New Zealanders finally had their say after a rollercoaster of an election campaign. But despite all the hype about Jacindamania and the it’s time factor, voters overwhelmingly backed the National Party to continue to deliver strong and stable government. Bill English banished the ghosts of the elections past as the National Party polled 46.0% of the party vote to Labours 35.8% with 100% of the preliminary vote counted.
The National Party only had a net loss of 2 seats, Bill English delivered a clearly delighted election night speech. Jacinda Ardern tried to put a positive spin on the result but it was easy to tell she and the Labour supporters in the room knew that this wasn’t the result they had all dreamt possible.
However, what is different post this election than National’s previous three victories under John Key is that New Zealand First under Winston Peters hold the balance of power. Winston Peters’ election night speech was aimed at the media and the National Party in particular to say cool it. Peters is no hurry to simply back the party that won the most seats.
He has his own policies and will want to how many National or the Labour/Green block is willing to implement to form government. Jacinda Ardern could still become Prime Minister though it would be a one seat majority in an unstable coalition. Winston will most likely end up supporting National and may end up being Deputy Prime Minister, but he will drive a hard bargain and get National to agree to implementing much of his agenda.
The array of minor parties that National has relied upon the past nine years has been almost wiped out. United Future were always doomed once their sole MP Peter Dunne decided to retire and the Maori Party failed to win a single seat despite the electoral advantage of their being dedicated Maori seats.
Only ACT survived with their leader David Seymour winning the electorate of Epsom, however the party did not win an entitlement to additional list MPs with only 0.5% of the party vote. Their future also looks in doubt now that Bill English has stated he will not have them as a coalition partner in the new government.
Overall this election result should be good news to those whose faith in the voters is at times questionable. The voters of New Zealand made a rational informed decision that it was wiser to re-elect a stable and responsible government that had steered the nation through global financial crises, returned the budget to surplus and overseen steady economic growth.
The fresh young pretty face of Jacinda Ardern was no substitute for sound policy and substance. There was a massive turnaround in the polls once Jacinda took the leadership however once voters saw the policy, which mainly consisted of new taxes, it was not a platform they were willing to support. Labour’s tax proposals were effectively picked apart in National Party advertising who showed no hesitation in campaigning aggressively.
Even more pleasing is that voters were not easily manipulated by the mainstream media which constantly pushed Jacinda’s campaign and that a change was needed. She was compared with Bernie Sanders, Jeremy Corbyn, Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Marcon as part of the progressivism sweeping the western world. New Zealand’s media is particularly bad as it has no major conservative voices but the voters were able filter out all of the spin and look directly at the candidates and their proposals.
Though the outbreak of supposed Jacindamania did influence the way National and Bill English in particular campaigned. Despite having the government’s track record and his own record as Finance Minister to campaign on he had play on her level. That meant shedding his bland and dull image and appearing more energetic and enthusiastic. He tried to do as many campaign events in day as possible, was interactive with the voters, was very active on social media as well opening up more about his personal life and interests.
Often when politicians like Bill English engage in such a strategy it can be quite cringeworthy, but it worked and it’s probably a major factor in why he was able to turn the campaign around. He did have to announce some extra spending on health and welfare to win voters over, but it could hardly be deemed irresponsible when compared with what Jacinda was promising.
For Jacinda and the left their idealistic statements and policy proposals were rejected, and they blew an election winning lead. This was an important outcome which should send a message of progressive parties around the world that you cannot win on just style alone, if you have an effective opponent you will get caught out.
The lesson for Australian politics should be that the next election outcome might not be fixed. If the Coalition is able to effectively expose Bill Shorten’s big government agenda they can win, key word is if. Left wing parties can be defeated with sound political arguments which many on the right thought was becoming more difficult. The right can learn a lot from the National Party campaign and know that if they do it right, effective policy and economic responsibility can win the day.