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:
- Simon Wilson’s feature covering the day from the floor
- Branko Marcetic’s went undercover at the simultaneously-held NZ First conference
- Hayden Donnell had some advice for Patrick Gower, who called Turei’s confession ‘political fraud’
- Nicola Gaston wrote about the episode, and growing up on a benefit herself
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.
- Toby Manhire on the bombshell poll and Little’s weird comments
- A bunch of reactions to the sudden elevation of Jacinda Ardern
- Maddie Collier on all the sexism she experienced in her first 24 hours
- And Labour’s Kiri Allen on watching it from inside the party
- Morgan Godfery on how Jacinda unfucked the left – and what else she needs to do
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.
- Toby Manhire on her inability to be a minister and the MP resignations
- Simon Wilson sense-checked those comparing John Key, Bill English and Turei’s sins
- Young Greens co-convenor Meg Williams on what Turei’s resignation meant to the Greens
- Don Rowe spoke to Nándor Tánczos about what the Greens really stand for
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.
- Toby Manhire on National’s need to remake its campaign post-Ardern
- Duncan Greive on the rare sight of National launching transport policy at a train station
- The editor of the Mandarin Pages about how National target the Chinese vote
- Nicky Hager looked back on Dirty Politics and what had changed three years on
- Peter Newport watched the race to replace Todd Barclay in Winton
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.
- Simon Wilson on National’s throwback boot camps
- Miriama Aoake on an aspect of Helen Clark the new Labour leader needed to avoid
- Russell Brown paid clear-eyed tribute to Peter Dunne
- Alex Casey interviewed Helen Clark
- Marko Brancetic deep dove into the incredibly weird party youth wings
- Toby Manhire analysed the first poll which had the Greens goneburger
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.
- Duncan Greive on the scandal of the very rich Winston cohort claiming super at all
- Leonie Hayden on Mike Hosking’s massive Māori party fuck up
- Simon Wilson watched Jacinda Ardern campaign in South Auckland
- Toby Manhire witnessed nascent Billmania at National’s campaign launch
- Madeleine Chapman did very cool data journalism on the two campaign launches
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.
- Tom Sainsbury’s iconic snapchat preview of the debate
- A bunch of takes on Debate #1 and Debate #2
- Danyl Mclauchlan parsed the different lying styles of Ardern and English
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.
- Duncan Greive asked a lot of economists if they could find the fiscal hole
- Simon Wilson on the questions Joyce’s allegation raises
- A transcript of Guyon Espiner’s excruciating interview with Joyce
- The very best of The Spinoff’s incredible all star 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.
- Meg Williams tried to make ‘Baemian’ Light love her
- Joel McManus interviewed the satirist wrestlers ‘The Young Nats’
- Chris McDowall synthesised our entire parliamentary into one amazing graph
- Simon Wilson explained in detail how MMP works
- Danyl Mclauchlan went to the notorious Aro Valley debate
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.
- Toby Manhire on Ardern’s captain’s calls and clusterfucks
- Leighton Smith said some fucking funny shit on the radio
- The Greens and Labour fought over who hated climate change more
- Guyon Espiner conducted the interview of the campaign with Winston Peters
- Simon Wilson watched dairy farmers have a giant cow
- Toby Manhire watched Jacinda Ardern fighting to the end in Whanganui
- Duncan Greive hung out with Gareth Morgan as TOP battled in obscurity
- And it finished: here’s Mad Chapman’s funny as guide to what you can’t do tomorrow
The Spinoff Weekly compiles the best stories of the week – an essential guide to modern life in New Zealand, emailed out on Monday evenings.