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The Press- News column Sep 23

Election 2014.

One of New Zealand’s more bizarre and unsavoury election campaigns has proven to be a personal triumph for John Key, victoriously steering his party across the finish line, after navigating a campaign trail, laced with toxicity and tripwires. To score your biggest slice of the party vote in pursuit of a third term in power is a remarkable achievement, cementing the sunny-side-up conqueror’s position in the pantheon of exceptional New Zealand premiers. On the local front, Christchurch, the long-standing red belt before the quakes, has turned vividly blue. The 2008 election was clearly no fluke for National. Quake City handsomely rewarded the Key government for its responsive disaster leadership, three years ago. But Saturday’s results, demonstrate the city has fortified itself as a Big Blue bastion, with National’s share of the party vote smashing Labour’s, even in traditional Red strongholds like Christchurch East and Wigram. Then there is Christchurch Central, where Nicky Wagner has pulled off an emphatic victory over Labour’s Tony Milne, despite being written off by many pundits, a long time ago. I’m picking Selwyn MP, Amy Adams, one of the National’s top performers, to be the next Justice Minister. But much of National’s success in Christchurch should surely be interpreted as a vote of confidence in Gerry Brownlee’s post-quake leadership of the recovery. Despite his vintage bouts of hiss, bust and snort obstreperousness, Brownlee’s stewardship of the recovery phase is paying off. The pace of progress has certainly been slower than first envisaged or desired, but a tangible sense of re-development is snow-balling. 2014 has been the circuit-breaker year for the central city, with a semblance of momentum finally crystallising within the city core. The ever-evolving city is steadily ripening with possibility. But for the once proud Labour party, the soul-searching and inevitable factional blood-letting will be pronounced, following its worst election return since 1922. The party has increasingly drifted to the left of the spectrum, estranging itself from the centre ground’s swing voters. Emblazoning your party manifesto with a pledge to the transgender community, of a third gender box for drivers licence renewals, just isn’t going to cut it. Nor is an apology for being a man. It is surely no coincidence that two of Labour’s shining lights from Saturday night, Kelvin Davis and Stuart Nash, are both middle-of-the-road pragmatists. Election 2014 was bookended by the shock and awe of two orchestrated scandals. Middle New Zealand spectacularly spurned this attempted molestation of the democratic process. Ironically, Big Kim, said it best on Saturday night. The DotCom brand is poison.

Mike Yardley’s current affairs column, as published in The Press, September 23.

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