MAURICE WILLIAMSON: 4/10.
Another year, another day of reckoning for Fairfax Media’s political pundits.
The year 2013 will go down in history as one when ministers quit – or were fired – unexpectedly, the Government’s support parties Left, Right and Centre ran into trouble, Labour eventually bit the bullet and replaced its leader and the state’s role in electronic snooping itself came under close surveillance.
In some cases our pundits saw it coming, in others they were completely blindsided.
So how good was the press gallery’s soothsaying this year?
1 At an annual salary of almost $145,000 plus allowances, Brendan Horan will continue to believe he is needed in the House and will tough out the criticisms and stay on in Parliament – unless the police intervene. 10/10. With a backdated pay rise before Christmas, this is a prediction with legs for 2014.
2 Official interest rates will end the year no higher than they started it at 2.5 per cent, and if the Reserve Bank moves at all it will be to cut the OCR. 10/10. Predictions vary as to when the bank will move in 2014, with March the new favourite. But it flatlined in 2013.
3 David Shearer will win unanimous support for his leadership from his caucus in the February vote, and remain safe from any serious challenge throughout the year. 0/10. As wrong as a wrong thing. No-one knows for sure how the vote went, but unanimous it wasn’t. Neither does jumping before you are pushed qualify as “safe from a serious challenge”.
4 Aaron Gilmore will return to Parliament and be joined by a least one other replacement list MP – though Gilmore will make no better an impression in 2013 than first time around. 9/10. We were simply too kind. One mark off because we did not pick how much worse he could be. The luckless Mr Gilmore out-did his own bad press as he came and went in just a few months. Jackie Blue also quit, while Claudette Hauiti and Paul Foster-Bell topped up National’s ranks.
5 Arise Sir Lockwood Smith. The former Speaker will be knighted in the Queen’s Birthday honours. 10/10. A bit like putting a dollar on the All Blacks to beat Japan, but on the money all the same.
6 Hekia Parata will remain in Cabinet but lose the education portfolio. 3/10. We were holding our breath when the OECD figures showed New Zealand’s rankings plummeting but John Key held his nerve and she not only kept her seat at the top table, she kept the education role too.
7 Labour will rewrite its list selection rules to give the regions and the unions less power, but not without a major controversy. 6/10. They rewrote the rules along those lines, but we failed to pick the major controversy would be around gender quotas and the late-but-unlamented “man ban”.
8 National will fail to find a cross party “consensus” on changes to the MMP rules, but Opposition parties will pledge to implement the main Electoral Commission recommendations if they win power. 7.5/10. Sure enough Justice Minister Judith Collins used the “no consensus” line to justify no change, but the Opposition has not waited for the election but is rallying behind Iain Lees-Galloway’s member’s bill.
9 The referendum opposing the sale of state assets will get the numbers and go ahead in October. But the partial sale of Mighty River Power will go ahead, after the Maori court challenge over water rights fails. The Government will also sell shares in Meridian and Genesis in 2013. 7/10. The referendum went ahead (but in November) and the Government did sell three of its planned partial privatisations, although it opted for Air NZ ahead of Genesis after the share market developed indigestion over energy shares.
10 John Key will make international headlines again for a gaffe to rival the Beckham putdown, but he will resist the urge to become a full time talkback host. 2.5/10. He did stuff up by not taking a leader of the anti-apartheid movement to Nelson Mandela’s funeral, and was rewarded with the karmic caption on a photo that referred to him as an unidentified guest. But that was shy of his reported “thick as bat shit” quote. But we were wrong about the talkback crack. He’s everywhere. Spin the dial and catch the PM live on Drive Time!
11 Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples will bow to pressure and give up the co-leadership, opening the way for Te Ururoa Flavell. But Dr Sharples will not relinquish his portfolios. On the button! It’s a shame they don’t give more than 10/10.
12 Maurice Williamson and one other minister will announce they will not stand for re-election in 2014.4/10. Come on Maurice – don’t keep us waiting! Oh, all right then, stay. Chris Tremain did surprise everyone with his decision to call politics quits. Kate Wilkinson and Phil Heatley were pushed out of Cabinet and have joined the exodus.
13 A new Right-wing party will emerge, offering to fill the need for an ally for National. But National will be less than enthusiastic. 6/10. There are a number of contenders including the 1Law4All Party that recently pamphlet-bombed some suburbs with policies that hark back to Don Brash’s Orewa speech. There is also a rumoured ACT-like party in the wings, but so far National only has eyes for its existing allies – and Colin Craig’s Conservatives.
14 The Government will launch the year with a major economic policy promising to boost job numbers and make employment its top priority. 9/10. It made the promises all right, with a John Key speech launching a big push on apprenticeships. Forests also gave their all for a series of glossy “business growth agenda” booklets. But did anyone notice?
15 A minister will resign over allegations surrounding events that emerge from the past. 10/10. ACT leader and minister John Banks quit after he was hauled into court to defend his disclosure of donations during his campaign for the Auckland mayoralty.
16 As a consolation for missing out on the speakership, National list MP Tau Henare will be offered a diplomatic post in the Pacific. 3/10. Sure enough he missed out to new Speaker David Carter and was apparently sounded out on whether he was angling for a post, but it seems no formal offer was made.
17 The Greens will not top 15 per cent in any major poll in 2013. 9.5/10. The third party’s support has held up remarkably well during the year, but it only hit 15 per cent once – in the volatile Roy Morgan survey – and never bettered its target mark. So we are claiming vindication by a nose.
18 Andrew Little and David Clark will be promoted to the Labour top 12 and Nanaia Mahuta will not hold the prime responsibility for education by year’s end. 6.5/10. Two out of three aint bad. Ms Mahuta gave way to Chris Hipkins in education. He hung on despite being on the wrong side of the leadership spill. David Clark did scrape into the top 12, before being demoted after the change at the top. Mr Little is still waiting . . .
19 Growth will fall short of Treasury’s pick of 2.3 per cent in the year to March but the economic mandarins will be closer to the mark on unemployment, which will be near their 6.9 per cent forecast. 0/10. Don’t take investment advice from us (or Treasury). Growth actually bettered Treasury’s forecast reaching 2.7 per cent in the March year, while unemployment fell to a surprisingly low 6.2 per cent – though there was some questioning of the data.
20 David Bain will be paid some compensation, even though a second review will be more ambivalent about his innocence – but he will get less than $1 million. 0/10. We are still awaiting the final outcome.
So overall it’s a very creditable 133/200.
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