Let the campaign for power begin

With the election date announcement, the prime minister has unleashed the rush for political power

Last updated 23:00 12/09/2008

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The race for the Beehive officially leapt into action yesterday as Prime Minister Helen Clark caught the country on the hop, announcing a November 8 general election.

And as Parliament's MPs ready themselves to do battle over the next eight weeks, the jostling had already begun in Hamilton last night.

Labour list MP Sue Moroney, a Hamilton East candidate, launched her campaign as much with words as with pictures.

"It's game on now," Ms Moroney told the Waikato Times. "Up until now people have been thinking about their options but they haven't made up their minds. Now that we've got an election date I think people's views will start to firm up."

The Labour junior whip was to launch her campaign at the Frankton markets this morning with Waikato's other Labour MPs Hamilton West's Martin Gallagher, Hauraki-Waikato's Nanaia Mahuta and Taupo's Mark Burton.

But Ms Moroney is likely to face the toughest battle of her career, against National MP for Hamilton East David Bennett. Mr Bennett, who already has one term under his belt, was last night putting up hoardings around the city.

"We've got a few things we want to see happen in the electorate and we're going to put up a tough campaign," he promised.

In Hamilton West a neck-and-neck battle emerged between current MP Mr Gallagher and National candidate Tim Macindoe, with a recent Waikato Times-Versus Research poll showing Mr Macindoe leading the Labour incumbent MP 37 per cent to 35 per cent.

Last night Labour revealed their Waikato electorate candidate as Jacinda Ardern, the 28-year-old former Morrinsville woman who shot to number 20 on the party list recently.

Miss Arden will go up against National stalwart and current Waikato MP Lindsay Tisch.

The prime minister's announcement made it clear Labour will base its fight for a record fourth term on trust and the promise of new social policies. In a repeat of Labour's 2005 campaign slogan, Miss Clark said National could not be trusted with the reins of power and would undo the social and economic progress made over the past nine years.

Parliament will be dissolved on October 3, with electoral rolls closing on October 8 and the election campaign proper probably launching on October 12.

National Party leader John Key said National planned to run a forward-looking, positive campaign that would not dwell on scandals or sideshows.

While Mr Key again ruled out dealing with New Zealand First leader Winston Peters after the election, Miss Clark would not.

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She ruled out National and Act but said Labour could work with any other party.

Mr Peters said he welcomed the election date announcement, and he was "ready to fight the length and breadth of the country".

Green Party co-leaders Jeanette Fitzsimons and Russel Norman said they hoped the election campaign would be based on policy, not personal attacks.

Act leader Rodney Hide said the election could not come quickly enough.  

- © Fairfax NZ News

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