Election campaigns are harsh and divisive for every democracy, deliberately so. They are designed to confront voters with hard decisions between policies and personalities and encourage everyone to support one side or the other.

It will not be until next Sunday, when the votes are counted and hopefully there is a clear winner, that most people will rediscover the truth, that those they have disagreed with are good people with good intentions.

Today we are getting in early, talking to the people who know the leaders of the two main parties better than probably anyone: their partners, Mary English and Clarke Gayford.

From his wife we hear Bill English was shy and slightly tongue-tied when they met at a university ball. But he is someone who, "gives stuff a go", she says. "Dancing is a part of my Samoan heritage, it wasn't such a big part of Bill's upbringing (on a Southland farm). But although some might say breaking out some moves is not his natural thing, he's (almost) always happy to get up and have a go."


Gayford says of his partner, "Jacinda is someone who so constantly thinks of others, that she once woke in the middle of the night worried that I was out of milk for my morning cup of tea. So she got up and decided to soak some almonds at 2am, just to make me almond milk at dawn."

Small acts like these of courage and consideration say a lot about the character of those competing for our votes. But we should spare a thought, too, for their partners.

People such as Mary English and Clarke Gayford do not seek the political limelight, let alone the antagonisms of an election campaign. English will be more used to it than Gayford who talks of how hurtful it has been to hear her honesty questioned over "secret tax plans, which simply do not exist".

New Zealand has a tradition of respect for the privacy of politicians' families. Until John Key even partners were seldom seen with Prime Ministers in public. But it was good to see Bronagh with him so often when he represented the country and it has been good to see Mary English appearing in public too.

Whether Bill English or Jacinda Ardern is Prime Minister after this election, the country will hope to see their partner accompanying them on frequent occasions.

In most countries it's normal for partners of national leaders to have a fairly high profile. It is reassuring for the public to see them alongside those elected to a role that can otherwise look lonely in its power and responsibility.