New lows hit from the outset

TRACY WATKINS
Last updated 05:00 12/08/2014

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OPINION: You know we may be in for the ugliest election campaign ever when it starts with an effigy of the prime minister being burnt, claims of racism and nasty name-calling.

We had all three in less than 24 hours after the first big campaign launches at the weekend.

Winston Peters' "two wongs don't make a white" statement takes him back to familiar territory - he has banged the anti-Asian drum at more than one election.

But this had a nastier edge.

Recent displays of crowds chanting "f... John Key" and his effigy being burnt could either be put down to youthful hijinks or something more sinister. The prime minister is in no doubt which interpretation he puts on it.

But the ugly rant by Labour candidate Steve Gibson was the worst possible side of politics and took the debate to a fresh low.

Among other things he called Key a "shonky jonkey Shylock", an anti-semitic term.

Gibson apologised yesterday but the damage had been done.

It appears to herald the start of a campaign where the focus will be personal.

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