'Cyclone' Brendan blew tips out of the water

Last updated 05:00 31/12/2012
Parliament 2013
MURRAY WEBB

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Jobs and education pledges well received Big tick for democracy Campaign Diary: Wednesday, Sept 17 Dunne gets the nod from National's candidate Spy scandal impact on election far from certain Changing demography affects voting Backlash now going in Key's favour? 1080 battle is personal, political No probe yet over Dotcom email Flat Race 2014: Cunliffe or Key, or someone else?

A Labour leadership challenger has been sent packing to the back bench, a minor party leader has been caught rowing upstream in his cabbage boat, and the memory of the "Teflon" prime minister fades like the details in a GCSB briefing.

But as the political year winds up, our press gallery reporters who wrote the big stories of 2012 face their own day of reckoning. Each year they fail to learn from history and attempt to second-guess the pratfalls, victories and villains of the year ahead. Here is a look back on their top 20 tips for 2012 to see how they went - all independently audited by a scrutineer hand-picked by our pundits themselves.

1. Speaker Lockwood Smith will be our next High Commissioner to London and will be replaced as Speaker by Primary Industries Minister David Carter.

We are still awaiting the final confirmation on Dr Smith's replacement, who will be voted in at the end of January. But Prime Minister John Key has hinted firmly that he wants to see Mr Carter under the wig in 2013. So half a mark off for getting ahead of ourselves. 9.5/10

2. Labour will be comfortably over 30 per cent in the final polls of the year and David Shearer will be well-ensconced as leader.

Yes. The final three polls of 2012 all had Labour at around 35 per cent. Mr Shearer won the unanimous backing of his caucus, and he looks set to repeat that in February. Mind you, we are glad the marking didn't happen a couple of months earlier. 10/10

3. Former forecaster Brendan Horan will prove to be NZ First's own weather bomb.

Soothsaying at its very best. The embarrassing allegations about his use of his dying mother's money, and his expulsion from NZ First speak for themselves. He was the party's weakest link, goodbye. We thought it was worth a good 10/10 but the auditor gave a generous 12.5/10 noting it was "luck bordering on genius".

4. Parekura Horomia will not leave Parliament. A fate-tempting one this, after our previous failures picking the end of the Ikaroa-Rawhiti MP's career and a similar track record with Jim Anderton. (It was only when we stopped picking he would leave that he felt free to go).

The big guy is still around and helping lead a resurgence for Labour among Maori voters as the Maori Party's star fades. 10/10

5. A minister will be forced to resign over an employment issue or an ethical lapse.

This one was based on scuttlebutt from the heart of Cabinet - no names thanks - but Nick Smith fitted the bill as he was forced out over the letter he wrote to ACC as minister about his friend Bronwyn Pullar. 10/10

6. Continued economic problems in Europe spill over into Asia, forcing the Treasury to cut its forecasts, scotching hopes of a return to surplus by 2014-15.

Evidence is mounting the world economy's "interconnectedness" means previous assumptions that China and Asia could ride out woes in Europe were plain wrong. Growth forecasts have been wound back, but the Government is clinging to hopes of a surplus - a mere $66 million at this stage. But it was only a blatant "Gerry-mander" by Transport Minister Brownlee, who grabbed a lazy $300m from motorists, that saved the 2014/15 surplus forecast. 8/10 and the Cabinet is disqualified for cheating.

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7. NZ First will be under 5 per cent in the polls at the end of the year. And probably at the start.

Yep, the party is back under 5 per cent in the year-end polls. Not that it should be seen as any indication of how it will perform in 2014. Winston Peters is always good for a poll surge during the campaign. 10/10

8. Labour will signal key elements of its tax reforms are for the scrap heap, starting with the $5000 tax-free band.

David Shearer signalled early in the year that the tax-free band will go, because at $1.3b it is too expensive. The promise to take GST off fresh fruit and vegetables is also on the skids, but a formal change to it and other tax policies await final sign-off by the party. 10/10

9. The Greens' election score of 11 per cent will be its high point, and the party will not better it in polls during 2012.

Wrong, as in wrong on both counts. The party has bounced around in double figures most of the year but ends it comfortably in the 12-13 per cent range. 0/10

10. John Key will sign a free trade deal with Russia, but not before the Apec meeting at Vladivostok.

True, it did not happen before the Apec meeting but it now looks likely to be delayed until next September (if at all) as the Russians drag their feet. A generous 2/10 by the auditor.

11. National's Alfred Ngaro, the Greens' Eugenie Sage and Labour's David Clark will be the surprise performers among the 2011 backbench intake.

Mr Clark has shone and Ms Sage has been better than average, though hardly a star. But since his excellent maiden speech Alfred Ngaro has hidden any light he has to shed under a bushel. 3/10

12. ACT will choose a new leader, and it won't be its sole MP, John Banks.

Well we did try to help, but sometimes a political party can be its own worst enemy. "Would have been better for ACT if we had been right," they said tetchily. 0/10

13. Whatever the state of the sharemarket, and however much the Opposition protests, the partial sale of Mighty River Power will go ahead, raising about $1.8 billion net.

A prediction that has been put on ice by the Maori water claim. It will be appealed to the Supreme Court in a few weeks, with every indication the Government will win and the sale will be back on track. But the truly prescient would have seen the Maori court challenge coming. 2/10

14. The Maori Party will have a change of leader - and with two co-leaders in a three-person caucus there are not too many options.

Tariana Turia has swung in the wind on this one, and is currently promising to go - though not until 2014. Again timing is almost everything - and we clearly implied the change would be to Pita Sharples. 0/10 (The auditor offered 2/10 but we do have some shame.)

15. In a return to form, Winston Peters will reveal a scandal in a government department and drip-feed information in the House over several weeks. Deja vu all over again.

We are embarrassed to take the points, almost. Whanau Ora is the gift that will keep giving for NZ First. 10/10

16. Despite current predictions, the rebuild of central Christchurch will not be in full swing by year's end, prompting the Treasury to delay any significant impact on economic growth from the construction work.

As predicted, the rebuild is still to take off but Treasury has taken a "jam tomorrow" approach and remains upbeat about the rebuild's impact on economic growth - while acknowledging the scale and timing remain uncertain. 8.5/10

17. NZ First will pick former North Shore Mayor Andrew Williams as its deputy leader.

Winston Peters is still teasing that an announcement will be made "soon" but after a year we are still waiting so . . . 0/10

18. 2012 will be a by-election-free year. That's a hope as much as a prediction.

Our wish is their command. 10/10

19. John Key will visit Europe during the London Olympics.

What a lucky coincidence. The Great Traveller chose his trip to coincide with the Queen's Jubilee instead. But there are no second prizes in politics, especially when predictions are accompanied by sarcasm. 1/10 and lucky to get that.

20. The Maori Party will beat last year's record and go through more than three press secretaries.

It was probably more, but we lost count. 10/10

So it's a respectable 126.5/200 - just 1.5 points less than the 128 we scored in both 2011 and 2010 . . . though for that we can only thank Brendan "Cyclone" Horan and the strangely generous maths of our auditor. (The pinot is in the mail.)

- The Dominion Post

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