The best and the rest: Stuff's 2018 political awards

2018-12-27 20:18:12

OPINION: It's that time again when we hand out our brickbats and bouquets to mark the end of the political year – and what a year it's been. From the date Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced her pregnancy in January, to the change of leadership in National and the bizarre Jami-Lee Ross saga, it has been far from business as usual.

But, despite all the crazy twists and turns, some people still managed to stand out.

So here are our awards for the best and worst of 2018.

Quote of the Year: This goes to National leader Simon Bridges, whose most memorable line as leader so far has been the simple sentence about his own MP, "Maureen Pugh is f.....g useless," which was secretly taped and then released by Jami-Lee Ross.

The living nightmare award for biggest brain fade: Labour MP Clare Curran, for her Question Time meltdown before falling on her sword after one too many controversies in her ministerial portfolios.

Curran had everyone scratching their heads with this answer: "To the best of my recollection, um, ah, ah, I haven't, um, I haven't used my, um I've answered um OIA, ah, ah, OIA responses and personal, um and parliamentary questions correctly and to the best of my recollection, um, ah, you know, that, that has, that's what I've done."

The Bounced Czech award: Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway, who declined to deport Czech criminal Karel Sroubek then did a rapid U-turn when the decision blew up in his face.

The Love, Actually award: National MP Hamish Walker, who is getting married in January to his Tinder girlfriend Penny, and his fellow MP Chris Bishop, who marries long-time love Jenna Raeburn, also in January.

Freudian slip award: To National leader Simon Bridges, for mistakenly referring to his deputy as "Paula Benefit" at a stand-up.

The Tsar Bomba award for opposition politicking: To National MP Judith Collins, who continues to earn her nickname Crusher. Runner ups: Melissa Lee, Chris Bishop, Paul Goldsmith.

The Fanta award: National's finance spokeswoman Amy Adams,  for so far being a fizzer in the finance role. It's taken the fun out of Question Time, that's for sure, with the exchanges between Adams and Finance MInister Grant Robertson some of the most boring out there.

The Best Shakespearean dramatist award: Jami-Lee Ross, the Brutus of the National caucus. The former numbers man for National leader Simon Bridges turned rogue after missing out on the plum jobs he demanded as repayment. Ross' acts of betrayal included embarrassing Bridges with leaked documents, secret recordings, allegations of electoral fraud and dishing the dirt on his former colleagues – ultimately leading to his expulsion from caucus.

The incognito award for the least visible Cabinet minister: Jenny Salesa, who should have a lot to do with her building and construction portfolio, but mostly just puts out meaningless press releases. At one of her big press conferences this year her remarks were so rambly that barely any outlets directly quoted her.

The safe pair of hands award: To David Parker, who has navigated a foreign buyers ban, a TPP signing, and the beginnings of a freshwater plan with little to no drama. Runners-up: Kris Faafoi, who will be in Cabinet before long, and National MP Brett Hudson, who technically asked the question that caused Clare Curran to be fired from Cabinet.

The chameleon awards for the MPs who should probably be in another party: Joint winners here to two MPs who could happily swap places –Nikki Kaye in National and Stuart Nash in Labour. Kaye has long been known as one of National's most liberal MPs, as could be evidenced by her decision to almost vote for Chloe Swarbrick's medicinal marijuana bill this year, a decision that angered many of her colleagues. Nash, despite his literal Labour lineage (his great-grandfather was Labour PM Sir Walter Nash), is great mates with several National MPs and happily dons the law and order banner as police minister when needed.

The Sean Plunket award for worst tweet of the year: ACT leader David Seymour, for this tweet above a grinning selfie: "Took the bus to work today but didn't see any ⁦@NZGreens⁩ MPs on board!," The Green MPs immediately hit back by pointing out they had already been at work for hours.

The WhaleOil award for online trolling: Judith Collins wins this one for her attempt to castigate Jacinda Ardern for not condemning something that wasn't really happening in France, using a fake news article.

The "not my idea" award for quick political distancing: Leader of the House Chris Hipkins, who took about two hours to completely reject a detailed report from a respected committee looking into whether MPs had enough funding and support. The report found that MPs deserved some more funding, particularly smaller parties, and the right wing blogosphere began to pounce - but just before things really got going Hipkins put out a statement saying the Government had absolutely no interest in giving MPs any more money whatsoever.

Best burn of the year: NZ First leader Winston Peters, who mocked National leader Simon Bridges by playing journalists the song Burning Bridges on his phone throughout a whole media standup on the infamous Jami-Lee Ross day, before a simple "thank-you-very-much".

The red carpet award: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who continues to make a splash on the international stage in her first year on the job.

The Malcolm Tucker award for office management: Former minister Meka Whaitiri, who is alleged to have shoved a new staffer out of a room after screaming abuse at her because she missed a chance to stand behind Jacinda Ardern at a press conference. Whatiri denies this – but it still saw her fired by the prime minister.

The comeback kid of the year award: Goes to Andrew Little, twice. Little was widely panned as opposition leader before regaining a lot of mana as a new justice minister. Then he got too far ahead of Cabinet and announced the end of the three strikes law, leading to Winston Peters utterly humiliating him in full national view. But, just like he did before, Little put his head down and is now once again one of the most respected ministers in Cabinet.

The Regina George award for political malice: Outgoing National MP Chris Finlayson, who did not mention or thank Simon Bridges once during the "inevitable lecture" of his valedictory speech. Instead he thanked Winston Peters for not picking National in 2017, criticised offshore funding of political parties, and told Parliament: "If anyone needs a lawyer in the future, don't bother me".

The Pandora's Box award: National deputy leader Paula Bennett, who really let the demons out when she talked about Jami-Lee Ross engaging in "inappropriate behaviour for a married MP".  Suffice to say, he would not be the first MP to have an affair.

Walking the Talk award: Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter, who's so Green she cycled to hospital to have her baby.

Identical twin award: Dan Bidois and Simeon Brown.  Actually, has anyone ever seen these two MPs in the same room together?

The Show Me The Money award: Regional Development Minister Shane Jones, who's been spraying the cash in provincial New Zealand like there is no tomorrow.

The Zero to Hero award: Finance Minister Grant Robertson, who seems to have finally turned plummeting business confidence around after his focus on the Budget surplus and a year-long charm offensive talking to business groups.

Rookie on the rise: Green MP Chlöe Swarbrick. She's already being touted as a future Green Party leader, despite the fact she is half the age of the current ones. Her work on mental health and drug policy has shown exactly how a first-term MP can make a name for themselves.

Backbenchers of the year: Chris Bishop and Nicola Willis. This dynamic duo are working it in Opposition, although Bishop would probably be on the front bench if he hadn't publicly supported Amy Adams in the leadership race. It helps that these Wellingtonians both have years of political experience under their belts from before Parliament. Is this National's future leader and finance spokesman in the making?

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