PoliticsDecember 9, 2015

Politics: 2015 in Review – 24 Politics Watchers on Party Fortunes, Economy, Media & More


A pantheon of New Zealand politics watchers were asked to cast their minds over 2015, select their champs and their flops, their ups and their downs, and the story to look out for in 2016. Today, Part Three: Stronger, Weaker, the Same

We presented our experts with a list of things, parties mostly, and asked them to assess whether they end 2015 stronger, weaker, or in the same shape as they started it.

Below, read the breakdown of votes and adjudicators’ comments. But first, the aggregate results …

Stronger, Weaker, the Same


See also: Champs of 2015: 23 Politics Watchers Pick their Star Performers

Flops of 2015: 23 Politics Watchers Name the Year’s Big Losers

The Scorecards

Michelle Boag

National Party Same. Labour Party Slightly stronger. Green Party Slightly stronger. NZ First Same. Maori Party Same. ACT Party Stronger. United Future Same. Mana Party Weaker. Conservative Party Gone-busters. Speaker of the House David Carter Same – Speaker can’t please everybody. NZ economy Stronger. NZ media Weaker: lots of redundancies, loss of expertise. NZ blogosphere Same.

Michelle Boag is a former National Party President and PR practitioner

Don Brash

National A bit weaker. The Prime Minister is still the best after-dinner speaker/politician New Zealand has seen since David Lange, but the Government’s lack of compelling vision is increasingly obvious to the electorate. Labour A bit stronger. Andrew Little is gradually winning support within his own caucus (witness the relative absence of public acrimony after the recent re-ordering of the caucus) and respect from the wider public. Greens Much the same.

NZF Quite a bit stronger following Winston’s securing the Northland electorate. Maori Party Maybe a bit stronger, given the concessions they have rung out of the Government to get their support for changes to the RMA. ACT A bit stronger. David Seymour is finally gaining some profile, helped by the RWC-related changes to the drinking laws and by his sponsorship of the assisted dying Bill. UF Much the same. Mana Party Disappeared without trace, and unlamented. Conservatives Almost certainly fatally weakened.

Carter Much the same – what a helluva job! Economy A bit weaker as a result of hugely reduced dairy prices, though that weakness offset to some extent by the lower exchange rate, a very strong inflow of tourists and migrants, and strong growth in construction in Auckland. Media Weaker with the gradual “tabloidization” of major newspapers. Blogosphere I don’t read it enough to comment.

Don Brash is a former leader of the National and ACT parties

Jennifer Curtin

National Weaker, but could be worse; each time the PM seems to be getting himself into trouble, a bigger, more interesting, or tragic event happens, taking the focus off comments about rapists, Sky City deals, pony tails, spying etc. Labour Stronger, they are climbing back in the polls, Andrew Little has established himself as a competent leader, but they need to do better in articulating their values (no need for policies yet) and give their traditional voters a message of “hope”. Greens About the same the change of leadership is still bedding itself in, but it remains to be seen whether they can get their support base up to 15%. The Paris talks might provide a fillip.

NZF Stronger winning the Northland by-election was important to Winston personally, to the party, and to the people of Northland given regional economic development has become more of a government priority. Maori Party Weaker outside of the Maori communities there is little sense that they have policies to champion and influence to spare. ACT Seymour is doing a great job, but for those outside of Epsom it appears like the National/Epsom deal is an electoral rort. UF Peter Dunne is a true centrist MMP politician and sometimes quietly fearless. Just when you think his time has come, he comes out against the government saying something true and sincere. Mana Party RIP. But Labour should watch out an anti-poverty party may still rise from the ashes to challenge for those materially worse off under this government, and to whom the Greens will never appeal. Conservatives RIP.

Carter He will hold on, but it does make you wonder whether we should rethink whether the speaker should become an independent, not unlike the UK House of Commons. Economy For a government that got us out of the GFC reasonably unscathed and overseeing good growth rates in 2014, there are still questions around why only some New Zealanders are feeling the economic love, and why. Media Please can we have Guardian NZ (not just a wee NZ section in Guardian Australia), and can we have a media campaign to bring IKEA to NZ. Blogosphere Plentiful, and some really great stories. It is also terrific to see more academic analysts getting their research and insights out there via blogs (shameful pitch here try pacificoutlier.org)

Jennifer Curtin is an Associate Professor in Politics at the University of Auckland

Shamubeel Eaqub

National Weaker. Third term arrogance mirroring Labour’s third term. The energy and polish is coming off, making mistakes. Labour Same. Some changes, but still not clear what differentiates them. Greens Stronger. Shaw is impressing. They need to dominate green issues and transport, and not be distracted by other stuff.

NZF Stronger. Inspired performance at Northland by-election. Maori Party Weaker. Seems to have blended into Nats. ACT Same. Seymour is getting some media profile, but the heart (or lack thereof) of ACT still doesn’t resonate with NZ. UF Weaker. Mana Party Weaker. Conservatives Weaker.

Carter Weaker. He is an embarrassment to the house, Nats and NZ. The sooner he is exported to whichever cushy foreign posting he has been promised the better. Economy Weaker. The one-off boosts from China and Canterbury rebuild are over. Dairy slump and drought will take their toll next year. All hangs on the Auckland housing market, which looks like it has topped out. Will it fall? Media Weaker. Lost a number of news/current affairs programmes. Concentrated in a few shows and journos. Blogosphere Stronger in the absence of traditional media and much better quality journalism/writing. But still has the usual issues of bias, perceived in some cases and real in most.

Shamubeel Eaqub is an economist

Graeme Edgeler

Conservatives Down so much that there’s enough space for everyone else to go up. No party should be particularly crestfallen by their current positioning. Some, perhaps even all, will be disappointed that they aren’t doing better, but everyone is reasonably positioned a year after the election.

Carter Members of the opposition have decided that attacking Speaker David Carter is a way to score political points, but they haven’t actually followed up with anything meaningful, such as, for example, really trying to have him removed. When Don Brash decided to go after Margaret Wilson, at least he decided to really do it, even if the issue he chose (the non-referral of Taito Phillip Field to the Privileges Committee) was particularly wrong-headed. Carter may retire soon, or he may not, but his position seems secure for the moment. There will be interest from the media and from tragics in the Privileges Committee inquiries into three Labour MPs for separately undermining the Speaker, but I doubt that will weaken his position.

Media The most popular television show in New Zealand is One News. And it wins by a lot. The media isn’t going anywhere any time soon. It would be nice if they stopped with the “how will this play” kind of stuff, but they won’t.

Blogosphere For me, Twitter has largely overtaken blogs as a place for debate. Which is a pity, because blogs are a much better forum for it. Blogs aren’t going anywhere either, but one reason to look forward to an eventual change of government is that a few blogs will become much better reads.

Graeme Edgeler is a lawyer and Public Address blogger

Bryce Edwards

National Weaker. Labour Weaker. Greens Weaker. NZF Weaker. Maori Party Weaker. ACT Weaker. UF Weaker. Mana Party Weaker. Conservatives Weaker. Carter Weaker. Economy Weaker. Media Weaker. Blogosphere Stronger, because of The Spinoff (Is it a blog though?).

Bryce Edwards is a lecturer in Politics at the University of Otago

Marianne Elliott

National Much the same. Labour Stronger. Greens Stronger. NZF Stronger. Maori Party Weaker. ACT Much the same. UF Much the same. Mana Party Much the same. Conservatives Weaker (who knew it could get worse?). Carter Weaker. Economy Much the same. Media Weaker. Blogosphere Weaker.

David Farrar

National Same. Labour Stronger. Greens Stronger. NZF Stronger. Maori Party Same. ACT Stronger. UF Same. Mana Party Weaker. Conservatives Weaker. Economy Weaker. Media Weaker. Blogosphere Same.

David Farrar is a pollster and Kiwiblogger

Morgan Godfery

National Weaker: they’re steady in the polls, but the Prime Minister’s popularity is falling. Labour Stronger: keep an eye on the Future of Work Commission, probably the most important policy project for this country’s future. Greens Same: one co-leader retired, yet the party remains stable.

NZF Stronger: the party is largely made up of provincial mediocrities, but new MPs like Fletcher Tabuteau are showing promise. Maori Party Stronger: Marama Fox is a force of nature. ACT The same: David Seymour took on ACT’s old boys’ club and won; he’s still weird, though. UF Lol. Mana Party I can’t see a way back for Mana. Conservatives Nope.

Carter “Gutless”. Economy Weaker: too many New Zealanders are out of work. Media Campbell Live and 3D are gone; Native Affairs was attacked; there have been further cuts in radio and print newsrooms across the country – It’s not a great time to be a journalist. Blogosphere Political blogging in New Zealand is dead.

Morgan Godfery is a writer and activist

Laila Harré

National The same, because there is still no real competition but this is the first year in which the PM has lost ground. Labour Stronger but still not quite sure whether to train for a sprint or a marathon. Labour really needs some of the old guard to go gracefully, and more than just Kelvin Davis and Phil Twyford to get their hands dirty. Nigel Haworth could be a real asset as president. The 100th anniversary year must provide momentum. Greens Weaker, only because they lost a highly effective player in Russel Norman (whose post-election hubris was nonetheless damaging to internal morale). Some impressive organising is under way with the climate campaign; James Shaw is leading from the front on this.

NZF Stronger because of Northland. Maori Party Stronger; well, at least much more energetic. ACT Stronger, some boutique wins for Seymour but nothing that will help grow the vote beyond Remmers (thankfully). UF Please God don’t make Peter Dunne the champion of drug law reform, please, please… Mana Party Weaker. Conservatives Dead.

Carter Weaker, should go. Economy The same but that is not to be cheered at. Unemployment, wages, equality measures all of real concern. Housing remains a major. Media Weaker with the loss of Campbell Live as a champion of harder causes. RNZ has gained some fine voices although it must become weaker with every year of the funding freeze. Online newspapers lack the depth of the originals, and the originals have been gutted. Blogosphere Stronger, and better. Thanks to Nicky Hager’s expose, The Spinoff, Bomber’s breaking of ponytailgate on The Daily Blog and the genuine perseverance of people like Danyl McLauchlan, Keith Ng, Gordon Campbell, Chris Trotter and Russell Brown to come to grips with and communicate about the political world around us. Well done team! (After I wrote that list I shed a tear at the lack of women on it. Maybe that’s something we could work on next year?).

Laila Harré is a restaurateur and former Alliance MP

Bernard Hickey

National Down a bit. Labour Up a bit. Greens Sideways. NZF Up a bit. Maori Party Treading water. ACT Up, although it’s just David. UF Accidentally relevant again. Mana Party Who? Conservatives Poetry in motion (down). Carter Not a happy camper in charge of an unhappy camp. Economy A good summer, followed by a winter of dairy discontent and now ending with some debt-fueled fizz. Media A collection of corporate hospices staffed by hard-working and cheerful inmates. Blogosphere An airy collection of slowly dying echo chambers without business models.

Bernard Hickey is the publisher of Hive News

Matthew Hooton

National Same. Labour Same. Greens Same. NZF Same. Maori Party Same. ACT Stronger (hospice to intensive care). UF Same (in an old folks’ home). Mana Party Same (dead). Conservatives Weaker (now completely dead). Carter Weaker. Economy Stronger. Media Weaker. The NZ what? Blogosphere Who gives a fuck?

Matthew Hooton is a public affairs strategist

Toby Manhire

National Same. Labour Stronger. Greens Same. NZF Stronger. Maori Party Stronger. ACT Stronger. UF Stronger. Mana Party Same. Conservatives Weaker. Carter Weaker. Economy Weaker. Media Weaker. Blogosphere Weaker.

Toby Manhire is Spinoff Politics Editor and a columnist for NZ Herald and RNZ.

Josie Pagani

The same, the same, the same. Nothing has changed. Polls have flat-lined. 2016 is looking like ground hog day. Despite ponytail pulling, wees in the shower, and economic management by drift, the song remains the same. One exception: New Zealand First’s win in the Northland by-election exposed National, and exposed what could happen with a little pressure, if the Opposition were to turn its attention from the priorities of inner-city quinoa scoffing cultural warriors to the concerns of the rest of the country.

Josie Pagani is a communications consultant and former Labour candidate

Bill Ralston

National Same. Labour Same. Greens Same. NZF Stronger. Maori Party Weaker. ACT Same. UF Weaker. Mana Party Weaker. Conservatives Weaker. Carter Weaker. Economy Stronger. Media Weaker. Blogosphere Same.

Bill Ralston is a former political editor, communications adviser and prospective Auckland Council candidate

Claire Robinson

The year following an election is a year in which ordinary kiwis pay very little attention to politics, and party fortunes rarely change.

National Same. Labour Same. Greens Same. NZF Same. Maori Party Same. ACT Same. UF Same. Mana Party Weaker. Conservatives Weaker. Carter Same. Economy same.

Media Weaker. It’s in need of business model innovation, and better understanding of customer service. Stop chopping and changing programmes, formats times etc. Is it any wonder there was no audience for 3D when it was moved more times than The Block has had room reveals? Blogosphere I no longer spend time in the blogosphere: too many rednecks on both sides of the political spectrum. The Twitterverse is a reasonably calm place at the moment, not too much abuse happening. Still the occasional newbie tries it on, but older hands seem to have worked out a more civil way of operating. Having said that it won’t last into the next election.

Claire Robinson is Pro Vice-Chancellor College of Creative Arts, Massey University

Rob Salmond

National Weaker: steady in polls, although ally parties and Key’s personal mana both shrinking. Labour Stronger: up seven points on election result, internal issues consigned to history. Greens Stronger: new co-leader promises broader appeal.

NZF Stronger: new foothold in an electorate seat. Retaining support better than earlier cycles. Maori Party Weaker: little to show to the people / lifeline of Waiariki. ACT Same. 0 – 0 = no change. UF Same. 0 – 0 = no change. Mana Party Same. Conservatives Faces are red / Poems light blue / The party is dead / Colin, don’t sue!

Carter Weaker. Rare condition where breaches of rules trigger hearing loss, mainly consigned to one ear. Economy Weaker. Media Weaker. Blogosphere Weaker.

Rob Salmond is a political analyst whose clients include the Labour Party

David Slack

National Weaker. Labour Stronger. Greens Same. NZF Stronger. Maori Party Weaker. ACT Stronger. UF Weaker. Mana Party Weaker. Conservatives Weaker. Carter Weaker. Economy Weaker. Media Weaker. Blogosphere Weaker.

David Slack is a speechwriter and author

Ben Thomas

National Weaker, which is to say still clearly the dominant force in New Zealand politics. Labour Stronger, from a low base. Andrew Little has achieved a functionally unified caucus for the first time in seven years, a necessary but not sufficient precondition to improving electoral performance. Greens Stronger. The well-regarded Russel Norman will be missed by the party faithful but not the voting public.

NZF Stronger. Maori Party Same. ACT Stronger. David Seymour is an extremely accomplished politician and the classical leader ACT has been waiting for. UF Same. Mana Party Currently nonexistent, so weaker than three years ago, but better than during its humiliating marriage to the Internet Party. Conservatives Weaker, like subtracting different orders of infinity. The disintegration of the Conservatives is a matter for a time-rich psychoanalyst, not a political commentator.

Carter Weaker. Economy Weaker than this time last year, but better times ahead again. Media Weaker, in a structural sense. Journalists collectively and individually produce outstanding work, but the fractured media landscape and cuts mean their influence and reach has dwindled. Blogosphere Weaker. Kiwiblog remains influential.

Ben Thomas is a public affairs strategist and former political adviser

Chris Trotter

National Same. Labour Weaker. Greens Same. NZF Stronger. Maori Party Stronger. ACT Stronger. UF Same. Mana Party Weaker. Conservatives Weaker. Carter Weaker. Economy Same. Media Weaker. Blogosphere Stronger.

Chris Trotter is a political commentator

Andrea Vance

National Same. Labour Stronger. Greens Same. NZF Stronger. Maori P Same. ACT Stronger. UF Same. Mana P Who? Conservatives Snort! Carter Weaker. But I suspect he’s trying to get sacked. Economy Weaker. But getting stronger. Media Weaker. Is there one below weaker? (Apart from The Spinoff, that rocks.) Blogosphere Is that still a thing?

Andrea Vance is a political reporter for One News

Guy Williams

National “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger”. Labour Stronger: they have created the illusion of depth because all of their MPs are former leaders. Greens No change – for the last six years, no change. WHEN WILL THINGS CHANGE?

NZF Weaker this party is getting less and less support from the comedy industry as they have been cleverly out crazy’d by Colin Craig. Maori Party Stronger and Weaker – perceived weaker as they can’t cause as much of a fuss but probably stronger in terms of being able to effect change. ACT Forgot they were a party. UF Forgot they were a party. Mana Party You’re just making parties up here. Conservatives Stronger: have dominated the cheap laughs market, but will they be able to turn this disproportionate amount of attention and free publicity into votes at the next election?

Carter Stronger. He reminds me of the villain on The Hunger Games. Economy Weaker. What are we doing? Milk powder and apples? Wake up! Can someone build an iPhone or some shit? Has anyone checked if Lorde is paying her taxes? We need that money. Media Weaker. On earlier seasons of Jono and Ben I used to think it was important to point out the ridiculous aspects of the media and make jokes about it. Now it just feels mean, like kicking a very weak but still alive horse, which is much worse than kicking a dead horse. Blogosphere Stronger. My goal is to have more people writing blogs in New Zealand than people reading blogs in New Zealand.

Guy Williams is a comedian

Simon Wilson

National Same: started the year as the only game in town and ended it that way too. This is not to say 2016 will be more of the same – it’s too early to tell – but anyone who says the slide has already started is engaging in magical thinking. Labour Stronger: Andrew Little’s ability to instil party discipline to both caucus and party has been remarkable, especially as no one thought he had any chance of doing it. But it’s a small gain in the big scheme of things: he hasn’t convinced the rest of us yet and he’s got only about six months left in which to do it. Maybe he’d make a great party president. No, what? Greens Stronger: New leader, new life. But only a little. They’ve still got that same old mountain to climb.

NZF Stronger: Winston is the man. So much so the press gallery now treat him as their favourite uncle. Maori Party Same: New leaders and largely unsung heroes Te Ururoa Flavell and Marama Fox have kept the Maori Party influential: the remarkably sensible RMA reform bill is proof of that. ACT Same: Still a cot case. David Seymour is a media darling but he’s done fuck-all for his party’s ratings. Goofy glamour isn’t everything in politics, even if it gives liberal commentators the chance to seem even-handed by praising him. UF Weaker, because Peter Dunne is one year closer to retirement. Mana Party Weaker, if that’s possible. Conservatives Weaker. Duh.

Carter Weaker. Economy Weaker, a little: It’s still superficially quite strong but there is so little strategic investment and structural reform, we are another year closer to severe damage. Media Weaker: Radical reform, as a general approach, makes excellent sense. The actual reforms, too often, do not. Blogosphere The what? Does anyone care?

Simon Wilson is editor-at-large, Metro magazine

Jamie Whyte

National Weaker (slightly). Labour Stronger (slightly). Greens Weaker. NZF Stronger. Maori Party Don’t know. ACT Stronger. UF No Stronger, but can’t get weaker. Mana Party Don’t know. Conservatives Weaker. Carter Weaker. Economy Weaker. Media Stronger. Blogosphere Impossible to judge.

Jamie Whyte is a writer and former leader of the ACT Party

See also: Champs of 2015: 24 Politics Watchers Pick their Star Performers

Flops of 2015: 23 Politics Watchers Name the Year’s Big Losers

Tomorrow: The Big Story for 2016

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