OPINION: What the hell? Did New Zealand politics slip into some alternate reality vortex over New Year?
Everyone, please, put down the sherry and get a hold of yourselves. A dose of reality is necessary as the political year really kicks off this week. In the vacuum of the summer season, some fantasies about the outcome of this year's election have taken seed.
Smacking is not going to be a defining election issue just because Conservative Party leader Craig says it is. He is the leader of a minor party, outside of Parliament.
Once the election campaign proper starts, and the mainstream party machines kick into gear, Craig will find he has to do more than put on a tinfoil hat to get media attention.
Speaking of crackpot strategies, was it the electoral roll of a parallel universe that was going to return Martyn Bradbury ahead of cabinet minister Nikki Kaye or Labour high-flier Jacinda Ardern in Auckland Central?
And since when did left-wing activists like Bradbury start whoring themselves out to businessmen who want to use their vast wealth to exert influence over the political and justice system?
Still, Bradbury's white paper for Kim Dotcom's Internet Party (leaked last week) was $8000 well spent - it kept chuckling Wellington politicos at their desks on a rare sunny afternoon in the capital.
Of course, Kim Dotcom has sent an exciting frisson across the politi-sphere.
But perhaps we could wait until his policies and candidates are unveiled before prophesising his likely effect on the polls? Rather than engage the apathetic, it is more plausible he will de-rail the campaign by (finally) unveiling evidence he claims to have that John Key lied.
Which brings us to the other political story of the summer: ACT, once again flailing around in search of a credible leader.
Lobbyist Matthew Hooten and ex-leader Rodney Hide had as much intention of running in Epsom as I did. With all the finesse of a Shortland Street script those two tried to keep the pundits guessing, before a hammed up announcement of their decision.
Last week former MP and party cash-cow John Boscawen belatedly joined the leadership race. ACT's demise has been much trumpeted, but Boscawen will not spook the Epsom voters.
He previously ran in the seat and has a track record of constructive relations with Key. Faced with doing deals with Craig or Winston Peters, Boscawen is the devil National knows. If selected as leader, he will keep ACT on life support. It's safe, but unambitious.
But he's been involved with the party for 17 years as a minister, MP, donor, president and strategist so some fresh blood would certainly rejuvenate the party.
But without a public profile Boscawen's rival Jamie Whyte is going to going to have to pray harder than a Colin Craig staff meeting for the party to return any more than one seat.
My prediction? Kingmaker and the year of the minority party will be the most over-used phrases of the election campaign.
- Sunday Star Times