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PoliticsSeptember 22, 2017

The Spinoff’s story of New Zealand’s Election 2017 in 10 plot twists


It’s been a wonderful time, entirely composed of good-natured debates over the issues that matter. Here the Spinoff relives the thrills, spills and for-fuck’s-sake-please-chills of the 2017 New Zealand election campaign.

ATTENTION PLEASE: The Spinoff will be smashing out quick takes from 7pm Saturday to keep the internet informed of how the big dance ends.

Here are the ten key storylines and plot twists of the 2017 campaign, along with the best of the Spinoff’s coverage of this furious but also somehow not as bad as expected campaign.

1. Metiria Turei starts us very early with an audacious and ultimately doomed confession

It was way ahead of the official campaign, but this election undeniably began at the Greens’ annual conference on July 17, when then co-leader Metiria Turei confessed to historic benefit fraud while announcing a bold suite of social welfare reforms. It was more than two months out from election day, yet set in motion many of the most significant events of the campaign. Read:

2. A bombshell poll bodies Andrew Little, and elevates Jacinda Ardern

A Colmar-Brunton poll showed the power of Turei’s gamble, with the Greens on 15%, just nine points behind a dismal and decrepit Labour. Andrew Little equivocated about his own leadership and two days later Ardern was elevated to a leadership role she had been doing a very convincing impression of not wanting at all.

3. The Turei saga dragged on and got awful

In parallel to the first wave of Jacinda-mania came ever-increasing heat on Turei. She was resolute, but slowly her position got chipped away. There was a revelation of minor electoral fraud, Ardern’s ruling her out as a minister then two of her own MPs resigning in protest. Then, on the same day, allegations she had more family help than she’d let on and a poll showing a big drop in Greens’ support.

4. Meanwhile, there was still a National Party

The left was the only story in town, with first Jacindamania and then the Turei resignation. But National were still breathing, trying to figure out how to combat a very different style and energy. They continued to release policy and tried to quell a rising panic upon realising the election was to be conducted on very different terms.

5. Peter Dunne resigned, the Greens hit bottom and some policy came out

The wave of support for Labour claimed another casualty: coiffed up bowtie Peter Dunne, who took the coward’s way out rather than take an expected beating from Greg O’Connor in Ohariu. The Greens slumped to under five percent, more sober assessments of Ardern emerged and the kneejerk policy announcements began.

6. The ‘mother of all scandals’ and the campaign officially kicks off

It started, like everything bad, with a tweet. By Monday morning the ‘mother of all scandals’ had been revealed to be a long-running superannuation overpayment to Winston Peters. He might have been complicit, but the fact of it got overrun by the fact of its smallness and his combative pre-emption. Regardless, it got overtaken by events as the campaign properly kicked off.

The Newshub Decision 17 Leaders Debate in Auckland. Pic Michael Bradley. Mandatory Photo Credit © Supplied by Newshub

7. The phoney war ended and debate season began

The interminable campaign was beginning to drag. We needed the bloodsport of a debate. Despite a popular and not good petition to have him removed, Mike Hosking did a great job in the first debate against a backdrop of tightening polls, while Gower did likewise in the round for the second debate.

Grant Robertson and Steven Joyce with a lot of money (image: Tina Tiller)

8. Steven Joyce digs an $11.7b hole and The Spinoff does a debate

After weeks of muddling about whether to be restrained and respectful, or return to base, National settled on a hard negative to Ardern’s ‘relentless positivity’. This peaked with Steven Joyce’s extraordinary claim of an $11.7b ‘fiscal hole’ in Labour’s costed budget – an allegation dismissed (albeit with some caveats) by what felt like every economist in the country within hours. It opened the way to ‘Let’s Tax This’, and National’s very effective rejuvenation. We also had a fucking mint debate.

9. Things got chaotic in early September

There were electorate debates, ultra-bizarre interviews, viral babe party leaders, super funny wrestling tag teams… the election actually got super fun there for about a week.

10. The end came in a storm of lies, Leighton and ‘but landlines!’

The good times never could last. It got tense and furious, with beef between National and Labour, Labour and the Greens, the Greens and TOP, and Winston and Guyon Espiner. The race tightened then loosened, waves of euphoria and despair washed in multiple directions and suddenly we were here, facing the actual day, exhausted but finally free.

Keep going!