National buries dirty politics

Forget dirty politics, high-profile scalps and accusations of lies and spies - John Key swept all aside last night to win an historic third term as Prime Minister.

And his margin of victory was shaping last night to be larger than in 2011 - the first time that has been achieved in almost 90 years and giving National the holy grail of governing alone.

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It was also a blackly historic night for Labour which slumped to a new low and will lose as many as three MPs, a result which will heap pressure on leader David Cunliffe to step down despite his determination to stay.


The minor parties failed to deliver in a series of anti-climaxes. Winston Peters flopped in his kingmaker bid, Internet-Mana and the Conservatives failed to cross the threshold, while Hone Harawira was the shock loser of the night, edged out by Labour's Kelvin Davis in Te Tai Tokerau. The Greens failed to grow its support, condemning them to three more years in opposition.

Key could afford to ignore those results with National sitting on 48 per cent of the vote at 11pm, giving the party 62 MPs and the power to govern alone.

This was the real moment of truth delivered by the voters.

The final count will not be known for a fortnight but National last night increased its share of the vote and is certain to get a third term with enough support for 62 MPs. That is enough to govern alone, something which has not happened since MMP was introduced in 1996.

The electorate seats retained by Act and United Future should provide enough ballast to govern without needing NZ First leader Winston Peters, who will return stronger with 11 MPs.

However, last night Joyce would not rule out extending a hand to Peters to work with National in some capacity, possibly as insurance for 2017.

The result gives National a mandate to pursue its policy programme, including likely tax cuts for low and middle income earners.

But it leaves Labour contemplating a crushing defeat with a low of 24.4 per cent - lower than the 27 per cent result under Phil Goff in 2011 and its worst result since 1922. That will almost certainly result in another bout of blood-letting for Labour - last night several Auckland MPs including former leaders Phil Goff and David Shearer were pointedly keeping their distance from Cunliffe's election headquarters.


Deputy leader David Parker could not rule out Cunliffe losing the confidence vote he will have to face in the weeks after the election.

Andrew Little said his chances of getting back in were "pretty slim". "That's the nature of politics isn't it?" He was reluctant to put the blame on Cunliffe, saying he had only been in the job a year.

Last night Cunliffe sent a clear message he intended to fight to stay on as leader, pointing to National's discipline and long stability in its leadership as reasons for its success. He said that contrasted with Labour's frequent leadership changes over the past six years.

"Tomorrow, we will start a three-year campaign."

View: Election 2014: Election night

Cunliffe conceded Labour could not form a government this time round and he had phoned Prime Minister John Key to concede - but indicated he intended to try to stay on as leader, adding: "It will take some time to work through the entrails of this election .. but New Zealanders have chosen to continue and we respect that choice."

He said the results also showed the voters did not believe people could buy politics, "be they Kim Dotcom or Colin Craig".

On last night's results, only Parker, Clayton Cosgrove and Jacinda Ardern were safe on the list. Other MPs including Maryan Street and Moana Mackey will not make it back in.

National's result follows a campaign in which Key had to contend with the fallout from Dirty Politics which claimed the head of former minister Judith Collins and claims about mass surveillance by journalist Glenn Greenwald and Edward Snowden.

- Election 2014 - David Cunliffe, the leader of the Labour Party and his wife Karen Price arrive at the New Lynn Community Hall on Saturday after conceding to the John Key and the National Party. 20 September 2014 New Zealand Herald Photograph By Greg Bowker
- Election 2014 - David Cunliffe, the leader of the Labour Party and his wife Karen Price arrive at the New Lynn Community Hall on Saturday after conceding to the John Key and the National Party. 20 September 2014 New Zealand Herald Photograph By Greg Bowker

Key's counter-attacks on the two and Kim Dotcom for attempting to interfere in New Zealand politics clearly worked.

The results for National and Harawira's loss of the Te Tai Tokerau seat the Internet Party were relying on to get into Parliament shows the attacks may well have backfired.

If National does fall short of being able to govern alone its deals with Act in Epsom and United Future in Ohariu have again bought it some insurance, delivering David Seymour and Peter Dunne into Parliament.

Key is likely to also seek to include the Maori Party again if Te Ururoa Flavell is willing. Flavell was the only Maori Party MP to win his electorate, but might have enough support to bring a second MP - Marama Fox - in with him.

The Conservative Party fell just under the 5 per cent threshhold but Colin Craig said the party would be a "dead cert" to pass 5 per cent in 2017. He also fired a shot at National for their deals in Epsom and Ohariu. "Even though we're the fifth highest polling party, we still won't have an MP."

There was relief for some Labour candidates including Stuart Nash who was the only Labour MP to take a seat off National. Nash took out Napier against Wayne Walford, helped by vote splitting after Garth McVicar stood for the Conservative Party. Maungakiekie is also in the balance with a close result.

There were white knuckle rides in several other close electorates including Auckland Central and Maungakiekie which still hangs in the balance. But Te Tai Tokerau was the seat to watch - late last night Harawira refused to concede saying it remained close enough to potentially change hands if there is a recount or on special votes.

A dejected Kim Dotcom said Internet-Mana had lost because of him. "The brand Kim Dotcom was poisoned." He apologised to Harawira and the Maori people, before leaving Internet-Mana's campaign HQ on Auckland's waterfront.