It is a sure sign a close election is brewing when the Government starts to act like an opposition and the Opposition starts trying to act like a government.
It's been five long years since Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson and Police Minister Chris Hipkins were last in Opposition – and it seems while you can take the MP out of Opposition, but you can't take the opposition out of the MP.
They had nine long years to learn a trick or two and in the past week they have deployed some against their National Party rivals.
The Prime Minister – who tends to avoid taking potshots – was away and while the cat is away, the mice can play.
So we got Robertson's repeated efforts to cast suspicion on National Party leader Christopher Luxon's intentions around abortion reforms and Hipkins misrepresenting National police spokesman Mark Mitchell's comments about police diversity.
By Tuesday, Luxon had issued three statements and done multiple media interviews on his stance on the Supreme Court overturning the Roe v Wade decision in the US, and his own stance on abortion reforms.
He reiterated he was "pro-life" but would not relitigate or change New Zealand's abortion laws, nor cut funding for abortion services. It is exactly the same stance former PM Bill English took.
It has now been stated so unequivocally and repeatedly it would be hard to get a more cast-iron promise out of a leader. It is effectively a resignation offence for Luxon – if the promise was broken, he would have no choice but to stand down.
Yet in the media on Tuesday and in Parliament on Wednesday, Robertson stood and claimed there was still confusion around Luxon's intentions on abortion reform.
All concerned know full well the election is more likely to be won and lost on the economy than on abortion. But Labour's MPs would want to hammer home any chance they had to make voters – in this case women voters - question what they thought of Luxon.
The Act Party was equally quick to take advantage of the problematic issue cast into Luxon's path from the US – and was quick to emphasise all its MPs were pro-choice.
This came hot on the tails of Labour running attack-style ads on Luxon a month ago, seeking to cast doubt on whether Luxon would deliver on his promise.
In all of this there are distinct echoes of the Labour opposition of 2008 trying to seed a perception that Sir John Key was an insidious currency trader with some deep, dark secret agenda behind his all talk about being ambitious for New Zealand.
National is clearly wary of Labour getting a second wind. It will not have escaped its notice that while both Labour and National's polling are in something of a plateau in the mid to high 30s, Ardern's personal popularity bumped up a bit after her recent trip to the US.
So it was at pains to emphasise Labour's track record back home while Ardern was overseas.
On the day Ardern signed the Europe NZ free trade agreement, National sent out a message "congratulating" KiwiBuild on its fourth birthday – noting 1366 homes of the 100,000 promised had been built.
When an election is shaping up as being close, there is much less of this sort of carry-on.
John Key in the 2011 and 2014 elections and Jacinda Ardern in 2020 more or less ignored their opposition rivals, treating them as minor irrelevancies.
The oppositions they faced at those times were little threat and more than capable of continuing to dig their own political graves without assistance.
This time round things are different and both sides know it.
There are signs that both parties – especially National – are starting to gear up for the campaign proper.
National has needed to start early as much of Labour's campaign machinery from 2020 can be deployed again. Its massive caucus will also make candidate selection a bit easier.
But National is starting pretty much from scratch under a new leader. It will be in need of a lot of new candidates and it doesn't have the Parliamentary funding Labour has to pay for things such as polls and communication drops during the term.
The keys to a successful campaign start with Ps: preparation, people, polling and pingas.
National has secured the services of Jo de Joux as campaign manager again – de Joux was a key figure in campaigns during the Key era. De Joux helped out on the Tauranga by-election and will start fulltime with National from September.
Paula Bennett has turned her powers of persuasion to fundraising and netted the party $2 million in big donations in the first half of this year alone.
Those are election-year levels of fundraising, so if Labour's pending law change require all donors of more than $5000 be publicly named does indeed put people off donating, National's kitty is already healthy. Bennett will keep up her fundraising efforts next year as well.
Labour will not set up its campaign team proper until the end of the year or early next, but is likely to again turn to the services of senior minister Megan Woods and former campaign manager Hayden Munro – who led the campaign in 2020.
It has never managed to rake in as much in fundraising as National has. It relies on small donations. That has not changed while it is in Government. It has just done a fundraising drive to hit its mid-year target, and Labour's general secretary Rob Salmond issued a celebratory email to supporters saying he was "blown away with the response" - 860 people had donated a combined total of about $36,000.
Labour does, however, have the advantage of having had a healthy Parliamentary budget to help it pay for polling and focus group research throughout its time in Government, while National has only recently started it again after stopping in 2020. Research into what voters think and how it changes over time, is important in helping form policies – and informing what advertising will work.
But to an extent, turning all of that into votes is over to the leader and their ability to get the trust of voters.
That is exactly why Robertson grabbed an opportunity to highlight Luxon's stand on abortion.
It is also why Luxon will have been relieved to have stepped out of the spotlight and onto the plane for his trip to Singapore and Europe on Wednesday – hoping that debate dies down while he is away.