had enthusiasm, was quick to stamp her mark and able to land hits that her predecessors in the post Helen Clark era have only been able to dream about. After the first poll National were probably not unduly worried. It could all be a flash in the pan and her support might go back down.

But it did not. Still not yet time to panic. Mr English, whilst being less popular than his predecessor former Prime Minister John Key, had spades of experience to draw upon. He presented himself as a steady pair of hands and adept at managing crises.

Still – and Ms Ardern knows this – she has those predecessors to thank for buying her and Labour time. It would have been difficult to imagine any of them landing the hits or making the policy announcements that she has. They lacked the charisma and were too scared to make announcements of significant new policy.

Ms Ardern will learn from the longest serving Member of Parliament, the Rt. Honourable Winston Peters. Mr Peters, with the exception of the 2008-2011 term, has served in the New Zealand Parliament continuously since 1981. I was a tot who still had yet to learn to walk when he made his maiden statement that year. Mr Peters, is in a unique position because he will know the pit falls of coalition agreements, Ms Arderns rapid rise to the top from being an M.P. with the Social Development spokesperson role means in some respects she is inexperienced at crisis management.

Over the next few days Labour will announce how it has split the Ministerial Portfolios’. New Zealand First and the Greens are both going to receive a couple. For Mr Peters and his caucus it will be a reminder of the last time it was able to have such an influencing role in a New Zealand General Election.

A Government today?

By the end of today there could be a new Government. New Zealand First leader Winston Peters is expected to announce whether he will go with National or Labour/Greens.

This – unlike 1996 – has not taken 9 weeks. Nor has it involved a coalition document so hefty that I was told a wheel barrow – which might be slight exaggeration – was needed to get it into Parliament on the day that that Government was announced. The size of the coalition document was allegedly a testament to the number of concessions that Mr Peters extracted from National before going with them.

Being a former National M.P. himself, I suspect that he will form a Government with Mr English. Contrary to popular belief I do not expect him to be granted the Prime Minister’s job. Nor do I expect him to be Deputy Prime Minister. This is a National Government that will be wanting to leave a legacy and that will most certainly mean a fourth consecutive term with a National Prime Minister.

In return for that, I expect some hefty policy concessions will be made. Substantial support for railways will probably be one; significant reductions in the number of immigrants able to come here and a change in housing ownership rules to either permit only permanent residents and citizens or possibly just citizens to own property. National will also have make significant concessions on rural investment and agricultural policy as well, given the inroads New Zealand First made in the rural areas.

I do not know how serious Prime Minister Bill English is about pushing the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement forward. This might prove to be a sticking point and one of the places where Mr Peters might find the Labour/Greens camp to be more promising.

Labour and the Greens have a tougher job of negotiating with Mr Peters, although on health, social welfare and education they are much more closely aligned. Like National, if Mr Peters goes with Labour and the Greens, I doubt very much Labour leader Jacinda Ardern will surrender the Prime Minister role, though she might say yes to him having the Deputy role. If not, then Labour would have to make quite substantial concessions across the board.

Labour will want investment in mental health – something I think Mr Peters will be more than happy to do. There may be other areas where they see eye to eye, such as environmental policy.

The best bets for my priorities are definitely with a New Zealand First/Labour/Green coalition. Like everyone else I will have to grit my teeth and wonder how much more gnashing they will take if Mr Peters goes with National. But if he does that, my support for New Zealand First will dry up completely.

Final New Zealand General Election Results 2017

The results we have all been waiting for are out. The New Zealand General Election 2017 final results are as follows:

LABOUR: 46 M.P.’s
A.C.T.: 1 M.P.

The losers are National, who lose Maureen Pugh and Nicola Willis.

The winners are Labour who welcome Angie Warren Clark, who works for Womens Refuge in Hawkes Bay becomes their 46th Member of Parliament. The other winner is the Greens who welcome former Iranian refugee and notable human rights lawyer Golriz Ghahraman to their respective caucuses.

The real winner though is New Zealand First leader Winston Peters. As leader of the party that will have to do a coalition deal with one or the other, Mr Peters occupies what would be reasonably called pole position in the context of coalition negotiations.

This simplifies the potential equations significantly. There are now two clear cut coalition options for Mr Peters to consider. One is Labour+Greens+New Zealand First and the other Is National+New Zealand First. Due to acrimony between New Zealand First and A.C.T there is no prospect of A.C.T joining a coalition.

I believe some seriously heavy bargaining will now take place. People have not forgotten the nine week wake of 1996 when an election held in October of that year resulted in a hung Parliament and

Either way Mr Peters is going to pilloried for his decision. There will be conservative members of the Party who will wish he goes with National and there will be left leaning members (and former members such as myself)who will wish he goes with Labour and the Greens.

Either way there are some great things likely to happen now, such as a significant increase in emphasis on railway transport; the housing crisis will have to be addressed in some form and the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement may be finally killed off.

So, let the coalition negotiations start, and hopefully in the near future I will be able to report the signing of a deal between New Zealand First and National or Labour/Greens.

Why the Greens should not go with National

The long and short versions are both the same: A Green Party deal with National will kill the party.

The Green Party is fundamentally a party of the environment and social conscience. That is not to say that it has a monopoly or possibly even a duopoly with Labour on the subject, but there is one certainty and that is the very ideological core of National is not geared towards the environment. It never has been and never will be. It’s endeavours in environmental policy have been largely to assuage the left-leaning membership of the party, rather than an genuine belief that the environment is important.

I am not criticizing National for trying to be environmentally responsible and if it wants to take a leaf out of that book, great. Well done for a party that was not designed with the environment in mind.

But the Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand – like all of the other Green Party branches around the world – IS designed with the environment in mind. This is the cornerstone of what the party stands for, and if one takes away that cornerstone, they are in effect taking away the fundamentals on which the Green Party is founded.

So, why are there suggestions that they should be going with National? Is the party membership and caucus quite mad?

We are talking about going with a party that has shown scant understanding of fresh water quality and quantity issues. This is a party that thinks business as usual is how one should address the growing impact of carbon based gases.

We are talking about a party whose right wing probably still think A.N.Z.U.S. is a good idea even if it is a Cold War era relic that needs to be either replaced or completely overhauled. The same right wing and their A.C.T. supporters would tell you that New Zealand’s security can only be secured with a permanent deal with the United States, despite it being increasingly obvious that nation does not have a clue how to fight a “War on Terror”.

Again, this is totally contrary to the Green Party ethos. It is totally contrary to the peace and social justice causes that helped to propel the party to where it is today.

Coming so soon after Metiria Turei’s admission – brave as it was – caused divisions inside the party, to openly court the mainstream party of the right is a really dangerous move. I just have this vision – not a nice one at that – of the Greens facing electoral oblivion if they go with National.

Just don’t even think about it.

M.M.P. not to blame for decimation of minor parties

Once again we are seeing the detractors of Mixed Member Proportional voting trying to suggest that the system is flawed and that New Zealanders want a new one.

The election on 23 September 2017 resulted in the decimation of the minor parties. Of that there can be no question – it was a dreadful night for them.

For some of the parties, their demise was was natural – Greg O’Connor, who used to be a top policeman in New Zealand stood for Labour in Ohariu electorate. This is the same electorate where United Future self destructed with the resignation of long serving M.P. Peter Dunne, whose departure left no one with any street credibility left in the party..

Likewise Gareth Morgan’s The Opportunities Party fatally shot itself when Mr Morgan described Labour Leader Jacinda Ardern as lipstick on a pig. Perhaps not being a cat lover with a declared vendetta against them, also cost him many votes as cats make wonderful pets for those living alone or who are elderly – and at the same time, as my family discovered with our three cats, excellent bird killers as well. Mr Morgan’s party had been seen by some as the next big opportunity to create more of a peoples movement and Mr Morgan – like Colin Craig with his Conservative Party – threw huge sums of his own money at the election

A.C.T failed to get to 30,000 votes whereupon with its leader David Seymour retaining his Epsom electorate seat, it would have been able to bring Deputy Leader Beth Houlbrooke into Parliament. Many will say the A.C.T. brand  was probably destroyed by its M.P.’s conduct in the first term of the Government of Prime Minister John. Certainly since then it has consistently polled at no more than 1-2% in the polls.

The Maori Party was the victim of a resurgent Labour vote in the Maori electorates, where former weatherman Tamati Coffey defeated co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell as all seven electorates swung back towards the Jacinda Ardern inspired Labour. Some will say their decision to go with National for three consecutive terms probably undid their chances of making up with the centre-left. Three consecutive terms with no notable progress on the hefty issues of school truancy, getting people on benefits into jobs or training, to say nothing of Maori being disproportionately rated in crime statistics has created many a disgruntled voter.

But there was nothing wrong with this. It was simply the Mixed Member Proportional system at work. People wanted more Labour seats in Parliament. The Greens had botched their campaign with Metiria Turei’s acknowledgement that she misled Work and Income New Zealand. New Zealand First didn’t run as convincing a campaign as they could have and it was time to make United Future and the Maori Party pay for their support of National. Those extra Labour seats had to come from somewhere.