by Tim Watkin

As the polls start to swing back into action, a look across the electoral battlefield sees two major party leaders both struggling to get firm footing and take the high ground

Any which way you look at it, it seems impossible. History leans hard on both major parties at the moment, suggesting they are heading into an election year battling against the odds. There are good reasons why both red and blue teams should see this election as unwinnable – and good reasons why they may not want to win – but, thing is, one of them will. But which?

Recent elections and votes in America, Britain and Australia have been brutal and brittle affairs with plenty of rancour, and some fear the same here this year. But I wonder if they're looking in the wrong direction

The mumblings and frettings about how Donald Trump's victory in the US may twist and define our own elections this year have been many and full of dread. And not unreasonably. You only have to look at recent votes and polls in our cultural neighbours – the US, UK and Australia – to see the rise of some ugly politics. But I fear the worriers may be wailing at the wrong wall.

Bill English has the chance to be heroic without indulging his inner Hugh Grant. He can be on the right side of history, China and even Ronald Reagan, if he seizes the moment

Love Actually isn't real life. As appalled as we all are my the strongman behaviour of Donald Trump in his first week in office, when he calls Bill English in the coming days, this isn't the time for the new Prime Minister to indulge his inner Hugh Grant.

Today's short and grim speech reinforces and reveals how Donald Trump will govern as the 45th US president, and it won't serve his people well

The bully victorious. That's what today's inauguration of Donald Trump means to me.

And why should it mean anything else? That is the very essence of the man we have come to know over the past two years – the man who mocks, grabs pussy, calls opponents childish names, incites violence at rallies and is mollified by no-one. The man is not for turning.

Who stood out for me this year? I want to talk about two people who changed the conversation, for better and worse

I've got half written Key/English blogs to finish and post, but before Christmas I desperately want to share my hero and anti-hero of the year; our better and worse angels.

The Spinoff last week asked me to consider the political highs and lows of 2016. So I did that and saw there first package come out over the weekend. So here are my thoughts on all that

Champs: Who would you rank as the best performing individuals in politics for 2016?

1. John Key, for perfectly executing the coup against himself, and Bill English, the little engine who finally did.

2. Winston Peters, who starts an election year with stronger polls than ever

3. Michael Wood, for reminding everyone that all politics is local

Despite the polls, an English win at next year's election would be an historic achievement. Which makes the choice of when to go to the country, so very important

Even with a 20 point poll lead over the main Opposition party, history is against Prime Minister designate Bill English. While he will take over the Prime Ministership with plenty of hoop-la on Monday, he will be trying to defeat history as well as Andrew Little (and Winston Peters?) to take the top job again after next year's election.

As David Shearer looks to hit the road, some are asking whether he was Labour's golden opportunity missed. So is that nostalgia or wise hindsight speaking?

I remember talking at a do with a Labour apparatchik in December 2011. The party had a new leader and there was a sense of excitement. "We can get him on the cover of NZ Surfer. When's the last time Labour could say something like that?", this person enthused.

As John Key exits stage centre undefeated and to much applause, the question becomes who will be bold enough to take up his mantle in the middle? As voters start shopping around, who's looking the part to succeed him? 

John Key's resignation is an immense shock in a year of immense shocks, but it also lays down a gauntlet to those who would be in government next year.

Many thousands of Americans looked past Donald Trump's nastiness, abuse and incompetence in search of a time that has gone, tragically rejecting a woman with the potential to have made real change

The world feels a very different place to me this morning. It is a place that leaves me disillusioned and more than a little scared. The America that voted for Donald Trump to be its president has either embraced or looked past so many values that I thought that country held dear.