It's hard to believe we're only one week into the official election campaign.

It feels like it has been running for months.

In fact, it feels like we've been in campaign mode since Metiria Turei made her benefit fraud admission to the Green Party's AGM on July 16.

Since then, things have got a bit ugly.


And, then this week it was as if someone pushed the lever to Full Noise.

Everything ugly got uglier. Everything cynical got more cynical.

It might have reminded some of you why you choose to ignore politics for the best part of three years.

The week started with the hit job on Winston Peters. There's nothing as ugly in politics as a takedown attempt.

There's no doubt in my mind that it was the National Party who ordered the hit on Winston Peters over his superannuation overpayments.

It's hard to believe otherwise.

At least two ministers and a political operative in the party appear to have known Peters' private information when none of them should have.

And once it has information, the National Party has a reputation for using it against political opponents.


Deputy leader Paula Bennett herself revealed private details about a beneficiary in 2009. Last year her office leaked information about the chairman of Te Puea Marae. I could go on, or you could just read Nicky Hager's Dirty Politics.

So there's the National Party's modus operandi. Here is its motive.

National wants - and needs - Peters' vote. Look at where the Nats are promising to build roads. Most of them are in the regions. Nelson, Levin, Hawke's Bay.

These are the places where Peters' vote is strong.

Look at National's boot camps for young offenders policy. That plays straight to Peters' base of older voters who think the country's going soft.

Then, a hit job on Peters in the first week of the campaign.

No coincidence as far as I'm concerned.

But it has backfired.

It's possible the less experienced political operatives in National underestimated the political savvy of the Member from Northland. But they shouldn't have.

He has deflected and detonated scandals since before many of them were born.

The attention gave Peters the political oxygen he needs to attempt a clawback in the polls. He became the victim.

It's a role he likes to play and he plays it well.

Having said that, Peters doesn't come out of this squeaky clean.

Yes, superannuation forms are as long and involved as a masters thesis.

Yes, the Ministry of Social Development makes tens of thousands of dollars of overpayments every year.

But until Peters fesses up about exactly what went wrong, some voters will think he has something to hide.

Then there's the cynicism of the last week.

The lolly scramble has taken pork barrel politics to the next level. Free dental care for pregnant mums. More cash for students. Free tertiary education. More roads.

When National promised 22 weeks paid parental leave, Labour upped the offer to 26 weeks.When National promised $18 doctor visits for low income workers, Labour slashed that to $8.

It's like a reverse auction. It's a battle to see who can give you what you're already getting, but for a lower price.

This is vote-buying, not vision-building.

Election policies should tell us the new ideas parties have for making this country a better place.

The ideas should showcase the smarts of the party's smartest people. The parties should have spent years working them up.

Instead, they spent the week telling you how much free stuff they can give you.

The first week of the campaign has been a disappointment to say the least.

Here's hoping the next three weeks improve.