This week the New Zealand national election kicked off in fine style with the Leader's Debate.
The difficulty that Phil Goff and Labour have is significant.
Goff leads a party that ruled for over nine years.
The voters became tired of them.
Furthermore the National Government, under John Key, has been saved from any serious competition and scrutiny by a number of calamities.
When we lose 29 miners or a major city is destroyed by earthquakes or the global financial problem occurs, the population, regardless of voting record, rallies behind the leader of the nation and supports him.
As a consequence, the Prime Minister has never been seriously tested or exposed to scrutiny.
The first time we have seen him under constant crossfire was on Monday, when Phil Goff was constantly aggressive in the leader's debate.
When you are polling as poorly as Goff as preferred Prime Minister as well as party leader, there is only strategy left – attack.
Labour has been bold in declaring black-and-white policies on capital gains tax, a rise in pension elegibility age and an absolute and total opposition to asset sales.
In this sense, Labour is leading the political debate but ultimately losing the political war.
There are only three weeks left of this campaign and I do not know how Labour and Goff can regain any momentum. While Goff started strongly, the Key line of "show me the money" resonated deeply.
The voters' minds and memories are short. They will not remember that Labour in government had significant surpluses and paid down our national debt, leaving a very strong financial position for the incoming Government.
As the week ends, and Labour Party stalwarts review their week, they know that the challenge is growing stronger and they are up against a National Party that does not need to be specific or coherent on many things, because it just keeps crunching along ahead in the polls.
Team Labour must now man up, and even though they are a bit battered, they are going to have to double their efforts in every seat to contest the election. The minor parties are not making inroads anywhere. The Green Party is a major beneficiary of the fall in Labour's luck and they have a very real opportunity of cementing their place as a large, consistent third-party player.
- Sunday News