So begins National's belittling of Andrew Little. He has been in charge of the Labour Party for all of nine days. But National is fast awakening to the realisation that Little's leadership is already making for a very different ball-game than the one which has had National holding the advantage for most of the past six years.

The odds were thought to be on Little struggling as leader in the parliamentary bear-pit - an arena in which John Key has seen off no fewer than four Labour leaders.

Two fiery speeches by Little in the past two days have revealed the demeanour that he intends adopting in Parliament - essentially in-your-opponent's-face, bare-knuckle verbal pugilism.

It is strident stuff. But it is working for him. And it is delighting his colleagues. Having been slumped for weeks in a morale-crushing, post-election malaise, Labour MPs suddenly find themselves in seventh heaven.

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They cheered wildly when Little deviated from standard parliamentary lingo during minister's question time yesterday and demanded John Key "cut the crap" and start providing proper and meaningful answers to questions about the "dirty tricks" campaign that was run out of the Prime Minister's office before the 2011 election.

The National benches were sightly taken aback by this complete lack of deference to the established order. National's response was to bring in the heavy artillery during the following free-for-all general debate in the form of Steven Joyce and Paula Bennett.

The latter opted for undiluted sarcasm, mercilessly mocking Labour for promising for weeks to listen to New Zealanders' real concerns, only then to focus on "dirty politics", something in which New Zealanders had no interest.

"So I encourage Labour to stay on the beltway of irrelevance ... ask yourselves whether the people of Huntly are mildly interested in what the Labour Party has been talking about for the last 24 hours.

"So stick with your sideshows. Think that is winning ... stick with your beltway issues. Good luck."

Joyce likened Little's delivery to an impersonation of the short-fused, finger-pointing, vein-popping Phil Goff - "and we know how well that worked".

He described Little as a "cloth-cap unionist straight out of the 1950s with his little cheeseboard hat on".

Joyce presumably meant "cheesecutter hat". Whatever, Little will take Joyce's statement as a compliment that, if nothing else, he is capable of wearing two hats at once.

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