2016 in politics: A spinoff from The spinoff

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


Flops: Who would you rank as the worst performing individuals in politics for 2016?

1. Paula Bennett – ended up promoted, but has overseen a rising level homelessness with panic and no solutions

2. Murray McCully – for the “significant shortcomings” revealed in the Saudi Sheep deal, which by any decent standard would have seen him sacked

3. Labour’s front bench – who still haven’t done their number 1 job – look like a government-in-waiting


How would you describe the world in 2016, in one sentence?

A year which we took seriously but wish we didn’t have to take literally; and homelessness. [Addition: I can't think of a single TV story that has had as much impact as this one, since the Frontline Winebox story back in 1994].

Overseas, fear trumped fate. Trump and Farage beat all the odds and sent years of political consensus down the drain. My question is, if fake news helped Trump win, can we pretend he's a fake president?

Up and down

For each of the following, would you say they end 2015 stronger, weaker, or the same as they started it?

The National Party - weaker

The Labour Party - same

The Green Party - weaker

NZ First - stronger

Maori Party - stronger

ACT Party - stronger

United Future Party – same (now and forever more. Amen.)

The Mana Party – who?

Auckland - stronger

NZ economy - same

NZ media - weaker

World peace - #$%*!



What are the issues upon which 2017 election year will hinge?

1. Economic direction – whether voters feel it’s right or wrong / turnout

2. What NZ First reckons

3. Unknown unknowns


Finally, given the unqualified success of predictions in 2016 politics, please give us a wild crystal-ball prediction for something we won’t see coming in 2017 ...

I know it’s crazy talk, but that proper journalism and robust questioning will still matter. Trump will do some real damage. And maybe a peanut butter shortage.


...I did that relatively quickly, as you do, and it's interesting to who was thought of by others The Spinoff roped in.

I didn't even think of the flag referendum; it seems like an age ago. It also feels like it was lost last year, well before the vote just before Easter. So that's my justification for leaving it out.

The end of Sam Lotu-Iiga's career this year (demotion and resignation) stood out for some, but in my mind his flop was also a last year story. Cabinet colleague Nick Smith probably deserved to be a flop as well given efforts National has put into housing and the woeful pay-off in supply. Yet while he's failed the short-term measure of reining in prices (due to an unusually stubborn streak from this government as it rejected policy solution after policy solution – presumably because it's actually wanted house prices to keep going up for political reasons), his groundwork may pay-off to an extent, later.

Victoria Crone got a couple of mentions, which is reasonable. But hers was always a losing battle and she actually learnt quite quickly. I'm not sure where she may feature, but if she wants a political career I imagine she could have one. On the other side of that coin, Phil Goff maybe deserves a mention. But not top three. He won a race he could hardly lose against a weak field; sleep-walked it. Let's see if he can deliver.

Annabelle Lee very astutely pointed to Tuku Morgan. The proof will be the eating of this political pudding, but his work around the Maori Party is changing things significantly. We'll wait to see if the polls start moving before passing judgement, but as Lee says, he's making the Maori Party seem relevant again. Alongside him, Marama Fox got a couple of nods and deserves those. She'd be a terrible loss to parliament, but it's a struggle to see how she's able to make it back.

So even considering those, I'm happy with my quick picks. Mostly.

My biggest omission, though, was to not include Helen Kelly. Her remarkable, public, endearing and bloody gutsy journey to death was a heck of a thing to behold. She was the stone in the nation's shoe this year (as she has so long been, but in a more touching way). In those final months she became a national treasure.