Newshub by a landslide. TV3's election night coverage made TV1 look like National – tired, sparse, and just not into it. Newshub's studio team, led by a revitalised Duncan Garner, sat close together and talked their heads off, while Patrick Gower yelped and danced in front of graphs. It was always sobering to switch over to TV1, where co-hosts John Campbell and Hilary Barry practised a kind of social distancing with their guests. You couldn't blame them. Their guests included Nikki Kaye, who looked sick as a parrot, and someone from Palmerston North who wore a matching dark beard and vest.
In the battle of the graphics, Newshub had Ryan Bridge inside the Beehive, gesturing at a pretty impressive CGI of the seats that will be held by each party in parliament. For TV1, Simon Dallow stood in the studio and looked down at his feet where the CGI created parliament in the image of something that looked like a saucer. Dallow is a broadcaster of many talents but it was sad watching a grown man talking about something that looked like a saucer.
Labour's historic win was registered early. Even when 1 per cent of the vote had been counted, the results needed a spoiler alert. Labour were at 49.9 per cent, National at 26.1 per cent. Not much changed for the next three hours although there was drama early on in the Taupo electorate when 2 per cent of the vote had been counted: Advance NZ registered an impressive 15.4 per cent. But that was the last that was heard of them. Billy Te Kahika might have a conspiracy theory about that.
"If Judith Collins gets 32 per cent, she'll have done extremely well," said Newshub guest Matthew Hooton. He went a bit quiet after that. Chris Finlayson thought that Collins had campaigned extremely well and had rescued National from a fate worse than herself: Simon Bridges. "Frankly there's not a lot to be said about Bridges," said his former colleague. "He really wasn't a person who should ever have been leader."
Was Nikki Kaye a person who should ever have been deputy leader? "The leadership change was about trying to prevent a result like this," she said to John Campbell, "but." She left the but hanging, and went back to looking sick as a parrot. Campbell sagged a little in his suit. He has always been reliably irrepressible as an election night host but TV1's format made him quite repressible.
Patrick Gower was nothing but fizz. "Blue murder on National's dancefloor," he raved. It was good to see Paul Henry back on the screen. You never know what he's going to say and neither does he. "I'm surprised to say this about a socialist," he said of Jacinda Ardern, "but you can trust her."
There were sad scenes in Russell, where Winston Peters made a concession speech without conceding. "As for the next challenge," he said, "we'll all have to wait and see. God bless you and God bless all New Zealanders." And then he legged it through a door. Gerry Brownlee was interviewed in front of a heavy dark wooden door that was open to a hallway. "It is," he said of the result that crushed his party and his seat, "what it is." The hallway led to the same oblivion Peters is right now walking towards.
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"Blue moon, red sun," raved Gower. Newshub political reporter Jenna Lynch was at the Auckland Town Hall waiting for Ardern to arrive, and tried interviewing an old man in the audience. She asked him a question, and he said, "What?" Back to Gower, who raved, "Yeah, baby!"
Jesse Mulligan was sent down those mean streets where a Newshub presenter must go in an attempt to interview Judith Collins when she left the shabby back entrance of an Auckland hotel to National's election night HQ. He loitered in an empty alleyway lined with traffic cones and wondered if it might prove a metaphor for National's night. It was. Mike McRoberts waited at National's HQ with a small crowd of 300. Garner asked him what was happening. "Not much," he said. Not a truer word spoken of a sad night in National's history. The night belonged to Act, the Greens, Labour, and Newshub. Back to Gower, who raved, "Let's go, baby!"