While the most eagerly awaited conversation of the election was taking place, a mystery person may have been secretly listening.

A recording device was found on the Newmarket cafe table where National leader John Key showed his endorsement of Act's Epsom candidate, John Banks, by sitting down to a cup of tea.

When their conversation at Urban Cafe finished, a man claiming to be a freelance reporter for the Herald collected the device, which was in a small, dark bag beside the pair.

The Herald had no freelancers at the meeting.

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Mr Banks said he was not bothered if he had been recorded because they were discussing "pretty bland stuff" - nothing that could be called a state secret.

He said he chatted with Mr Key about their campaigns, and about National MP Allan Peachey, whose funeral was yesterday.

The two men's staff cleared the room of reporters for their crucial, softly spoken conversation.

They chatted for about five minutes, unaware of the bag on their table. It is not known if the device picked up their discussion.

It is illegal to record a private conversation without consent.

Isaac Davison