Leaders energised by breaks

VERNON SMALL
Last updated 17:43 22/07/2014

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OPINION: Whether it was 10 days basking in Hawaii or three days shivering in Central Otago, John Key and David Cunliffe have been energised by their respective school-holiday breaks.

Both men were back in the House today.

The prime minister was brave enough to offer Winston Peters the extraordinary chance to "put your warm little hand in mine" and go talk commonsense policies together.

Key was referring to the NZ First leader's election slogan, but it was also a not-so-subtle offer to talk turkey after the election.

Labour leader Cunliffe was no less chipper when it came to his one-on-one clash with Key.

He had earlier admitted to reporters that his three-day family holiday was longer than he would have chosen had he known how bad the polls were looking.

But at least he was on message with his own edict to concentrate on Labour's core policies – jobs, homes and families; his primary question was about unemployment in the provinces.

Key got the better of the jibes, though most sounded over-rehearsed, including a chestnut about Cunliffe talking about more crises than he had MPs who backed him in caucus.

Key struggled, too, glossing over a 30 per cent fall in dairy prices by saying dairy was "off a little bit".

But he was in full swing trying to finger candidates in Northland and Napier for talking to the Sunday Star-Times.

This was a reminder to Cunliffe of an anonymous "insider's" attack on Cunliffe's holiday and work ethic.

Cunliffe was combative, painting Key as the clown for his one-liners and asking for social media tips on how to fix regional economic problems rather than addressing the real issues.

It was hardly a king-hit by Cunliffe but it was not a bad performance – but a performance all the same – by someone staring a huge defeat in the face and needing to rally his MPs' battered morale.


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