Remember the American bag man? The H-bomb? Labour has so far tried shock jock policy (raising the retirement age); taking the moral high ground in the policy debate (a capital gains tax), and gone back to tried and true policies with sweeteners in the form of generous welfare payments, union-friendly law changes and a rise in the minimum wage. But with the polls still showing Labour adrift at below 30 per cent, expect the campaign to turn personal in the final two weeks. Phil Goff has already signalled that is the direction Labour is headed by labelling Mr Key a liar over GST, attacking him over his Hawaiian holiday home, capitalising on his perceived weakness – which is to appear smug – and attacking his credibility.
Since Mr Key became National leader, Labour has also sought to get up various stories, including that Mr Key’s blind trust was a sham; questioning whether he made a false declaration in relation to his electoral address; seeking to link the Government’s BMW contract to National Party donations and a Parnell neighbour of Mr Key’s; and accusing him of mis-stating the number of TranzRail shares he owned.
Last, but not least, was the H-bomb in the 2008 campaign – Labour’s attempt to link Mr Key to a 1980s financial scandal, which exploded in its face after it emerged that it had mistaken someone else’s signature for Mr Key’s. So far this campaign, Mr Goff has tried to avoid a full-frontal personal attack, but the closer to the election we get, the more direct we can expect the attacks to be.
The burning question is whether Labour will follow past form and try to drop a bomb in the final week of the campaign. The advantage of doing it that close to the election date, of course, is you don’t have to prove it till after the polls have closed. The disadvantage is that voters punish negative campaigns.
And of course such proof will never eventuate.