As thoughts turn to Christmas shopping and holidays, it’s time to wrap up the politician-of-the-year contest.

Are we nearly there yet? The annual flurry of politician-of-the-year punditry seems to have arrived earlier than ever, and it's probably because they all just want it over and done with.

Fair enough, too. As far as political drama is concerned, 2015 has felt like a thudding bloody hangover. The election of 2014 was an unprecedented, unimaginable binge on every available intoxicant, a blurred phantasmagoria of a campaign, peopled by unhinged attack bloggers, outlaw internet tycoons and even - down one of the psychedelic side-alleys - Eminem.

After the brief March excitements of the Northland byelection - hair of the dog, call it - it's been one of the years where you want to nurse your exhausted self under the duvet, watching boxset television, occasionally recalling things that seem barely plausible. Edward Snowden live from Russia on the big screen in the Auckland Town Hall? Surely not.

The 2015 hangover has been painful, too: a half-sleeping fever dream filled with blasts of garish, headache-inducing colours waved in your face, as if there were some sort of malevolent, ceaseless amateur flag design contest under way.


So with whatever-it-is shopping days to Christmas, the year-end political wrap can't come early enough. My 2015 reckons? Thought you'd never ask.

National's unflappable Paula Bennett and Amy Adams both performed well, as did the increasingly avuncular Bill English, who flew so high he touched the surplus. Then there's Labour's Duracell Bunny Phil Twyford, there's James Shaw, who docked effortlessly into the Green co-leadership, and there's even Peter Dunne, particularly in his spikes of independent-spiritedness.

In the prestigious runner-up category, I nominate Kelvin Davis, whose plain-speaking persistence over the Serco prison scandal was followed up with further dogged campaigning around New Zealand citizens detained on Christmas Island. And Marama Fox. Her outspokenness on NZ detainees in Australia was just one example of an approach from the first-term MP that has ensured the Maori Party look like anything but the lapdogs of the government they prop up.

Kelvin Davis of the Labour Party. Photo / Supplied
Kelvin Davis of the Labour Party. Photo / Supplied

Similarly, David Seymour has achieved the genuinely remarkable feat of making the Act Party something other than a byword for feeble obeisance and walking around bumping into walls. By championing everything from breakfast rugby pubs to an assisted dying law, the inveterate young door-knocker has made the party appear to represent something more than the demands of the super-rich.

David Seymour. Photo / Richard Robinson
David Seymour. Photo / Richard Robinson

The final runner-up is John Key, the nation's pragmatist-in-chief. Some people (all right, me) saw the early signs of third-termitis even before the third term had begun, but the Prime Minister has, with a few exceptions, managed to deter his colleagues and himself, from inflated head syndrome. He's ridden out the stains of Dirty Politics, global ponytail-related embarrassment, a housing crisis in Auckland and the perception of foot-dragging on the refugee crisis and the Christmas Island debacle, even a muddled and unpopular one-man flag-change crusade, to consolidate a polling lead that makes a fourth term a distinct possibility.

Key's opponents continue to struggle to counter him, not least because he is - as the leaders of the US and Australia will tell you - a very likeable person. His most furious critics would do well to accept that: the Prime Minister is not in fact the big bad wolf in sheepskin, and his large and steady support base is not in fact a bunch of demons, dullards and dupes.

Maori Party MP Maram Fox. Photo / Supplied
Maori Party MP Maram Fox. Photo / Supplied

Were it not for the fact that Key's personal polling has shown signs of eroding, or the byelection defeat battering in Northland, Key would be politician of the year. But that byelection means it has to be Winston Peters. Victory in the March contest was aided by Key's hubris in saying the NZ First leader didn't have "a dog's show", by the cloud over the departing MP, by a feeble National opponent and by Labour signalling to its supporters to back Peters. But still the achievement of the election-loving man in the Winnie-bago, overturning a 9300 majority, was nonetheless immense.

Peters has not been as conspicuously pugnacious in the House this year as others. His caucus is nothing to get excited about. His apparent ambition to secure some sort of 2017 deal that gets him on the honours board as prime minister is almost certainly fanciful. But the Northland win is the major political achievement of this annus hangoveris: it put a serious and measurable dent in National's ability to pass legislation.


And there's something else about Peters, too. However appalling many of the things he says might seem, it somehow washes away in the rain. It's hard to stay mad at Winston. He is the Cheshire Cat, who Alice declared the "most curious thing I ever saw in my life", the cat that "vanished quite slowly, beginning with the end of the tail, and ending with the grin, which remained some time after the rest of it had gone".

Fatwa on reporters ridiculous

It's been a bugger of a week for journalists. TV3's fatwa against in-depth journalism continued with the jettisoning of 3D, while the New Zealand Police reinforced the impression of a blundering disregard for independent journalism and scholarship - as evidenced recently in the raid on Nicky Hager's home and the blacklisting of academic Jarrod Gilbert - by sending three officers to rubber-glove their way through the Wellington home of Heather du Plessis-Allan, who is being investigated in relation to the journalism she did (for TV3, to be fair) exposing shortcomings in the rules covering firearm sales.

All, however, is not lost. I am working on a proposal for an exciting new television franchise that embraces MediaWorks' dynamic reality-based programming strategy. It will be called JournoCops, taking viewers on a roller-coaster ride through the homes of those remaining journalists who have not yet accepted communications jobs in government departments.

A hand-held camera will follow the nice detectives, armed with a search warrant signed by someone called Trevor, as they rifle through John Campbell's sock drawer, Rachel Smalley's stamp collection and the manuscript for David Fisher's unpublished romance novel.

A guaranteed blockbuster - and everyone's a winner. Unfortunately the budget will not extend to paying the journalists involved but it will offer them excellent exposure.