So how are things looking for the parties. Let's take things in reverse order:
Did better than expected on 0.9% – enough to avoid overhang but well off getting a second MP. The party is effectively over and doesn't really serve any useful purpose now they are in Opposition (in Government they did have a somewhat different brand to Labour). I will not be surprised to see Anderton rejoin Labour during this term and Progressives windup. Anderton presumably will retire next election.
Like Progressive, United Future is basically over. Enough votes to avoid overhang but well off a second MP. Peter will have got a bit of a nasty shock that his majority has been slashed to under 2,000 and this is probably his final term as I expect both National and Labour will aim to win the seat next time.
Not that good an election for them. It could have been worse – they did win Te Tai Tonga but they are quite gutted not to win Ikaroa-Rawhiti especially. Their party vote barely lifted and they don't hold the balance of power. However if they are sensible they will negotiate an abstain on supply and confidence with National in exchange for some policy wins. Their big challenge will be differentiating from Labour's Maori MPs to give people a reason to keep supporting them. There is a remote chance they will take up Ministerial positions outside Cabinet – they will be worried doing so will risk Labour winning seats back off them. However they can make the case that National could have governed without them, and by accepting the roles they got to deliver some wins to Maoridom.
New Zealand First
It is all over. Winston won't stand again in Tauranga and unless National did something monumentally stupid like cut super, NZ First won't stand anywhere.
I suspect Ron Mark will become Leader and maybe give Rimutaka another try, but it is doubtful they'll make 1% without an incumbent MP and/or Winston.
The big question is where will NZ First voters go? National? Labour? There is in fact an opportunity for a new party to hoover up the NZ First, Kiwi Party and family party that got 5.1% between them. They all have social conservatism in common. If United Future disappears also, then you may have up to 6% looking for a home.
In some ways the Greens are the big losers from this election, despite getting two more MPs. But they had polls showing them getting up to 11.5% and they only got 6.4%. Labour lost bigtime also, but at least they got to spend nine years in Government. The Greens have spent their first nine years locked out of Government and now face say another six years in Opposition where they will struggle to compete with Labour who will agree with them on most issues now. And when Labour do come back in, the Maori Party will have a stronger negotiating position than the Greens.
On the positive side they did get two more MPs and maybe could get a third. Delahunty is seen as an exremists, but Hague is a solid performer and Kennedy Graham could add to theri voter appeal.
The result is a total vindication for Rodney Hide. If ACT has not grown their number of MPs, they would have become like the Progressive Party – doomed to die with the Leader. But they have grown ACT so that it is a credible force for the future. This is great not just for ACT but the centre-right. Without ACT long-term there would be just four parties – Labour, Greens, Maori and National. Under that scenario centre-right Govts will be rare. With ACT in the picture it is more balanced.
The challenge for ACT is to get some policy wins from National. With 5 MPs they need to be able to show they delivered to their supporters. But they need to balance that with not forcing John Key into doing anything that could be seem to betray those who voted for him and his leadership.
ACT should also push for two Ministers – Rodney and Heather. They make up 1/12th of the Government so they should get 1/12th of the Executive which is two Ministerial roles. Heather would be a very competent Minister I am sure.
Clark and Cullen have resigned. It is a mark of their political judgement that they have decided to step down immediately. Staying on for even six months would just have meant a period of destabilising headlines.
Phil Goff will be the new Leader I predict. If the ballot has been delayed even a year, then maybe not. But I suspect he may be elected unoppossed.
The interesting thing will be Deputy. It has to be a female or a Maori to keep factions happy. I somehow can't see Goff happy with maryan street as his Deputy (and I see she has ruled herself out) so suspect Annette King could take the job. However they are both from the right-leaning part of Caucus so there may be opposition to that. King is widely regarded by all her MPs though. Jones is a possible for Deputy but making him Deputy would lead to speculation as to when he will roll Goff.
Goff will get one chance only, like Mike Moore. If he does not win in 2011, then others will be ready by then. There is even a chance he would get rolled before 2011 if they do not perform in the polls.
Goff is a very capable politician, but his big problem is he entered Parliament under Muldoon. It will be hard to brand him as the fresh face for the future when he has been an MP for 30 years by the time of the next election.
If Labour are smart they will make Cunliffe Shadow Finance Minister.
Key has a number of challenges and opportunities.
He needs to do a deal with ACT that works for both of them. Gives ACT some wins, but doesn't undermine his centrist brand. However having said that, people have to realise the public did not vote for a National Government – they did elect a National-ACT Government (plus United Future).
His other challenge is the Maori Party – it would be a coup to bring them on board as Ministers. This is ironic as most PMs would rather keep all portfolios for their own party, but long-term having Sharples and Turia as Ministers would send a message about working with the Maori Party. It would also allow National to do some stuff in welfare, that they could not do by themselves.
Putting together the Cabinet is the next challenge. To put it bluntly there are too many contenders and some will be disappointed. Key will need some of the 1990s Ministers for their experience and stability, but signal to those MPs that they should not expect a six to nine year term in Cabinet this time around – more likely 2 – 3 years max, so that going into 2011 the majority of Ministers are from the 2002, 2005 and even 2008 intakes.
A fourth challenge is a large Caucus of 59. But unlike 1990, there is no long tail of Gilbert Myles types to manage. One or two may present some challenges but generally the new intake is talented and ambitious. That may be the longer term challenge – keeping them happy as Government backbenchers whose main job is to move “That the motion now be put” in committee of the whole debates 🙂
The 2005 intake will also need some managing. A few of them will make Cabinet but most won't – yet. They will probably be the Select Committee Chairs as Ministers in waiting, and these appointments will also have to be negotiated with other parties.