Losers dominated the year in New Zealand politics. Winners were few and far between. Generally it was a horrible year for politics, politicians, voters and democracy. That's the overall sense you get from the array of end-of-year summaries and reviews published during the last few weeks. Many will therefore agree with Judith Collins' quip that 'Frankly I've had enough of this year'.
The beneficiaries of an ugly year in politics
Political journalists are possibly the only ones celebrating this rotten year in politics. They had so much to craziness to cover, which you can enjoy in a 6-minute video montage of this year's political strife: Patrick Gower's year in politics. According to Gower, this was 'one of the most bizarre years in New Zealand political history'. In a similar vein is Brook Sabin's year in politics.
Cartoonists and satirists had a particularly bumper year, which is best represented by Steve Braunias' thoughtful and confessionary The secret diary of 2014. Braunias gives thanks to all his political victims: 'I had a spring in my step all throughout 2014 as the writer of these so-called secret diaries, with their made-up chronicles of the most wretched newsmaker of the week. I was spoiled for choice. I couldn't actually keep up. The wretches were everywhere, steady as rain, thick on the ground, thick as planks with their blunders and their excuses'.
Braunias singles out the worst victims (Collins, Colin Craig, Jamie Whyte, Kim Dotcom, and John Key), and also gives his reasons for not lampooning Nicky Hager ('I liked his book. I'm a fan'), while expressing his regret for targeting Julian Assange.
The downfalls, negativity and foollshness, all provided journalists with the opportunity to creatively catalogue them in their end-of-year reviews. See for example, Stacey Kirk's The worst political howlers of 2014. She provides a comprehensive list of lowlights.
Better still, is Simon Wong's list of blunders and weird moments from the year: Top political gaffes 2014: Election special. Most would agree with Wong's pronouncement that 'It got pretty crazy, some would even say it reached "peak cray".'
Also, with a fair amount of weirdness is Michele Hewitson's review of her strangest interview moments, which includes a reflection on her 'interview' with Laila Harre and Pam Corkery - see: Pick of a wild bunch. Hewitson also reveals what Nicky Hager said to her that 'made me laugh more than anything anyone else said this year'.
Not all were convinced with the media's coverage of politics this year - unsurprisingly, Martyn Bradbury was the most trenchant in his criticisms, comparing one journalist to a 'homicidal chipmunk armed with a semiautomatic machine gun on a meth bender'. This person wins the award for 'Best Journalist if Journalism is a blood sport', while Andrea Vance is named 'Best Journalist' - see: The Daily Blog 2014 Media Awards.
In contrast, Bradbury dishes out the love to those battling the 'MSM' in his blog post, TDB NZ Blogger Alignment Awards 2014.
Political awards and non-awards
The year was so bad in politics that some commentators have been tempted to withhold awarding any plaudits to the politicians. For example, Andrea Vance says that '2014 brought out the worst, rather than the best in our politicians'. Hence she quite sensibly put together a non-politician list of 'those that shaped politics from outside the Beehive' (including the likes of Nicky Hager; David Farrar; Donghua Liu) - see: Influencing politics from the outside.
Similarly, Liam Hyslop looks beyond Parliament for 2014's winners and losers. Nicky Hager is one of the few deemed 'to make a positive difference in New Zealand'. This is due to the fact that his Dirty Politics book 'should help to make New Zealand's politicians more wary of entering into dirty political tactics'. In contrast, the political losers are said to be the combos of Kim Dotcom and Laila Harre, Iain Rennie and Roger Sutton, and Paul Henry and Mike Hosking. See also, Aimee Gulliver's What a year: Political class of 2014.
But for the best conventional list of political awards - and possibly the best review of the year, in all its bleakness - see John Armstrong's 2014: A year to get down and dirty. In this, Armstrong details how all the parties got it so wrong with voters in 2015. With so much failure in one single year, he makes a case for giving the 'Politician of the Year' award to 'the New Zealand Voter'.
Armstrong says that 2015 must have 'surely been the craziest year in New Zealand's political history'. He lists his 'Losers' of the year as Grant Robertson and Winston Peters; his 'Dog tucker' awards go to 'Kim Dotcom, Jason Ede, Maurice Williamson and (almost but not quite) David Cunliffe, Hone Harawira and Laila Harre'. The winners are deemed to be Andrew Little, Paula Bennett, and Cameron Slater.
According to Tracy Watkins, 2014 was 'the year of dashed hopes' in politics, pointing to the frustrated plans of everyone from Colin Craig to Winston Peters to Hone Harawira - see: One clear winner, plenty of dashed hopes.
Watkins gives her 'Loser of the Year' award to David Cunliffe, and the 'Wally of the Year' to Hone Harawira. Also in line with the general negativity, she lists the numerous departing MPs, nominating them for the 'Would we miss them? Award'.
Tracy Watkins' Fairfax parliamentary team also evaluate all of the front bench MPs from the various parties, and dish out a bunch of low scores, together with a note of various poor performances and failings - see: Front bench report 2014's winners and losers. It seems hard for them to find any politicians that had a good year - the exceptions being Bill English and Paula Bennett, who had the fewest failures.
According to Tracy Watkins and Vernon Small, this year was 'sordid, mucky and ugly' - see: One bumpy ride of an election.
The minor political players get various cynical awards from Chris Trotter in his Political Awards for 2014. Examples include Jamie Whyte's 'Well, that was a Bloody Great Waste of Time Award' and Laila Harre's 'You Don't know What You've Done You Ignorant Ingrates Award'.
Duncan Garner also puts the voters at the centre of his awards and review of the year, suggesting that apart from the usual list of 'losers' (Dotcom, Cunliffe, Harawira, Harre), 'The other big loser this year has to be we the voters. The campaign descended into muck-raking and we end the year none the wiser about the issues that really matter' - see: Key my politician of the year, but now for the third-term blues. See also, Duncan Garner's The Political winners and losers of 2014.
Gordon Campbell also refuses to hand out awards this year in his end-of-year column 2014 - a year of shattered dreams (not online): 'Usually, it is obligatory in this sort of wrap-up to name the year's winners and losers. Politics isn't a game, though. Who really lost out thanks to the fixation on circuses and diversions? Arguably, we all did'
A Sorry political year
Another take on the rottenness of the year is to note the sheer number of apologies issued in politics. Claire Trevett has done the best job of adding these up in her column, The year of apologies that keeps on giving. She notes apologies from the likes of John Key, Phil Goff, Judith Collins, Iain Rennie, and Kim Dotcom.
But David Cunliffe is anointed as the sorriest of all: 'He developed Sorry Tourettes. He just couldn't stop. He had a bizarre affliction which meant he felt compelled to apologise for things he shouldn't have apologised for but couldn't bring himself to apologise for things he ought to. So he apologised for being a man, for using a blind trust for donations, for wearing his red scarf too much, for taking a holiday a few months before the election and for his wife taking it upon herself to set up a Twitter account. He apologised for everything bar Labour's atrocious election result which he instead painted as a triumph because its vote had collapsed by a lesser proportion than in the previous elections. By the end of it all the thing he felt sorriest for was himself'.
Words of the year
Cameron Slater looms large in various discussions, debates and votes about the words, phrases and quotes of the year. He 'wins' Massey University's most memorable quote - see the Herald's Quote of 2014 goes to...WhaleOil blogger Cameron Slater.
Slater also wins via Nicky Hager - see Russell Brown's Word of the Year 2014: #dirtypolitics.
But for the best analysis of the political year in terms of statements, see Tim Watkin's Quotes of the year, Pundit style. He makes the case for an alternative, more threatening Slater quote of the year: "I always give back double".
Watkin also explains why Cunliffe's 'I'm sorry for being a man' comment summed up 'Cunliffe's time in the leadership of Labour', and why 'Andrew Little's "cut the crap" is an antidote to Cunliffe's quote'.
Also high on Watkin's list are John Key's 'nothing to do with my office' and Dotcom's 'The brand Kim Dotcom was poisoned'.
National's horror year
Yes, John Key's National Government won a spectacular third term victory. And yesterday the Herald gave the reasons that National can be positive about its achievements - see the editorial, Govt comes out on top in colourful year.
And nearly every political journalist has awarded John Key the title of Politician of the Year - see, for example, Patrick Gower's Politician of the Year.
But, it was still an incredibly torrid year for National, and even the PM pointed to the election campaign as one of his low moments of the year - see TV3's Key found campaign 'a low-light' for 2014.
Tracy Watkins also stresses that it's been a terrible year for the National Government: 'His government was assaulted on every front with scandal, trouble and controversy. Ministers resigned, his coalition allies ended the year diminished, and he ended the year looking evasive and tarnished by his links to dirty tricks and shock jock blogger WhaleOil' - see: One clear winner, plenty of dashed hopes.
Not only did the election campaign take its toll, but as I pointed out recently in another column, The downfall of John Key, the challenges and allegations of Dirty Politics were really starting to bite after the election. See also, A year of (neverending) Dirty Politics.
Even Matthew Hooton thinks the Government has suffered, especially since their election victory, and he details National's incredibly arrogant behaviour since the election, pointing to the main offenders: John Key, Christopher Finlayson, and Gerry Brownlee - see: For John Key: summer of reflection please (paywalled).
Likewise, Duncan Garner says that although Key deserves to be the 'politician of the year', 'The first few months of the new regime have been largely underwhelming. Not telling the truth about his contact with attack blogger WhaleOil hurt the prime minister. It was a royal stuff-up and he admits this privately' - see: Key my politician of the year, but now for the third-term blues. Garner believes the Key's reputation is on the decline: 'It's happening for Key, slowly. His jokes don't seem as funny. He looks more haunted and hunted these days'.
Dirty politics and controversies
My own end-of-year feature in the Herald on Sunday, argued that 'A year of scandal politics' had led to 'scandal fatigue' - see: A year of controversies that didn't matter.
There now seems to be a bit more focus on combatting or reversing the type of politics uncovered by Nicky Hager - see, for example, Claire Trevett's Trumping dirty politics with integrity and decency.
But John Armstrong is disturbed by the fact that Hager's book had such little impact on politics and the election, saying that 'If anything, however, Dirty Politics only succeeded in strengthening support for Key and National. The hash that the Prime Minister has made of the whole wretched business has tarnished him but far less than he deserves. His scorecard is marked down accordingly' - see: 2014: A year to get down and dirty. Armstrong also bemoans the fact that Slater's influence and visibility in public has 'grown exponentially'.
Others see Hager's book - alongside other controversies, such as that around Dotcom - as boosting the electoral fortunes of the Government. For example, Tracy Watkins and Vernon Small say that 'It had the opposite effect, driving up support for Key and ensuring National voters turned out in force' - see: One bumpy ride of an election. Also, they say 'Dotcom's "moment of truth", supposedly ripping the veil of secrecy off the activities of New Zealand's spooks, turned into John Key's moment of triumph after it galvanised National supporters into turning out in force'. See also, Patrick Gower 4-minute video, Moment of Truth 'defining moment' for 2014.
Finally, for satire that sums up the year in politics, see Steve Braunias's In the kingdom of King John, Toby Manhire's A festive verse for NZ and 'Tis the season for some folly..., Andrew Gunn's Politicians tweet Christmas cheer, The Ruminator's 2014 Person of the Year, and best of all, Scott Yorke's The 2014 Imperator Fish Awards, and The 2014 Arsehole of the Year.