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My final On The Beat column looks back on some of the big changes in politics this year.

Photo/ Supplied/ Design by Justin Latif


On The Beat: A final note on a year observing NZ’s political mosh pit

PMN's Justin Latif reflects on a year of election shenanigans and political upheavals.

My foray into regular political opinion writing began in July of this year with a piece about how there were 99 days till the election.

At the time it seemed funny and unique to compare that figure to the 99 problems Jay Z claims to have had in his track by the same name - and so a hip hop-themed political column was born.

But what I didn’t realise was what a burdensome task I was committing to, particularly given the election result became an almost foregone conclusion a month out.

Watch Justin Latif's full interview on 531pi's Pacific Mornings below:

Despite the meandering, and at times tiresome election campaign, over 15 columns I traversed a range of topics, like how David Seymour should learn from OutKast when it comes to making outrageous political jibes, and why Chris Hipkins’ debate performance was a bit like Eminem in a rap battle.

However what made this three month journey into the world of opinion writing fun, was having the extra challenge of trying to find some connection, which was often rather erroneous, between the election and hip hop.

I even made a 3 hour and 27 minute long playlist on Spotify, filled with tracks which have a political message or just had some esoteric link to a new policy, like Nelly’s Grillz track which aptly highlights the Greens’ dental-free plans.

And like all columnists worth their weight in coffee, I made a bunch of predictions.

Here’s a sample: National’s Fonoti Agnes Loheni was a sure thing - sadly I was wrong, as I'm sure she would have been a great Minister For Pacific Peoples.

Anae Neru Leavasa would hold on to his 7000 seat majority in Takanini - wrong again.

Brian Tamaki would play a big role in deciding who wins - also wrong, but not surprising.

David Seymour might regret joking about blowing up the Ministry For Pacific Peoples given these off the cuff remarks came just before his polling started to dip. Probably right but I'm sure he would never admit it.

There will be a dramatic reduction in Pacific MPs - unfortunately correct.

One prediction included expecting Winston to miss out on parliament, but by 1 October, I’d changed my tune and made this bold call five weeks ahead of the final result being announced:

“Based on current polling and who’s likely to win their electorate seats, I’m going to make a way-to-early election prediction, which is just as likely to not happen given the most intense period of the campaign is about to start. National wins 45 seats and ACT wins 14 - getting their centre-right block to 59. While Labour (37), the Greens (15) and Te Pāti Māori (3) should reach a combined block of 55 seats. And once again, NZ First will play kingmaker with their 6 seats.”

Not to brag, but even though I got the exact seat allocations slightly off, National and Act did reach 59 seats, while Labour, Greens and TPM did reach 55, and Winston and his crew were the king makers. But maybe that was pretty obvious given Labour’s lacklustre campaign.

However, given this is my final column of the year, I’ll make one more outrageous prediction.

I believe there’s a 50/50 chance either Winston or Luxon will be out of their current role by the end of 2024. Given both men’s strong and at times stubborn personalities, coupled with Luxon’s inexperience as a politician, I suspect this combination of factors could be the undoing of this coalition. I can also see one of the ambitious high-ranking National MPs looking to take advantage of any instability between Luxon and Peters and we might see a new prime minister installed in early 2025.

But I could also be way off and this new government - with its rather unusual three-way arrangement - confounds all historical precedents and they totally reshape New Zealand in ways we haven’t seen since the 1980s.

What will be most interesting from our perspective at PMN, is how Dr Shane Reti performs as Minister For Pacific Peoples. He’s already made it clear he’s taking this portfolio very seriously and wants to deliver meaningful outcomes.

Something to look for in the new year as an early sign of this, could be the potential announcement that Te Whatu Ora will agree to fund a birthing centre in Māngere, which was something hinted at throughout the year.

But I do suspect his greatest challenge will probably come from inside Cabinet, as he will need to be constantly justifying what MPP spends, given its past controversies.

Either way, 2024 is sure to be a bumpy, but fascinating ride for any keen observer of politics.

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