Election results 2020: Simon Wilson – A victory for history books


A win was expected but this is extraordinary: Labour has won the biggest victory for any party since the dawn of the history books, or at least 1951.

New Zealanders have said thank you, thank you to Jacinda Ardern and have looked at the rest of the world and seen how lucky we are.

Margaret Thatcher, Britain’s Iron Lady in the 1980s, used to say about herself that “the lady’s not for turning”. It was her excuse for brutal economic policies.

With “stay the course”, Ardern has given the phrase new meaning: steely resolve is not the enemy of compassion, tough times require support for the vulnerable.

Ardern has also turned “borrow and spend” from a term of abuse into a recipe for success. At least, it could become so. In the next term, we will find out.

And she has been rewarded for her exceptional management skills. She kept a three-way coalition together for an entire term and has personally overseen the entire Covid response: health, economic, the works.

Most of all, the strategy depended on her ability to generate and then maintain popular support, in a nation of people who usually don’t like being told what to do. That made everything else possible and it’s her greatest achievement to date.

The Greens are back, and that’s also remarkable. They become the first minor party ever not to be punished for being in Government, and they did it by playing a constructive role.

That strategy ruined the Māori Party in 2017 but it’s worked for the Greens this time.

Will Ardern use the Greens well? They have policies that will help with her own progressive aspirations and half a dozen MPs capable of playing strong roles as ministers. We shall see.

But the electorate has punished Winston Peters, again, for his petulance. Even more damaging, I suspect, was his failure to take the conservative option in 2017: too many of his supporters have never accepted Labour, or Ardern, or the Greens.

The Māori Party may be unlucky: it ran a good campaign and deserved some reward.

Ardern and her colleagues, too, would benefit from having to engage with the Māori Party in Parliament.

And National? This is what a party without a purpose looks like. As Act rises, what will National do?

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