Round one goes to the PM.
She got the better of Judith Collins in the house today.
This was the big match-up. The first time we were going to see Judith go up against Jacinda. And people were clearly tuning in. Question Time was streaming on most of the major news sites, the parliamentary website became difficult to log on to, and apparently the press gallery was full.
Both women seemed nervous. There seemed to be tension in the house. At the start it was pin-drop quiet in there. And then Jacinda dropped her zinger.
Explaining the light rail delay: "As she would well know, sometimes it takes a little longer than you'd like to get what you want."
And with that, a lot of people would've made their minds up: this is not going to be an election where Judith pushes Jacinda around at all.
Now, some of this is a function of how Question Time works. The person answering always gets more space to shine than the person just asking the question. But it is also at least because the Nats chose badly with their topic: transport. That was probably because they want to remind voters that Labour hasn't delivered much, including light rail. But it was way too easy to flip and turn into an attack on National's own costing of its own transport plans. And it feels like last year's problem. Light rail doesn't matter quite as much post-Covid does it?
But the biggest problem was Judith. Sassy Judith didn't turn up. There was no smirk, no zingers.
It was like the wind had been taken out of her sails. And you can probably guess at why that was. The Andrew Falloon porn-pix scandal has got uglier overnight. There are now more complainants alleging the same thing: that he sent them rude pictures too. The police are now said to be considering whether to reopen their investigation. And the Nats are – quite rightly – under fire for apparently using mental health as a PR strategy to get everyone to back off.
Collins' honeymoon as leader has come to an abrupt, screeching halt.
A fantastic performance in the house today would've helped. It could've told voters that even if the team is letting her down, Judith can still bring it. But she didn't.
Heather du Plessis-Allan hosts Drive on NewstalkZB 4-7pm weekdays