Tracy Watkins: Situation normal

Tracy shares her “campaign diary”:


Sometimes you just have to throw the script away. John Key surprises us at the Press leaders debate by striding onto the stage unannounced.

Press editor Joanna Norris had planned to bring him and Labour leader David Cunliffe on separately after some words of introduction. Outside, Cunliffe must have wondered what on earth just happened when a huge cheer erupted before any of the introductions were given.

A peek backstage beforehand painted a picture of two very different campaigns. In an empty classroom 10 minutes before the debate Key was alone, and pacing the room, his hands held together in front of him. Even his long-time adviser, Paula Oliver, had left the room.

As he left, Key scrawled a thank you note to St Margaret College students for letting him usetheir classroom.

Up one floor, Cunliffe was crowded into a room with a team of four or five advisers including press secretary Simon Cunliffe and strategist Rob Salmond.

One of the team was spotted earlier at the Mecca Cosmetica counter at Ballentynes seeking advice about stage make-up for Cunliffe.

Key has ex-TV3 reporter Sia Aston with him so has that one covered. The debate is fast, rowdy and fun.


Cunliffe does a media standup in Christchurch and explains how the prime minister managed to wrong foot him during the Press debate.

Key claimed that under Labour’s capital gains tax policy family homes held in trust would be hit.. Key was wrong but Cunliffe failed to correct him. Cunliffe says that’s because he needed to check his facts. Didn’t he write the policy?

Yes but he still wanted to check. Cunliffe tries to change the subject by calling Key “Mr Nasty” and promising a Commission of Inquiry into dirty politics if he is prime minister. He then digs himself a new hole by suggesting the kids might have to pay capital gains tax if they inherit the family home when mum and dad pass away.

Talkback radio goes mad. His finance spokesman David Parker tries to explain Cunliffe’s got that wrong. Meanwhile, social media is going feral about Key’s note to St Margaret’s pupils – he had an apostrophe in the wrong place.

If there was ever a clearer contrast:   Social media, a leftie infested cesspit at the best of times, has become all but intolerable.  And they focus on John Key’s spelling.   Think about it.  That’s the worst they can come up with.

In the mean time, in the real world, people are quite upset to discover that David Cunliffe and his merry men are coming to put Death Duty on mum and dad’s estate.    


Cunliffe is back in Christchurch and the subject is still tax, tax, tax. Key is in Hamilton and the subject is tax, tax, tax. Key raises lots of questions. Tells reporters: “I can’t answer those questions. It’s not my stupid policy.” This is presumably what National meant when it told media to move on from dirty politics and start focusing on “the high level policy debate”. The next level up must be Cunliffe and Key calling each other dumb.

Footnote for the day: Cameron Slater takes out an injunction against media publishing his hacked emails.


Black Friday for Labour supporters. Two polls out and the news is all bad. The poll has National on 54.2 and Labour on 24.3. The Greens are on 12.9 so that’s not enough for the left block to cross the line. The Herald Digipoll has Labour on 23.8 and National on 50.1. What do you do if you’re David Cunliffe? There are no easy answers. After three weeks of madness the voters are unmoved, the polls haven’t budged and nothing has changed.

Situation normal.

It is actually quite amusing to watch Labour and the left in general so confused as to why their extensive campaign around “Vote Positive” (but campaign negative) hasn’t worked.

They continue to suffer the same problem:  They see the world the way they want to see it instead of being honest and looking at what is really going on.

They did this with Key for the first two elections.  Nope, Labour’s loss wasn’t an internal fault, and as soon as the public “woke up” to how fake John Key truly was, all would be well again.   No need to get rid of dead wood.  No need to get rid of failures inside the party.  No need to navel gaze and figure out what could be done better – John Key was going to do all the hard work for them.

And now?

Dirty Politics premise was that the reason John Key is so “perfect” is because he somehow carefully stage managed me into doing all the dirty jobs for him.   Six years of emails, and they have found two issues that they want to have a closer look at.  Two issues over six years.  Either I’m really, really that good, or perhaps, you know, could it be… I don’t actually work for the National Party?

Still they go for the “John Key bad” attack when the majority of the population simply doesn’t agree.  Worse, they can’t even see what Labour is banging on about.

Another election wasted on trying to win it by making John Key look bad.  That’s three in a row now.

Do you think they’ll finally look inward and sort their own problems out?

No.  I doubt it myself.

Situation  normal.

Do you want:

  • Ad-free access?
  • Access to our very popular daily crossword?
  • Access to daily sudoku?
  • Access to Incite Politics magazine articles?
  • Access to podcasts?
  • Access to political polls?

Our subscribers’ financial support is the reason why we have been able to offer our latest service; Audio blogs. 

Click Here  to support us and watch the number of services grow.