It's now just over a week since I awoke with the pangs of what I suspect will turn out to be a four-year hangover. Labour was out; National was in.
The result had been obvious for months in advance – John Key would have had to eat a baby live on Close Up to endanger his chances of winning – but I couldn't bear to watch the election night coverage and found myself thinking enviously of Hiroo Onoda, the Japanese soldier who emerged from a remote island in the Philippines in 1974 with no idea that World War II was over.
Unfortunately, it proved impossible to remain oblivious to the results for long. Perhaps the strangest thing about those first few post-election days was how difficult it was to guess who would be utterly downcast and who would be belting down the champagne: the swing to the Right was so widespread that even previously diehard Labour supporters wanted a change.
As is the case with most journalists, I find it almost physically painful to express admiration for a politician. Like bestiality, it's wrong, unnatural and guaranteed to come back to bite you. But here goes: I doubt I'll ever live under a better prime minister than Helen Clark. For me, it has been a totally new experience to be represented by a leader I'm not appalled by.
Curiously, given the strength of feeling for change, there has been little specific criticism of Labour's accomplishments. These have included sustained economic growth, low unemployment, Working for Families, paid parental leave, regular increases in the minimum wage, Maori TV, interest-free student loans, a genuine – if belated – desire to take action on climate change, and a refusal to involve us in the seemingly never-ending horror of the Iraq war.
But what won me over most was Labour's commitment to social inclusion. The civil union bill, the legalisation of prostitution and the repeal of section 59 of the Crimes Act were among the initiatives Miss Clark must have known would do her no favours at the ballot box, yet she pressed ahead on the grounds that her government was elected to represent all New Zealanders, not just the most powerful.
In the process, she was subjected to a level of vitriol that, I suspect, far exceeds that endured by any of her predecessors. Much of it was unashamedly misogynistic: type "Helen Clark Bitch" into Google and you'll find 80,700 entries.
Just this week, a Southland farmer was jailed for sending Miss Clark a threatening letter calling her a "gutter moll" – which didn't prevent his lawyer from feeling able to describe him as being "of good character".
SHE certainly had her faults. She became increasingly autocratic, and misjudged the public mood when she championed a thoroughly discredited Winston Peters in the hope that NZ First could salvage victory for Labour.
But that was how she'd kept a stable government for nine years: by making unlikely allegiances, and by throwing flailing colleagues to the sharks (or, in the case of Mr Peters, allowing a shark to climb aboard and have a go behind the wheel).
Anyway, that era is over. And now, in Miss Clark's place, we have John Key. "I am just going to keep my happy, smiley self," he remarked a few days ago, which deepens my suspicion that we have elected Forrest Gump as our prime minister.
Irrespective of her opinions, Ms Boniface has broken the golden rule of journalism, and doesn't let the facts get in the way of a good opinion-piece. She confuses our electoral system with that of the US in her very first sentence, forgetting that New Zealand has a three-year electoral cycle. She refers to a "Southland farmer" when in fact the imprisoned agrarian was from Taranaki (and I suspect must now exercise as much caution as Jeremy Wells in visiting the deep south!), and reports that he was jailed for writing an abusive letter to the PM when in fact he went much further than that, causing major consternation at the Beehive. Sheesh, if expressing your thoughts about the PM was an imprisonable offence, there'd be a jail on every corner!
Here at Keeping Stock we don't agree with Ms Boniface's views on Labour's agenda on social engineering. And we find it a little partisan that in eulogising Helen Clark, Boniface has ignored the many "gates" that Helen Clark has passed through in the last nine years, some at breakneck speed! She ignores the fact that more Ministers have been fired by the Clark administration than any of its predecessors. And she ignores the fact that Helen Clark's last stand was to try and cling to power not on her record, but by smearing her opponent.