Toby Manhire 's Opinion

Toby Manhire is a Wellington-bred, Auckland-based journalist.

Toby Manhire: The year in review in advance

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'Steven Joyce was appointed minister responsible for Marmite and other strategic breakfast spreads.' Photo / APN
'Steven Joyce was appointed minister responsible for Marmite and other strategic breakfast spreads.' Photo / APN

How time flies. Already it's approaching that point in the calendar when we gaze back and assess the big themes, the ups, the downs, the winners, the losers. This time, I'm determined to be first, and thus present: 2013 - the New Zealand political year in review. (Disclaimer: Here and there I've had to extrapolate.)

While international headlines were dominated by that extraordinary and unexpected event at the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland, there was plenty to hold our attention domestically.

The appointment of Steven Joyce as minister responsible for Novopay proved a masterstroke. In mid-April, Joyce announced that the school payroll software would be abandoned, and replaced with Paula Rebstock.

Hekia Parata demonstrated her staying power, despite mounting dissent, which coalesced in a 10,000-strong march on Parliament, attended by teachers, parents, Phil Heatley and the Hansard transcribers. And how about those All Blacks?

Steven Joyce was appointed minister responsible for New Zealand cricket and other bat-based sports.

John Key won worldwide acclaim by leading Parliament in a rousing rendition of Rainbow Connection as the marriage equality bill passed into law.

At the Canon Media Awards, Garth McVicar and Colin Craig were honoured with a special prize from editors for contributions to outrage. Rumours about what subsequently happened in the carpark have no basis in fact.

Steven Joyce was appointed minister responsible for the royal baby (Denise!), as well as minister responsible for Marmite and other strategic breakfast spreads.

Paula Bennett cancelled welfare for beneficiaries caught watching television. The TPPA collapsed but there was another Hobbit film. The people of Christchurch were resilient. And how about those All Blacks?

Labour lurched from crisis to crisis. Only the harshest critic could begrudge David Shearer his newfound contentment as a freelance motivational speaker, guitar tutor and editor of the popular "Things to Do in Mt Albert" blog.

David Cunliffe had already blown his chance after Patrick Gower discovered a recording device secreted in his beard. That left Grant Robertson a shoo-in for the leadership. Shane Jones won all the same, seducing everyone before him by weaving Harvard babble, Kiwi vernacular and preacher-speak into a single sentence. Scandal came soon after, and follows him into the new year.

The David Bain thing was gobsmacking. There were house prices, and lots of weather.

Steven Joyce was appointed minister responsible for appointing himself responsible for things. He swiftly moved to appoint himself minister responsible for Judith Collins.

It was a surprisingly quiet year from Kim Dotcom. Apart from the revelation that he had for more than two years been storing data in the Prime Minister's cerebrum - mostly pirated copies of the blockbuster film Johnny English - as part of his "MegaKey" project.

John Key defused the incident with a joke about the cricket. His poll numbers soared. As they did after he tried to get Obama to drink a yard-glass, and when he arrived at Question Time dressed as Bilbo Baggins.

He was universally lauded for his decision to change his formal title from "Prime Minister" to "Chief Executive of New Zealand" - with the exception of a single damning editorial in the Southland Times and a handful of extremist bloggers - and there was broad support for his proposal to leverage the brand as"SkyCity New Zealand".

The politician of the year? Only recently we'd easily have agreed: Steven Joyce. But that was before The Decline. It began with his insistence that he personally supervise every eftpos transaction, continued with humiliation in the Marmite portfolio, and ended in an Oprah-style tell-all on Seven-Thirty Sharp, in which he tearfully told Paul Henry that he was a secret US military project, containing less than 30 per cent human DNA.

Instead, politician of the year is John "Archy-Back" Banks, who scraped Act from the pustular underside of a stormwater drain and turned it into an irresistible political force.

With Kate Wilkinson as co-leader, the restyled Aggrieved Cat Tendency party staged a rousing hikoi, marching to Wellington from all ends of the country, paw in paw with the Occupy Gareth Morgan movement. Act surged in the polls. Not even Ken Ring - who, it has to be said, has made a good fist of his first few months running the Treasury - could have foreseen that.

But while some things surprised, others were comfortingly predictable. Like that cute and funny animal story that won international headlines - how cute and funny was that? Like the deaths that were deeply tragic.

And how about those All Blacks? Next week: What to expect in 2014.

- NZ Herald

Toby Manhire

Toby Manhire is a Wellington-bred, Auckland-based journalist.

Toby Manhire is a Wellington bred, Auckland based journalist. He writes a weekly column for the NZ Herald, the NZ Listener's Internaut column, blogs for listener.co.nz, and contributes to the Guardian. From 2000 to 2010 he worked at the Guardian in London, and edited the 2012 book The Arab Spring: Rebellion, Revolution and a New World Order.

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