Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

Labour ditches big campaign launch

Labour Party leader Phil Goff. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Labour Party leader Phil Goff. Photo / Mark Mitchell

The Labour Party has broken from tradition by deciding not to have an official campaign launch this year.

It will instead mark the start of its campaign in a low-key way - with a policy announcement on savings to media tomorrow in its own caucus room.

The decision not to have a launch event is unusual - the events are considered to provide valuable media and television coverage of a leader speaking to an audience of supporters in the lead up to the election.

The National Party will hold its event on Sunday in Auckland and is expected to focus on Prime Minister John Key.

By contrast, Mr Goff does not feature on any of the party billboards although he does front most of the television advertisements.

Campaign spokesman Grant Robertson said the party wanted to focus its campaign on the policy differences between the parties, rather than a popularity contest.

"We're trying to make clear we're doing things differently because we want to make sure New Zealanders are aware of the choice they've got. And the choice they've got is around policy and whether they keep their assets or they don't."

He denied it was an attempt to keep Mr Goff - who is struggling to poll well as preferred Prime Minister - out of the public eye. He said Mr Goff was in the television advertisements and would be in the leaders' debates.

"I think everybody can see John Key is an extremely popular Prime Minister. But we want New Zealanders to know they've got a clear choice here, and it's a clear choice about policies."

The lack of emphasis on Mr Goff in the campaign is in marked contrast to National's more presidential-style campaign and previous Labour campaigns under Helen Clark. It is a clear indication the party is aware that an attempt to fight the election by pitting Mr Goff against Mr Key would not work.

The party's television advertisements begin screening tonight.

The advertisements were created by the String Theory advertising agency, which was also responsible for the Speights' Southern Man and Kiwibank advertisements.

Labour's advertising team was put together by Mike Hutchison - who has previously worked on Mayor Len Brown's advertising and the Act Party.

The ads feature leader Phil Goff walking on the shore of Benmore Dam talking about asset sales, ending with "because when you're in a hole, you don't sell your ladder."

Labour has also developed several animated advertisements, including on asset sales which warn "Vote National and kiss your assets goodbye."

Mr Robertson also dismissed questions that deciding against a campaign launch was a cost-saving measure, saying the party was "comfortable."

He said the party would be focusing on its anti-asset sales messages and capital gains tax, as well as yet to be announced policies including on savings.

He said New Zealanders were aware that the country could not carry on as it was because of the global situation, so were open to different policy proposals, as the relatively broad acceptance of the capital gains tax had shown.

- NZ Herald

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