It was humbling on Saturday night watching history take place when New Zealand-style democracy thanked a young mother for being our Prime Minister during distressing times, handing her the unfettered right to govern our country for a further three years.
Make no mistake about it, this was the Covid election and most New Zealanders recognised that our government, for all its failings accepted its most important responsibility, protecting its citizens, with willingness and compassion not seen in many other countries lately.
Its success in protecting our country from the crippling death tolls seen in other places deserves respect and gratitude.
Jacinda Ardern is the most popular prime minister in living memory for most people. The last time New Zealand had a similar leader was in 1935 when Michael Joseph Savage snatched power, forming the first Labour government which lasted 14 years and changed the face of this country forever. Another Labour leader, Norman Kirk, took the nation by storm in 1972 but sadly died too soon to fulfil his potential.
Ardern has been gifted with similar rights and responsibilities by a grateful nation. She must now use her undoubted communication skills and personal leadership qualities to make progressive change not seen in New Zealand for many years.
The mandate for her to do this comes from all sections of New Zealand society, including formerly deep-blue rural seats that have never seen a Labour MP in power. The swing to Labour in those seats is simply mind-boggling. Other seats such as Whanganui and Northcote, held by National for many terms, simply walked away and towards a new red future. Labour's success in these previously blue seats is not marginal, it is phenomenal. Labour lost in Whanganui in 2017 by 1706 votes but won on Saturday night with a 6762 majority, an electorate with a huge South Taranaki rural base.
Safe National seats such as Ilam and Rangitata have gone to Labour. National has been punished in Rangitata for the actions of Andrew Falloon. Gerry Brownlee, long-serving MP for Ilam, lost his seat. He will remain in Parliament as a list MP and will no doubt play a huge role in rebuilding National.
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Social media, that cruel organ of opinion and spleen-venting, is awash with disgruntled right-wing commentators asking how New Zealanders could have got it so wrong. These ivory tower perchers do not understand the common sense and basic decency of New Zealand voters of all hues, disregarding them as some form of second-class citizen perhaps in another time not deserving of enfranchisement. This simple arrogance is not uncommon and has been the recent undoing of National.
Long time National voters have had enough of the in-fighting and disloyalty on show in recent months. Judith Collins is the right person to lead National back to some form of importance in the scheme of things but it will be an uphill battle following the election night result of 26.8 per cent in the polls and the possible demise of 19 sitting MPs. Collins needs to stamp her authority on a fractious caucus and provide a decent opposition to a Labour government which will likely govern alone for the next three years. National also needs to cleanse itself of the belief that it is the natural party of government, an arrogance born of history and no longer relevant in New Zealand politics.
Will Ardern lead a Labour only government, the first time this can happen since MMP was introduced in 1996, or will she offer a confidence and supply agreement to the Greens? From watching her body language and listening to what she did not say on Saturday night I suspect the Greens will be warming their toes in opposition with National and Act. Why put up with the stress of worrying what your minor partner is getting up to when you need to re-build New Zealand's economy.
Many left of centre voters and National voters who voted Labour this election simply do not trust the Greens. This is a bit unfair as they seem to mean well but are aspirational instead of practical in their policies when what is needed is three years of plain hard work to start to rebuild following Covid-19.
Ardern has a couple of decisions to make in the coming weeks, once Special Votes are counted and she knows where she is at. There needs to be some serious shuffling of ministers, some dumped and others pushed forward.
Collins should not lose her role as the National leader. It is simply not her fault what has happened to National this year and she has not been in the role long enough to establish herself. Saying that, she better start sharpening her pencil. The National Party does not forgive failure.
Last, but not least, is this the end of Peters?