A complete and utter - and indisputable - triumph for one man; a total and unmitigated disaster for his many enemies.

This was slaughter. John Key is now in the elite company of other three-term prime ministers, like Helen Clark.

And a fourth term cannot be ruled out given the hiding that Key has inflicted on the centre-left.

It is as simple of that. No amount of flimflam, window dressing or blaming everyone else but themselves can hide how parlous things have become for Labour.

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This was always a "no-change" election. But Labour's series of gaffes and strategic mistakes now risks putting the 2017 election in the same category.

That said, the party should not dump David Cunliffe - at least not yet.

The party has to decide whether it wants to be in power or not. Again , it is a simple as that.

What Cunliffe has to do is confront the very people who made him leader and let them in on a few home truths, such as if you claim to be a broad-based party, you cannot behave like an exclusive religious sect.

As for John Key, his crown may have become more tarnished during what was a torrid election campaign which tested him to his limits.

His prize is something that was deemed impossible - having the numbers to govern alone. He will likely include current allies - the Maori Party, Act and United Future -in what will be exactly the same governing arrangement as prior to the election.
The door will not be opened to Winston Peters.

For the New Zealand First leader, last night's success was a pyrrhic victory. It is was all very well biting chunks out of Labour's support. But it was not much use if it did not grow the overall Opposition party vote.

Still, Peters looks like paying the price of spending what will surely be his last term in Parliament in Opposition.

For the Greens, the night likewise sentenced them to another three years out in the cold - adding to the 15 straight ones the party has already endured.

Meanwhile, Internet Mana look to be history. All evening, Colin Craig's Conservatives flirted with the 5 per cent threshold but were rebuffed.

For Act, Epsom spells survival (again). But to what point?

It is the parties of the left, however, which wake up this morning praying it was all a bad dream.

Read more of the Herald's election coverage here:

National win three more years with resounding win

Cunliffe vows to stay on as Labour leader

Kim Dotcom says he 'poisoned' Internet-Mana

Winston Peters hits out at National after big poll surge

Green leaders in defiant mood despite results

Colin Craig 'happy' to have improved vote

As it happened: New Zealand election 2014
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