Every party elected to Parliament has reasons to celebrate except for Labour whose only silver lining is that it did so badly in so many electorates that its senior MPs high on the list are safe.
Along with the uncertainty of the overhang and if NZ First is needed once the specials are counted, the big question is: can National and Act speedily negotiate government formation without the spectre of a confidence without supply arrangement which could lead to three years of uncertainty.
A big story of this election is the rise of the minor parties – Greens, Act and Te Pāti Māori who have done incredibly well under their own steam without the need for deals and won stronghold seats off Labour and National.
Act will be a big part of what will likely be New Zealand’s most right-wing government since the early 1990s and will demand significant policy wins and portfolios.
This result will see climate change relegated even further to the back-burner. The dairy industry will sleep well knowing the public will keep picking up their pollution bill and the oil companies will be celebrating a return to offshore oil exploration.
It is a disastrous result for Labour which looks almost certain to have gone from an unprecedented MMP majority to be the first Government to fail to do three terms since the 1980s.
Labour has lost senior MPs and heartland Labour seats which will make rebuilding towards 2026 even harder.
It’s a brutal result for Labour and a real repudiation of the party and its lacklustre campaign in both inner city and provincial seats.
Labour’s deep unpopularity wasn’t wholly reflected in the pre-election polls – but we now see how a grumpy electorate has delivered a comprehensive rejection of its campaign and a huge swing away from them.
Labour’s negative, middle-of-the road campaign and uninspiring policy package have seen progressive voters desert them for the Greens over issues such as a wealth tax and centrists voters flocked to National.
Ruling out a capital gains tax after David Parker’s preparatory research was a missed opportunity to reset the agenda and refresh the party in what could have been an electoral lifeline akin to no further interest being charged on student loans for those living in New Zealand from 2005.
Chris Hipkins will be rueing the missed opportunity of calling a snap election when he assumed the Prime Ministership that in hindsight was his best chance to secure a third-term Labour Government.
Labour squandered the opportunity of a once-in-a-generation parliamentary majority to transform the country and, while making modest progress on child poverty and climate change, could have done a lot more.
The Greens have avoided the fate of a long-list of support parties in MMP governments who have either shrunk or disappeared entirely from Parliament, and though it is not the record result they were hoping for, they will be celebrating electorate victories.
The electorate victories give the Greens a launching pad to medium party status in the future, closer in size to their coalition partner Labour.
James Shaw, who always said he wanted to see the Green Party enter government and exit safely out the other side, having achieved that could now be looking for future opportunities.
There could be some bad blood between activists over Green candidates splitting the vote and allowing National candidates to win in Labour strongholds but no party is entitled to votes.
Winston Peters had already secured himself a place in the pantheon of New Zealand’s most successful politicians and this once-again Lazarus revival of New Zealand First is remarkable but his kingmaker role remains up in the air.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Christopher Luxon picks up the phone and calls Winston Peters even if not needed, with an eye towards 2026 and as insurance in case the specials and Port Waikato throw up a surprise.
Te Pāti Māori
Te Pāti Māori has had a blinder of a night and the dearth of electorate polling shows its massive momentum wasn’t picked up by the traditional media which means the overhang could be an important electoral concept many Kiwis will be waking up to tomorrow.
Surely tonight is the death knell of TOP as a political project and it’s a reflection how hostile our electoral system is to a new party entering Parliament without an existing sitting MP.
In a genuine change election where many electorates delivered big shocks to sitting MPs that TOP couldn’t capitalise on this mood in Ilam shows it had the wrong plan and delivered the wrong campaign.