How cool would it be if you could say that 'the Prime Minister of New Zealand put a sausage on my piece of bread'? That was the rhetorical question asked by the man running the Christian Parachute festival John Key visited in the weekend - see Elton Smallman's Key preaches to the converted at festival.
But not all were impressed with Key's electioneering at the festival and that's not the place that the PM showed up in the weekend - see Lucy Townend's Prime minister calls into Feilding childcare centre.
Baby kissing, BBQs, and bugger tweets
On top of politician walkabouts and workplace visits, we're also seeing some heavy duty 'state of the nation' speeches aimed at grabbing our attention and setting the political agenda for this year's campaign. For the best analysis of these, see Tracy Watkins' column, Hectic start to political year. In a 'pocketbook guide to election campaigns' Watkins forecasts 'five things to watch out for': pork barrel promises, stunts, politician paranoia, scandal, and shopping malls.
And for a brief history of the political significance of wielding 'the barbecue tongs for the cameras' see Steve Kilgallon's PM snags votes at Parachute music festival.
Voters will also be pursued in cyberspace. And we will soon be able to follow the comprehensive cataloging of these cyberwars via Frank Feinstein, a Christchurch computer programmer who is measuring the online activity of politicians - see Anna Pearson's Greens star on social media. The article details the 'digital footprints' of MPs in social media, with a list of the most interactive MPs and parties on Twitter, as well as a list (and links) to the 'Top tweets' of the last year. John Key heads the list, with his 'Bugger' tweet, which was re-tweeted 1,514 times.
The online iPredict website is also going to be useful for following political potentialities. For a very good explanation of how the website works and its significance, see Tim Hunter's Forecasters cashing in on predictions. And for the latest analysis of iPredict forecasts, see Key's re-election chances improve, inflation surprisewon't sway RBNZ - iPredict.
The ability of politicians to use public meetings to electioneer has also been brought into question this year, and there will be some increased attention paid to whether parties are breaking the electoral rules when they launch policies with a celebration. That's the message from Gordon Campbell in his column Dotcom party ruling sets precedent. With the Electoral Commission influencing Kim Dotcom to cancel the launch of his Internet Party with a huge function, Campbell says 'every political party and candidate will surely now have to comply with the standard that has been set by the Electoral Commission. In that case, it is hard to see how the Greens' annual "Picnic For The Planet" differs from the Dotcom "Party Party" bash - it, too, could be construed as encouraging its attendees to look more favourably upon the Green Party'. And with this in mind, Cameron Slater asks: Are the Greens treating too?.
Inequality and education
The Greens' weekend picnic went ahead nonetheless, after the party checked with the Electoral Commission and believed that it would be within the law. The major announcement was about education and inequality - see Michael Fox's Greens unveil school hub plan. So far the response on the right has taken two diverse routes - to either say the Greens' school plan 'nothing new' or ridicule it as being extreme - see David Farrar's Why not free dinners also? and The stupidity of free school lunches in every decile 1 to 4 school.
There should be no doubt that issues of inequality are firmly on the electioneering agenda. This is nicely conveyed by Tracy Watkins in her column, Rich and poor in election focus. The fights are not just about which parties can deal most effectively with the problem, but also about the extent of the problem. There is now a battle of interpretation going on, with various players attempting to 'fisk' or correct their opponents. For instance, following David Farrar strong claims in his blogpost Educational Reaction, Anthony Robins of The Standard has replied with Socioecomonic status and educational outcomes (and the ignorance of DPF). Also on The Standard, see: Less (inequality) is more.....
Also being disputed online is Rob Salmond's The truth about the gap between the rich and the rest. In reply see David Farrar's Some fisking and Matt Nolan's Truth is a strong word when discussing inequality .... See also Lindsay Mitchell's In anticipation of Cunliffe's speech, and Brian Easton's Economic inequality in New Zealand: A user's guide.
The focus on New Zealand First
The re-emergence of Winston Peters as this year's supposed 'kingmaker' is now capturing the focus of many political journalists and commentators. For the most interesting comment on this, see John Armstrong's Winston for PM? Don't bet against it. And for the disparaging blogosphere reaction, see Danyl McLauchlan's No! That's just what they'll expect us to do! and David Farrar's Why drugs and column writing do not mix.
For other quality analysis of Peters and New Zealand First, see Audrey Young's Energised Peters grabs PM's gift of relevance and John Roughan's Peters deal would carry a price. In addition, note that Peters has said this weekend, 'Categorically, we will not support any party that seeks to move the age to beyond 65 at this point in time' - see Felix Marwick's NZ First lays down the law on superannuation.
For Matt McCarten, National's opening the door to Peters is a sign of the extent of John Key's loss of integrity - see: Expediency overrules integrity. He argues that Key was originally seen as highly principled, but 'since then a new man of dubious integrity has evolved'. But for a very different take on the PM, see Rodney Hide's Key is a serious contender.
There's no doubt that Peters is also to be taken seriously as potential populist force this election - see Patrick Gower's Peters wants to axe pro-Maori policies. And for more on Maori politics and the fading power of the Ratana Church, see the Dominion Post's Ratana link is not what it once was.
Finally, for the best overall analysis of last week's electioneering, see Tim Watkin's National & Labour offer same new years resolutions. He suggests that, so far, the election campaign is shaping up to be one of negative positioning and little vision. Despite the barbecues and the sound and fury of the campaign trail, electioneering this year isn't yet proving enlightening for voters.