Tea matters were not on John Banks' mind before, during or after a lively candidates meeting in Epsom last night.
The Act candidate strode into Epsom Baptist Church with a group of party acolytes, but was soon under pressure over the teapot scandal from other politicians and waiting media.
Then he skipped a cup of tea after the meeting and walked briskly back to his car, pursued by the media wanting to know if he called Act leader Don Brash a "strange fellow" over the tea cups with Prime Minister John Key last week.
"The matter is being investigated by the police and tomorrow they are about to go to the High Court for a statutory judgment. I think you think I came up the river on a cabbage boat," said the veteran of 14 election campaigns.
The issue dominated the debate inside the church hall where about 100 people had come to hear Mr Banks, National's Paul Goldsmith, Labour's David Parker, the Greens' David Hay and Mana's Pat O'Dea.
Mr Banks was at his robotic best, reeling off the opportunities this country had given him and pointing to a need for investment, growth and jobs.
He raised the spectre of the New Zealand First leader being back in Parliament as a reason to vote for a John Key government.
Asked by one woman to talk about specific Act policies, Mr Banks said Act supported sensible youth rates, would be strong on law and order and raising superannuation to 67.
It was also crazy, Mr Banks said, for him to receive subsidised doctor visits when people could not afford to put food on the table.
If Mr Banks did not want to discuss the cup of tea with Mr Key, his Labour opponent David Parker certainly did, giving Mr Banks and National a prolonged ribbing about the "elephant in the room".
The Labour associate finance spokesman, who is enrolled in Dunedin North and cannot vote in Epsom, also accused Mr Goldsmith of removing his own billboards in order not to win the seat.
"This is Alice in Wonderland stuff," Mr Parker said. Mr Goldsmith, who is campaigning for the party vote but later told journalists he would be voting for himself, said people were getting tired of the distractions and reeled off National's policies on immunisation, crime and the "mixed ownership model" - the party's description for partial asset sales of Air New Zealand and state-owned power companies.
Mr Hay said the Greens had three priorities at this election - getting 100,000 children out of poverty by 2014, cleaning up New Zealand rivers and lakes, and green jobs in areas such as the renewable energy sector.
Mr O'Dea said he did not want to win Epsom because he did not know how to represent people earning $100,000.