With six weeks until polling day, leaders have abandoned all promises of no gotcha politics. Desperate times call for desperate tactics - and last week we saw six of the best.
OPINION: GETTING PERSONAL
Kim Dotcom has certainly been called worse than "sugar daddy". Like "Nazi", which was also cynically hurled at him by National supporters last week. Prime Minister John Key sparked the row with the Mega-donor, but also copped a fair share of abuse. Adopting his own interpretation of Labour's "sledge pledge", Te Tai Tokerau candidate Kelvin Davis branded the Mega-donor a "con job".
Laila Harre argued Key's "sugar daddy" remark was sexist. But her affront was rendered ridiculous when a video surfaced of Dotcom inciting a crowd to chat "f... John Key". Returning fire, cyber-Nats (bloggers Cameron Slater, David Farrar and Matthew Hooton) ensured the footage was widely circulated. Meanwhile, Colin Craig - the man with the thinnest skin in New Zealand politics - won a court case against TV3 for leaving him out of a live debate. What it cost him in legal fees, he'll gain in media exposure.
David Cunliffe's high point last week was stealing lines from the minor parties. He jumped on the anti-foreign investment band-wagon with NZ First and the Conservatives, promising to block the $70 million sale of Lochinver station to a Chinese firm. On the surface, the move was a headline-grabbing populist stunt but is unlikely to translate into more votes for the Left. It will, however, motivate National's supporters. As a senior cabinet minister confided, Cunliffe is National's second-biggest asset. After Kim Dotcom.
MAKING STUFF UP
With everyone working themselves into a lather about Lochinver, truth was the first victim. Key was keen to downplay the debate, and claimed the amount of rural land owned by foreigners was between 1 and 2 per cent. However, the Overseas Investment Office admitted it didn't really know and said its advice to Key was "fairly crude". There were also (unsubstantiated) claims Labour stitched up electorate deals with Internet-Mana in Te Tai Tokerau and Waiariki. To put out that fire, Cunliffe announced there would be no Internet-Mana in his Government. Neat but sneaky. He's not ruling out a confidence-and-supply arrangement, as the Maori Party has with National. Meanwhile, journalists were left stunned when Winston Peters turned out to be half-right about the sale of Wheturau Station, near Gisborne. Agents confirmed an agreement with an overseas buyer.
ATTACKING THE MEDIA
Jamie Whyte dusted off ACT's press-release factory. However, the philosopher-turned-politician hasn't yet grasped that the media will always favour provocative statements over nuanced argument. He penned an entire missive on one journalist's "biased reporting". Curiously, no-one thought it news-worthy enough to report.
Crime might be at a 35-year-low, but it wouldn't be an election without a solid law-and-order crackdown. Duly, Police Minister Anne Tolley unveiled a suite of measures to target gang crime.