Helen Clark announced the November 8 election date yesterday with a stinging attack on National, saying its "evasiveness, flip-flops and secret agenda" showed it could not be trusted.
"Labour is ambitious for New Zealand. National is ambiguous," she said with a style reminiscent of National's contrasting billboards last election.
In contrast, National leader John Key held an upbeat press conference that was deliberately light on criticism of the Prime Minister or Labour.
He did say "I don't think the Prime Minister is in a position to be talking about trust right now".
But he said he was not going to focus on Helen Clark very much.
"The reality is New Zealanders have had nine years to judge her.
"We are not going to run some sort of fear factor campaign which is all the Labour Party has really got," he said.
Helen Clark called a press conference and delivered an 11-minute statement on live television on Labour's achievements and what she thought voters should fear from National before naming the election date.
She said she would be announcing new policy on health, education and housing and voters would focus on what the real choice was.
"I think it does come down to who you trust on the basics. Who do you trust the future of the health service with? Who do you trust the future of your superannuation with? Who do you trust the future of Kiwi bank and other critical state assets with?"
She rattled off a string of Labour policies such as Working for Families, KiwiSaver and 20 hours' free early childhood education.
But she also took credit for some of New Zealand First's policy achievements such as the Gold Card for superannuitants and 2500 more police staff.
She said National's "conversions" to Labour policies were insincere.
And she said the policies of "their now not-so-secret agenda included selling Kiwibank and other state assets; borrowing recklessly for tax cuts; privatising ACC; imposing expensive tolls on our roading system.
She also attacked National policies which she said would pour more investment into private schools rather than public and integrated schools; weaken workers' rights; undermine cheaper doctors' fees and scrap much of Labour's new tax incentives for business research and development.
She said she would not rule out dealing with anyone after the election besides National and its "handmaiden" Act.
Political leaders are advised to repeat carefully selected words they want their party to be associated with. Helen Clark's words yesterday were "trust" and "the future of New Zealand".
She used the trust or trusted word 12 times in her press conference. "It's clear that National and its leader cannot be trusted with the future of New Zealand."
"Labour has shown through its record in office that we can be trusted with the future of New Zealand."
John Key's buzzwords yesterday were "opportunity" and "issues that matter".
"This election is about New Zealanders having the opportunity to choose a government that is focused on what matters to them."
"It is their opportunity to choose a brighter future with a government that is determined to focus on the real issues that matter in their lives."By Audrey Young Email Audrey