• Steve Maharey was a minister in the previous Labour Government.

Amidst the twists and turns of the improbable election campaign, somehow Monty Python seems relevant. In particular, the Black Knight scene from the The Holy Grail.

To refresh baby boomer memories and inform the "new generation", King Arthur arrives at a bridge protected by the supposedly invincible Black Knight. Arthur is impressed by the skills of the Black Knight and offers him a place at Camelot. He is refused and a fight ensues.

One by one, Arthur slices off the limbs of the Black Knight who will not give in. The scene ends with Arthur crossing the bridge while a limbless Black Knight shouts for him to come back and fight (it's comedy).


The election campaign has not reached its final scene, but if King Arthur is Jacinda Ardern and the Black Knight is Bill English we are getting there - limb by limb.

Flashback. At the end of last year, National Party leader John Key said he had "no gas left in the tank" and resigned as Prime Minister. He was replaced by Bill English who led the National Party to a disastrous defeat in 2002.

Meanwhile, persistently bad polls saw the leader of the Labour Party, Andrew Little, wonder out loud about whether he should resign. He did and was replaced by Jacinda Ardern - the fifth Labour leader since Helen Clark departed for the United Nations in 2009.

Meanwhile, Greens co-leader Metiria Turei self-destructed by not quite getting her story straight about lying to Winz when she was a young solo mum. Her co-leader, James Shaw, soldiered on alone.

Meanwhile, leader of the United Future Party Peter Dunne decided to call it day claiming that politics had become too superficial to be bothered with.

The Python team could not make this stuff up. Nor could they make up what has happened over the past few weeks.

A politician that has done everything there is to do, assumed that his undoubted capability would mean that he was ready to take on all comers. But the world of politics has changed since the Global Financial Crisis. A sizable number of voters feel ignored, left-behind and disillusioned.

They were resigned to the status quo because change did not seem to be an option. Given the option, however, the same dynamic being seen elsewhere in the world took off in New Zealand. Outsiders are in. Insiders are out.

Jacinda Ardern may not look like an outsider given that she has been around politics most of her life, but her youth, gender and lack of political baggage makes her fit the times.


In comparison, Bill English, in every way, looks exactly like an insider.

This is hugely frustrating for the National Party who thought they were odds on to lead the country for an historic fourth term. Frustration has led to mistakes. Not so much by Bill English who has been turning in a solid performance on the campaign trail.

But, Paula Bennett's comment (to paraphrase Orwell) that "all animals are equal but some are less equal than others" in reference to taking away the human rights of gang members, drew a chorus of condemnation.

Steven Joyce produced what might be the turning point of the election when he insisted that Labour had an $11.7 billion hole in its budget and then failed to produce one single person (he did suggest Bill English) who agreed with him.

Backbencher Simon O'Connor's Facebook ramblings linking suicide and voluntary euthanasia were something only a political fringe dweller would say. They also forced English off message.

These mistakes have, no doubt, helped lift Labour's standing in the polls and caused more frustration for National.

Next week, with voting under way, will demand a lot from both parties. National will need to attack Labour without causing itself harm. Labour has to continue to capitalise on the mood for change.

Hopefully, both parties will resist the temptation to make a final push by promising to spend even more money. It has been a feature of this campaign that promises have come thick and fast. Yet it is not always clear the spending is driven by a clear sense of purpose. Just spending money will not solve the problems New Zealand faces.

Perhaps thinking beyond the campaign is too much to ask at this point. The main parties are locked in an epic battle. National has one or two limbs left. Labour wants to get across the bridge.