First Jacindamania, and then at 4pm yesterday, Billinsania

Jo Moir summarises 3 months of mayhem

July 16

This was where it all began, the day then-Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei confessed to a room full of supporters and journalists that she had committed benefit fraud while a young mum at university. Jaws dropped, breaking news alerts went crazy and ultimately Turei kicked off what was about to become a survival of the fittest race to the September 23 election.

On the other side of Auckland that same day, NZ First leader Winston Peters was making a speech at his very own party annual conference. This is where Peters put a stake in the ground over the Māori seats and announced a bottom-line referendum on whether to keep them or not. The announcement was divisive and drew plenty of its own headlines, but it didn’t topple Turei’s revelations.

July 30

Then-Labour leader Andrew Little dropped his own bombshell on the back of a poor performance for the party in a Colmar Brunton poll. Little revealed he’d offered to step aside from the leadership after Labour fell three points to 24 per cent. Much of that polling was down to the gamble Turei had played, which at this point was paying off with the Greens up to 15 per cent in the polls.

July 31

Little backed up his earlier revelation with another the next morning in an interview where he said at 24 per cent, he wouldn’t have a mandate to govern. Then Stuff published a story later that day saying internal polling had the party at 23 per cent. By that night, it was pretty clear a change of leadership was under way.

August 1

Roll in Jacinda Ardern and Kelvin Davis – the new faces of the Labour leadership. They were voted in unanimously by the caucus, and Ardern had a spectacular first press conference that signalled it was game on for the eight-week run-up to the election. Meanwhile, the high the Greens had been feeling was about to completely unravel.

August 3

Turei gets busted for electoral fraud and is forced to admit she had enrolled at an address at which she did not live in order to vote for a friend who was running in the 1993 election. That led Ardern to rule her out of any ministerial position in a potential Labour-Greens government (Turei ruled herself out first, but only just).

August 7

Green Party MPs David Clendon and Kennedy Graham went rogue and threatened to quit the party if Turei didn’t resign over the benefit fraud revelation. Co-leader James Shaw fired back in a late-night press conference, saying there would be repercussions and the party had been “betrayed”.

August 9

It’s uncovered Turei received more family support than she let on and a poll was about to show the Greens had dropped to 8.3 per cent support (Jacinda-mania had caught on and Labour surged to 33.1 per cent), so Turei calls it quits and resigns as co-leader.

August 22

United Future leader Peter Dunne quits politics just four-and-a-half weeks out from the election. That makes him the third leader in a month to step aside. Dunne didn’t like the look of polling in his Ohariu seat and was sensing a mood for change with polls showing Labour’s candidate Greg O’Connor ahead.

August 27

NZ First leader Peters shoots back into the headlines with a press release revealing he’d been overpaid his superannuation but had paid it back since finding out about the error. Over the next two days, it came out that ministers Paula Bennett and Anne Tolley were briefed about it along with the prime minister’s chief of staff Wayne Eagleson. Subsequent investigations concluded neither the Beehive nor the National Party had leaked the information. MSD and IRD also cleared their staff.

August 31

The first of the leaders’ debates kicks off between National leader Bill English and Labour leader Ardern, with media and commentators finding it difficult to name an outright winner. The campaign is in full swing by this point.

September 4

National’s Steven Joyce gathers reporters to tell them Labour has a $11.7 billion hole in their fiscal plan. No economists backed up that claim but National continued to run the line right up until the election.

September 14

Labour backs down on a capital gains tax being implemented ahead of the 2020 election and announces any of the recommendations from the tax working group wouldn’t hit until 2021. This came after sustained pressure and attack ads from National.

September 18

Farmers turn out in their hundreds in Morrinsville to protest Labour’s water tax. Winston Peters turned up in his campaign bus and got booed.

September 23

Election Day. National takes the biggest chunk of the vote and NZ First is clearly in the kingmaker role but insists he won’t do any formal negotiating until the special votes are counted.

October 7

The special vote count delivers the Labour-Greens block another two seats, which narrows the gap between them and National. It puts Peters in a more comfortable position to negotiate with both sides.

October 8

Formal negotiations kick off at Parliament and continue throughout the week.

October 12

Writ day and Peters’ self-imposed deadline for making public who the next government comes and goes with no decision and formal negotiations with National and Labour wrap up.

October 13

NZ First holds an all-day caucus meeting and announces the board will meet on Monday.

October 16

The NZ First board and caucus meet for the next two days at Parliament to discuss the options on the table.

October 18

Peters informs English and Ardern he will announce his decision the next day.

October 19

Peters announces he will form a coalition government with Labour, propelling Ardern into the prime ministership at the age of 37.

And to think after Kim Dotcom, people were hoping this election would be a lot more sensible and dignified!

But before you lose your will to live, just hang in there.   Once the Labour party at large discover how much Winston has actually taken and how little it has left for Labour to share with the Greens, there will be trouble.

 

– NZ Herald

 


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