The choice this Saturday is between a continuity of the Clark-Key-English pale pink governments or to elect our first red-green government. James Shaw says a Labour-Green government will be the most "progressive" in our history.

Bill English and Jacinda Ardern are two of the nicest MPs in Parliament. Bill has given some of Parliament's most thoughtful speeches. Deep thought is not Jacinda's strong point.

Bill's strength is his experience. Bill's weakness is he is so cautious. He takes forever to walk the talk.

Jacinda's weakness is her inexperience. Her strength is she is a natural on TV.

Read more:
The verdicts on the final Bill English vs Jacinda Ardern leaders' debate

Campaigns let us judge how our leaders will perform under pressure. Bill has run a mistake-free campaign but he took too long to attack Labour's tax policy. Jacinda's has wowed the media. Her mistakes have been her captain's calls on tax. One is too cautious the other too bold.

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All the pollsters agree the split in New Zealand is old versus young. If you are 40 or older you know 37 is too young to be Prime Minister.

Without universal land lines accurate polling has become very difficult. The reality is anything from a Labour-Green triumph to a re- election of the present National-Act-Maori government is possible.

The New Zealand public does not like its politicians helping themselves. Winston Peters' superannuation problem hurt New Zealand First. James Shaw's handling of Metiria Turei's welfare fraud has hurt the Greens.

Labour believes an increased turn out in South and West Auckland will give them victory but the Jacinda effect has not translated into extra youth enrolment.

This is MMP. If the election is close it will be decided by a very small number of strategic voters.

Last election it took 120,807 party votes to elect a Labour list MP and just 31,850 party votes to elect the Maori Party's list MP. The reason it takes Labour and National more party votes to elect a list MP is because their electorates are deducted from their party's list MP entitlement.

The minor parties are hard to poll. There are polls that indicate the Maori Party will get 2.8 per cent, 60,000 party votes, enough for four MPs, one electorate and three list. Could be crucial.

The same maths applies for the Act Party, which also has an electorate MP. The latest Horizon Poll predicts Act will win 30,000 party votes and so have two MPs. The polling margin of error means Act too may get 60,000 party votes, which is four MPs.

We have been told that the election "is a drag race between Labour and National". Not true. It is going to be the party vote for Greens, Maori, Act and New Zealand First that will decide the government.

The major party with the most supporters who vote strategically will form the government. Bill's "two ticks for National" is the world's shortest suicide note.

Before splitting your vote check out the Taxpayers' Union "Bribe-O-Meter". Its economists say National has promised over the next three years $8.3 billion in new spending, Labour $23.02 billion and the Greens $14.91 billion. Neither the Greens nor Labour in their "carefully costed fiscal plans" have allowed anything for each other's promises.

Only Act is promising to reduce the size of government.

Labour's attacks on farmers may be making Northland feel it is safer to vote National. A rattled Winston Peters has been issuing increasingly over-the-top promises to his electorate. New Zealand First's spending promises are now $27.5 billion.

Total government spending each year is $77 billion. For a party to promise S27.5b of new spending and much of it for one electorate is nuts.

Frightening as the Taxpayers' Union figures are, their meter does not include Labour's biggest promise. It is buried in the party's workplace relations policy: "Ensure all workers in the core public service are paid at least the Living Wage".

It sounds reasonable. Labour says it will only affect a few "cleaners, catering staff and security guards". Some will get 20 per cent pay rises. The trade unions will immediately claim to restore their supervisors' relativity, hard to deny. Then their supervisors will ask for their relativity to be reinstated. Relativity claims will sweep across the whole public service.

This little promise will result in three years of industrial unrest. Labour will find its extra spending for health and education has all gone on wage increases. Only a 37-year-old with no government experience would put that promise into an election manifesto.

• Richard Prebble is a former leader of Act.