Is this the election everyone lost?

John Key didn't get an outright majority and has to deal with three other parties to be safe. Labour lost massively and now has to find a new leader and a new direction.

The Greens can cheer having more MPs, and may well be the new urban cool, now that the radicals, the recyclers of human waste, and the morris dancers have gone. But they are still well away from power, and would need to swallow some very big rats indeed to work with National.

The challenge for the Greens will be to maintain their vote if and when Labour starts to revive itself. They should not kid themselves that all of their vote is green; some of it is Labour having a short break elsewhere, because their usual political home is uninhabitable at the moment.

The Maori Party is down from five to three seats and now has to get its third MP Te Ururoa Flavell a ministerial job if he is to have any credibility when the current two ageing leaders retire sometime in the next three years.

Besides they are beset by Labour on one side and Mana on the other with Winston hanging around to make mischief.

Mana wanted more MPs but didn't get them leaving Hone a lone voice in parliament, but with more tricks than a circus dog to attract attention over the next three years.

Peter Dunne makes it again, but that's all there is in United. Like Banks he's there because it suits National to have him there, particularly as the alternative in Ohariu is Labour. Besides he's a whole lot nicer than Banks.

ACT used to be a liberal party but now has a hard right conservative as its sole representative. John Banks is not even sworn in, and he's already talking to the other right wing reactionary group - the Conservative Party - about working together.

And of course, there's Winston, about whose comeback much has been said. It is hard to see him as a constructive force. For a start he'll maneuver to be seen as the real leader of the opposition whoever the new Labour leader is. He'll want to turn Parliament's debating chamber into his own continuing soap opera. Parliament will likely descend to new depths of playground antics.

Besides there are some serious policy matters National wants to advance: partial asset sales and welfare reform are just two. They will be contentious and divisive whatever mandate might be claimed.

There are two other losses: one is the voice of economic rationality: ACT with Brash might have provided a critique of National's economic policy. ACT with Banks will not, because he cannot foot it intellectually, and because accepting a ministerial job will necessarily mute any criticism.

The second loss is that a deeply divided and rudderless Labour Party disconnected from its traditional socially conservative working class base will be weak. Weak oppositions make for bad government, and then we are all the losers.