John Key is on Breakfast as I type this, and I'm impressed. OK, I freely admit that I am slightly biased, but it was an excellent performance from Key. I'll post the video later in the morning.
What impressed me most was his challenge to Helen Clark to condone or condemn the secret recordings which are now being leaked to the media. Referring to Clark's "hard hats" comment of a few weeks ago, Key said it's now clear what that means, and he has laid out a clear marker between the way National will approach the campaign and the approach he expects Labour to take. Using phrases like "a new low level of gutter politics" and "desperate to hold on for another term" Key has pledged that National will not resort to that level.
I reckon that is a winning strategy. I commented on another blog last night that it will only take another leaked conversation for the tide to turn against Labour. Why? Well, I reckon that Kiwis fundamentally have a sense of fair play. And we're not stupid. It's clear that these "leaks" were staged. I commented last night that in the English case, the "interviewer" kept turning back to Kiwibank until he got the answer he wanted. It was a set-up. I suspect the Smith transcript, when released, will show the same tactics.
Remember 2005? Scare tactics from Labour, demonising the EB? Labour managed to create a perception that the Nats weren't playing fair, and it was enough to tip the balance. But this year the boot is on the other foot. We now know that the EB dfid nothing illegal. The infamous anti-Green pamphlet has never been debunked as untrue. As The Who said, "We won't get fooled again".
Let Labour play dirty. All that will do is reinforce the perception that Clark, Cullen & co are power-crazed, arrogant and out of touch with the proverbial man-in-the-street, and that it is indeed time for a change.
UPDATE: Watch the Key interview here