A big Thursday for Planet Earth.

It began with a bang: North Korea launching a flurry of test missiles into the Sea of Japan.

Another tense day in the Middle East, where the estrangement of Qatar and an Isis attack in Iran risk creating a Persian Gulf powder keg.

Showtime in Washington, with James Comey, the man Donald Trump fired as FBI chief, appearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee to talk Russia and the president's request for "loyalty", backed by a soundtrack of a thousand Watergate comparisons.


In Brazil, courts were expected to decide whether to declare the 2014 election result void.

And then there's the snap election in Britain, where polls close at 9am NZ time.

What was meant to be a foregone conclusion, a dull formality, was turned on its head - first by unexpected performances from the party leaders, and then by the repugnant attacks in Manchester and London.

Despite the efforts of the underestimated Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who has taken Labour, in some polls, to within a whisker of the lead, Theresa May's Conservatives will be returned to power, and with a comfortably larger majority than the 17-seat gap they currently command in the Commons.

Though take that assertion with a grain of salt: I am the same oracle who confidently predicted Brexit would be rejected, Trump had no chance, and the Lions would be good at playing rugby.

One-hundred-and-six days and 10 hours after polls close in the UK - that took me an embarrassingly long time to calculate, and I still wouldn't bet on it being totally accurate - so they do in our own election.

What can we take, or our politicians at least, take from the British example?

The first thing to say is that there are as many differences as similarities.


The British election itself was occasioned by Brexit (David Cameron promised the vote on leaving the EU to placate his Europhobe backbenchers, only to find it costing him his job, to be replaced by May, who also opposed Brexit, but is now leading its implementation), and we have nothing so convoluted and momentous here.

They're also still operating under the First Past the Post system, an electoral model some will recall from the last century in New Zealand, one which ensures you get strong single-party majorities, except when you don't.

At the very least, however, it is a reminder that election campaigns are not by necessity inert puddles - the swing from the Conservatives to Labour has been the most dramatic measured since the first recorded polls of 1945 - for a NZ Labour Party struggling to top 30 per cent, and even with Green support a good distance from government, that is something to cling to.

They will certainly have been watching the Corbyn surge. The embodiment of a pre-Tony Blair, socialist left, Corbyn only made the ballot for the Labour leadership after a handful of MPs who had no intention of voting for him gave him their nomination, in the cause of inclusivity.

His victory in that race followed support from unions and party members, many of them newly signed up.

It signalled a dramatic split from the "third way" of Blair and co, and pitted Corbyn in a bitter battle with half of his own parliamentary colleagues.

His performance in the last month, and the public reception, has surprised many of those who judged him unelectable. As long as he avoids a heavy loss, he has a good chance of hanging on as opposition leader.

It may be tempting for some in NZ Labour, watching Corbyn and his ideological cousin in the US, Bernie Sanders, to parachute in Jim Anderton. Too late for that, but it may yet embolden Labour here to chart a more confidently leftward course.

Importantly, Corbyn and Sanders - combined age 143 - have both succeeded in appealing to younger people.

The only trouble is that younger people are dramatically less likely to vote than their parents and grandparents.

The big variance in polling in the UK, where the Tory lead in the last week has ranged from a landslide 12 per cent down to a hung-parliament 1 per cent, can largely be ascribed to the extent that the competing survey companies calculate younger voter turnout.

If the Conservatives do win easily this morning, Labour in New Zealand should considering jettisoning forever the prayer that some "missing million" will save them.

But the plainest lesson from the UK election, for politicians of all stripes: speak human.

May has been lampooned, mercilessly and deservedly, for uttering the slogan "strong and stable leadership" with almost every breath. "Maybot", they've called her.

It's not just that the mantra has become as familiar and welcome as a busted car alarm, but it's been made to look vapid, too - the claim to stability undermined by policy U-turns; the appeal to strength undercut by a reluctance to participate in debates and interviews.

On this score, English - who like May is a PM yet to win a general election as party leader - could have as much to learn from the British experience as his opponent.

Notwithstanding the gravelly walk-run monotone, he is not by nature a sloganeer and question-evader.

But as New Zealand enters campaign mode, the soundbites and talking points will tempt.

And in recent elections the Conservatives there and National here have shared a few of them, which may have something to do with the services of Lynton Crosby, the Australian strategist whom opponents love to cast as a diabolical and shadowy Svengali.

At the 2015 election, Cameron announced that Britain was "on the brink of something special", a year after John Key had told New Zealand it was "on the cusp of something special".

In 2017, the Conservative campaign began with the party logo subordinated beneath the emblazoned words "Theresa May's team", an unmistakable echo of "Team Key".

And if you doubt New Zealand's status as a laboratory for testing political messages, May has in recent weeks been promising, numerously, to deliver a "Brighter future".

The hazard, of course, is often not so much the slogan but the extent to which it is supported by policy and communicated with conviction.

All the same, however, if the National Party president was test driving a 2017 election strapline when, in announcing candidate selections in April, he trumpeted "a strong and stable National government", a glance at May's effort in the intervening weeks should be enough to suggest they hunt out something else.