The more things change, the more things stay the same. Parliament had 8 parties it still has 8 parties. Labour was a minority government relying on different parties for different issues. The government will be a minority Labour government relying on different parties for different issues.
We picked it
The Letter said the Maori Party would create an overhang giving Labour the advantage, Peters would lose Tauranga (first to say so) and Rodney would win Epsom. All media reported TVNZ's Colmar Brunton poll claiming Richard Worth would receive 44%! Their opinion polling and analysis cost ACT at least 5 MPs but also damaged their own credibility.
As the Letter predicted National has won back provincial NZ. In the cities a constituency MP is just one of many. In a town the MP is a leading citizen. The local paper reports every speech. Once won, a provincial seat results in a local organisation. Constituency MPs get more funding. Labour used to put huge effort into holding marginal seats but this election put its effort into turning out the vote in safe urban seats. It is a policy that does give the most list votes as those late South Auckland seats showed but the loss of the heartland has reduced Labour's mandate. When Labour held most seats even when it was a minority government it could claim to represent the nation.
National run a brilliant first past the post campaign. Unfortunately it was MMP. Don Brash is dreaming that he can form a coalition when he has eaten his allies. On the present results a National led government would have to rely on the Maori Party. Not credible. Our advice to Brash is to tell Murray McCully to stop plotting and concede that National cannot form a government even if the specials result in the Greens falling below the threshold.
A very large number of the 210,000 specials to be counted are invalid. Voters not on the roll who turn up to vote are given a special vote. If they do not have a late valid enrolment the vote is not counted. We doubt that there are more than 120,000 valid votes to count, unlikely to change the result.
No Queen Maker
The electorate has strengthened Clark's hand. In total there are 71 MPs on the left or from parties pledging to support the largest party. Labour with Anderton are 51, 11 votes short of a majority. No one party holds the balance of power able to deliver the magic 62, and no party will want to cause another election. She could form a government of just Labour Ministers. We predict Clark will offer Ministerial positions outside cabinet to get a coalition agreement. Winning confidence votes is not the problem; it's an agreement on support on procedural votes that is needed to manage parliamentary business. It still looks like our nightmare - a Labour/Green/Maori minority government.
John Key is the candidate from central casting - he never forgets his lines. He "won" his debate with Michael Cullen. Key is the obvious next leader.
Brash has never had control of his caucus or his party. Muldoon would never have allowed the party president to put out a pamphlet in her own name as Judy Kirk did in Epsom. As Richard Nixon discovered when he narrowly lost to Kennedy it is often worse to lose by a few votes. Critics will ask if he had not "supped" with the Brethren, forgotten his lines in the debate, been unable to do a deal in Epsom would the right have won? Our advice to Don is to go now before the boys push him.
Clark's last campaign
With the right way/wrong way poll showing 52% of voters think the country is on the right path, this was an election Labour could not lose yet they lost the "campaign". The government lost the initiative when Cullen refused to include some tax relief in the budget. While Clark blames Cullen for the budget she must take a major share of the blame. Cullen has been hopelessly overloaded. Finance Minister, foreshore negotiator, and Leader of the House, Labour's chief parliamentary debater and now Attorney General. Interest free student loans may have "won" the election but Cullen's reputation for prudence has been destroyed. The student loan debt is about to become a mountain. Three years of having to negotiate everything with Jeanette Fitzsimons, Hone Harawira, Winston Peters and Peter Dunne must make Clark feel tired. A UN job is looking appealing.
They all got it wrong
The Herald election eve poll predicted that NZ1 and the Greens would not get 5% and we would have a Labour majority government! TVNZ predicted a National 6% lead. TV3 was 100% wrong when it claimed that ACT would get less than 1%.
Telephone polls false
The polling companies methods are now not much better than examining the entrails of chickens. Less than a third of all those called agreed to answer. Many people no longer have a landline or have caller ID and refuse to answer calls from numbers they don't know. The polling companies' claims that the few who answer represent those who don't is nonsense. They will have to find new ways to poll or do as ACT did and go back to old fashion door knocking.
The Letter lives
We are going to continue publishing NZ's largest email newsletter. We have launched a new website www.theletter.biz. You can now subscribe online, change your details and view this weeks issue and past copies. We are installing a search engine to look up old stories and we are putting up a real time web based poll.
"Which would you prefer? Labour/Green/Maori or Labour/NZ First/ United?"We will send the results to Clark. Vote at www.act.org.nz/ poll.