Brash, Crash and Burn
Saturday night saw a lucky escape for New Zealand and the Sky Tower. As a troubled man flew a plane within a few hundred metres of the Tower, Don Brash came within a few thousand votes of successfully bribing New Zealand into placing him in a position where he would impose far more far right economic reforms than he was elected to do.
I got particularly irked by the way Brash used "education" as a meaningless emotional buzzword during the campaign debates - he was never called up to defend the detail of National's education policy - yet National's more market approach was likely to lead to more school closures, if not outright privatisation.
That said, it wasn't a complete disaster for the new right. Act and United Future got back and bought in list MPs, and more to the point - Labour got too many votes :)
On hearding Don's speech on Saturday night, I pronounced to those around me that I thought Brash had just made a big mistake.
While the result was extremely close, Brash would have been better to acknowledge the obvious - Helen Clark is in a better position to negotiate a new Government. He could have qualified this by saying that he too would be talking to the minor parties in case National gained a majority on the specials or Clark failed to secure the required confidence and supply arrangements.
Instead, Brash said: "We can't yet claim a victory, but I'm certainly not conceding defeat". But Brash's claim that he would be working to secure a majority for a National led government was a victory speech in all but name.
It reminded me of none other than Mike Moore's bizarre 'victory' speech on election night 1993. Moore's made his ill judged remarks under similar circumstances - in 1993 it was National who were narrowly leading on the night. Moore did not stay Labour party leader for very long afterward.
Today Brash just looks desperate - following a campaign where he drummed up resentment towards Maori, Brash now needs the Maori party to form a government. He also suggested Labour should donate him a speaker - perhaps some journalist needs to ask him if he is prepared to donate a speaker to Helen? Not likely.
Somewhat to my surprise I see even Act agree with me - in the latest edition of The Letter they call on Brash to "tell Murray McCully to stop plotting and concede..".
A few politicians like to appear like 'statesmen'/'stateswomen' - election night represents one of the few domestic opportunities. Humble pie goes down well, campaign style cracks do not.
I am afraid I felt very much underwhelmed by the speeches on election night 2005. Clark was good - I would imagine most New Zealanders welcomed her acknowledgement of the divisive nature of the campaign and the need to 'bring people together'. This was a clever message - it also implied that it was Clark who was able to 'bring people together' in the context of coalition talks. However, the calls by some enthusiastic Labour supporters for "three more years" led me to recall another campaign I would prefer not to think about (think of the words "four" and "Bush").
Pita Shaples deserves credit for the best quip of the night - "We may have been the last cab on the rank, but the fare's just gone up!"