As parliamentarians returned for the final session before the election, search and surveillance dominated minds and hearts.

The Government tried to shore up support for urgent legislation to legalise covert surveillance and Labour's David Cunliffe was in search of an explanation of Prime Minister John Key's comment on television that New Zealand might have to "muddle through" the economic problems afflicting the world.

Mr Key claimed what he had actually said was "we may just muddle through - 'we' being the world, not New Zealand".

Accused by Mr Cunliffe of gloating about the Rugby World Cup and big dairy payouts while staying quiet on his Government's economic record, Mr Key set out to prove he was not simply capitalising on the cup.

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He reeled off a list of National's "achievements" ending after a short time with "and by the way, we are on track to win the Rugby World Cup".

His MPs - and the students in the public gallery - went wild but Labour's Maryan Street was less impressed. She had undertaken some covert surveillance of her own and discovered the Prime Minister was, in fact, a clown.

In apparent disgust at the lack of gravitas, she could no longer hold back.

"You're the Prime Minister," she told him, voice dripping with scorn.

"Not a performing seal or a circus clown. You're the Prime Minister. What a clown!"

There were others there who met her description - poor old Act.

Soon after trying for an Emmy for Best Drama with his leadership coup and cleanout of the ranks, Don Brash followed it up with a bid for an Emmy for Best Comedy in his reincarnation as the thinking woman's Nandor.

Yesterday only the collateral damage of these epic events sat in Parliament - the five politicians formerly known as the Act caucus who - by dint variously of tantrums, good sense or force - now had little to deliver beyond valedictory speeches.

They made a woeful sight, united at last in their defeats.

Trevor Mallard had no pity - wondering when a minister might be asked for a view on "the Act Party's proposal to use Department of Conservation land for growing Don Brash's dope on, or something similar".

Even the Prime Minister - Act's partner in arms - could not resist.

When John Boscawen asked him a question, he battened down the temptation with a "better keep myself out of trouble".

The second time he could not quell it. Mr Boscawen - dogged to the very end - had asked when the Government would implement the 2025 Taskforce proposals to close the gap with Australia.

"About as soon as we look forward to decriminalising cannabis," Mr Key answered.

Besides, Mr Key had another idea for closing the gap earlier that same day - suggesting Australia's Prime Minister Julia Gillard should put a coal mine on the block for the traditional transtasman wager on the Warriors' NRL final.

As Labour's Sue Moroney pointed out, Mr Key may wish to rethink that wager lest the Warriors win and deprive National of its perennial excuse for the gap: Australia's mineral wealth.