Well that was a night, wasn't it. We had a little do with a few people. We also had a list of party cocktails to be drunk when that party did well. The favourite drinks were Maori (Toblerone) and Act (Dancing Angel). The environmentalist drink (Prohibition) was mostly tipped down the sink - recycled, you might say. By the time it was National's turn, as Mr Key gave his wooden but nice victory speech, no one could face another cocktail - champagne instead, Labour supporters included. We never got to drink the 'Helengrad', unlike last time. Miss Clark's speech was not gracious, despite John Campbell's views on the matter.
The question all night was how far National's vote would fall, but in the end it didn't fall enough to grant Labour another term. Winston getting almost enough to be back, but not quite, was a sad result for the Labour First axis.
The strange thing about MMP is how it accentuates the extremes. For example, environmentalists seem to have a lot of control in the last term, with the ETS, the smacking bill, the coal fire power station ban, more DOC land purcchase, etc. Yet they had only 5% of the vote in 2005.
This time, had voters given National just another few percent, they would have been able to govern alone and might have had a very centre government. (Oddly, commentators on the left painted this as a more scary prospect that coalition with others). Instead, National needs Act to govern and you can be sure that Act will want paying. Act's less-than-4% support will likely see the ETS watered down, some crime sentencing changes and maybe even repeal of the 39% tax rate.
In terms of tail wagging the dog, MMP has a lot to answer for. Act is of course very happy.
But for me, I am very relieved about two things. Firstly that the environmentalists did not get to form a government with Labour. In my view this would have sent New Zealand even further into the environmentalist dead end, of banning all forms of energy, production and exploitation, ultimately resulting in no power, goods or jobs.
Secondly, I am relieved that the environmentalists did not get the 10% hoped for. A figure of 6.5% is far too high and surely reflects the fact that voters have not spent enough time reading policies and engaging their critical thinking facilities. But it could have been a lot higher, and in fact even Winston Peters got 5% last time. It seems that a well organised contender can get 5% just for showing up. In that respect, the environmentalists have been kept in check.
The reasons for that are not clear to me. Some say that the environmentalist vote doesn't often present on election day. Perhaps soccer mums drive around in their tanks and dream of voting for environmentalists to assuage their enviro-guilt, but in the cold light of the polling booth think better of it.
Perhaps voters can see through the deep dishonesty of a campaign based around images of children, by a party which seeks, not to put to fine a point on it, to wipe them out. Our little group groaned every time Jeanette Fitzsimons mentioned children in her speech last night. That was a surprising number of groans. Sadly Mrs Fitzsimons' remarks are not on the web site.
Those who claim that environmentalists are hamstrung by their dedication to left wing politics are missing the point. It is not possible to be a right wing environmentalists, or at least not a very good one. Environmentalism requires state intervention, global government, tight limits on the contest of ideas, a focus on procedure rather than people, massive regulation and rule by a small elite. If that sounds a lot like communism then it is no accident. Environmentalism is a left wing game. National's Nicky Wagner take note.
Overall, the election is a good result. Not just because there is a change of direction (but to where?), but because it is a clear result. Early in the evening we discussed how many weeks it would be before we knew the result of the election. While the detail is sketchy, the good news it that the bones of the government were set in place by 11pm on election night.
For MMP at least, this was a good result.