So there we had it. What a shocker. After all the hype and hope, the promise, the dreams of restoring the halcyon days, of bursting into a new era laden with the potential for greatness, the Magpies brushed off the Taniwha's challenge for the Ranfurly Shield with ease. Never mind. As one of the commentators on the weekend's second of three big competitions assured those who were grieving, this too, in time, will pass, even of he incorrectly attributed that singular piece of wisdom to Solomon.
At least no one can say that the election result wasn't predicted by polls that actually turned out to be a little conservative. An expected Labour landslide turned into a tsunami, even in Northland, the fiefdom of the Blue team for almost ever, marred only by a brief incursion by Social Credit's Vern Cracknell in Hobson in 1966.
We were well prepared for the demise of New Zealand First too, and Shane Jones' failure to mount a credible bid for Northland came as no surprise. Parliament will be the poorer without Jones' presence, although he isn't cut out to be an opposition MP, but the writing was on the wall long ago, despite his extraordinary generosity for an electorate that he needed to win to save his party.
Polls, and scuttlebutt, both suggested that Northlanders were grateful for the money but were not about to be bought, and Jones might well have paid the price for having a leader whose time had well and truly come before the first votes were cast.
Winston Peters has always been NZ First's biggest asset, but his formula had lost its lustre long before this campaign began. His trademark irascibility, generally directed at the media and pollsters, but with more than enough to share amongst any who did not buy into his self-made image as the sole defender of democracy and civilisation as we know it, made him a liability. If any politician has ever entered an election campaign with Yesterday's Man tattooed on his forehead it was Winston. The issues he depended upon had largely been swamped by Covid-19, and his supporters, as expected, abandoned him in droves when it came to ticking little circles on pieces of paper.
Unfortunately for Jones, and more particularly perhaps Tracey Martin, deputy leader of the party for part of the second of her three terms, and who did good work as Associate Minister of Education in her third, there was no way to separate themselves from a leader who had lost his voter appeal. Where he went they went, and on Saturday night that was into political oblivion.
Peters' only credible promise was to continue saving New Zealand from the worst excesses of a socialist government, which might well have resonated with some, but this was a strange election. Expert analysis on the night included a suspicion that some true blue Tories had given their party votes to Labour in the hope of ensuring an outright majority for Ardern, so she would not need the support of an even more terrifying Green Party.
So-called experts say a lot of strange things on election nights, but that theory does have some credence. Certainly there were National Party faithful in the Far North who made no secret of their intention to do just that. They were prepared to suck up a Labour government for another three years, but were petrified about where a Labour/Green coalition might take them.
It won't take long to find out just how much of a sea anchor NZ First was over the last three years, but the machinations have only just begun. The Green Party co-leaders were clearly expecting to be part of the next government on Saturday night, but Jacinda Ardern was evasive regarding that possibility in her victory speech and interviews later.
Some interviewers had no doubts though, one asking Green Party co-leader James Shaw for his thoughts on sharing the deputy prime ministership with his fellow co-leader Marama Davidson.
There is another theory, that Ardern will invite the Greens into government even if she doesn't need to so she will have someone to blame when it all goes pear-shaped, but she didn't give any hint of that sort of thinking once the scale of Labour's win became apparent. She also made it clear that she had not lost her taste for "transformational change," albeit having failed to do anything transformational in her first term (thanks perhaps to NZ First), and her intention to make changes that would "stick."
Just where she intends to take us all over the next three years isn't immediately apparent, given that her and Labour's campaign was about as policy-free as any campaign could ever be, but she clearly has every intention of creating a legacy before she goes, whenever that might be. And those who believe that all they have to do is hunker down and wait for order to be restored in 2023 might consider the truism that the right never unpicks what the left has done.
There is plenty of evidence of that in this country's political history. The abominable Working for Families, a social welfare benefit in disguise that should properly be delivered to those who need it via a fairer income tax system for one.
Meanwhile it'll be a week or two before Northlanders know who their MPs will be. Shane Reti had an election night lead of 162 over Labour's Emily Henderson in Whangārei, a seat that's been National's since it was created 48 years ago, and Northland's Matt King had a lead of 742 over Willow-Jean Prime. King, who wasn't even tempted to begin counting his chickens, put the surge left down to voters' fear of Covid-19, and he wasn't the only one.
Ardern described this as the Covid election, and she was right. Never before in this writer's memory has a campaign been fought and decided almost without reference to specific polices and promises, apart from Labour's assurance that it is the only party that can save us from a virus. Whether it can save our futures remains to be seen.
If we didn't learn who our MP will be on Saturday night, however, we did learn that Kelvin Davis, who kept Te Tai Tokerau with ease, and, according to Ardern, is likely to remain his party's deputy leader, is not a poet. In all his 53 years on this Earth he cannot have imagined that he would ever stand on the stage in Auckland's Town Hall and deliver a self-penned 10-minute epic that did not reveal a rich vein of talent in that particular field. Samuel Taylor Coleridge he is not, but his rambling saga about a blue taniwha had a similarly soporific effect on his audience as The Rime of the Ancient Mariner has had on generations of school kids.
But, against all odds, the sun came up on Sunday morning, and Rudd Kleinpaste was on the radio telling someone how to save a camellia hedge from the depredations of mealy bugs. Surprisingly, no doubt, for some, life went on, and will continue to go on, Covid-19 and Jacinda Ardern willing. Mind you, if the Greens do get into government, Kleinpaste might have to find a new remedy for mealy bug invasions. We might be about to discover that his recommended remedy, conqueror oil, is destroying the planet even faster than dairy farming.