Leading politicians will tell you (privately) they usually know when they are going to win an election. They know it when they walk along a street. People meet their eye. Conversely, when they are not going to win, most people avert their eyes if they're close by or veer away if they can.
Television coverage of the campaign this week showed Jacinda Ardern enjoying a sunny reception on the streets. People were not just happy to meet her eye, bystanders were beaming at her and one little girl had a selfie with her.
But notice something? The Prime Minister wasn't wearing a facemask. I checked all the video and photos of her on those days and couldn't find one where she was masked. The odd person she met was wearing one but not her. What gives?
It's only a fortnight since she firmly admonished us on this subject. It was the day she released Auckland from level 3. "Basically, when you step out of your home," she said, "we're asking you to wear a mask." She said she would not rule out mandating masks if people don't wear them.
Possibly by the time you're reading this a reporter has alerted the PM that her credibility gap is showing and she has either covered up or offered a barefaced explanation coupled with that winning smile. But I wonder what the real reason could be.
Was hiding the Prime Minister's face a sacrifice too far for Labour's campaign? Or was her work considered too important to be subject to the same precautions she has urged on everybody else? It might be the latter. It became evident in the first lockdown that public work has a privileged place in Labour's esteem.
Public parks were mowed in level 4 while golf course greenkeepers had to watch the weeds grow. Public transport ran with no passengers. Building safety inspectors were exempted from the lockdown to carry out routine checks of fire alarms and emergency lights in deserted premises.
Many unnecessary things done in the name of government or local government were deemed essential while shops and offices were ordered to shut and people in the private sector worried for their future.
Personally I don't care whether the Prime Minister wears a mask or not. Not many people I saw in suburban centres this week were wearing one. But an election is a decision that requires all our political leaders to be put under close critical examination. This minor hypocrisy unmasks the Ardern Government in more important ways.
It has been a government of words not deeds. Sometimes words are enough. The PM's words on the Christchurch mosque massacres resonated worldwide, making her deserving of the Nobel Peace Prize shortly.
Her words worked well when the pandemic arrived too. She made people feel not just "kind" but stoic and even heroic for doing nothing more than staying at home. There was a little bit of hypocrisy there on our part too, as many admitted when we emerged from lockdown. We'd quite enjoyed it.
Not so in Auckland's second lockdown. Jacinda was unable to visit the city in those three weeks and kept sending us sympathy. We didn't need that. We weren't feeling sorry for ourselves, we were grumpy. The words we'd heard from the PM and the Director General of Health in their daily press conferences had turned out to be more impressive than their organisations in action.
We should not have been surprised. One of the first decisions of this Government was to do away with the public service goals Bill English had instituted precisely to focus departments on the things they needed to be doing on the ground.
Labour seems to think words are always enough. It spent its first year in office commissioning studies of social problems old and new, real or imagined. When the reports landed in its second year they amounted to millions of words, none meaning very much.
If the Government decided to "act" on a problem, it would announce a sum of money for it. That's all. Day after day it issued press releases that stated precisely how much it had decided to spend on a worthy purpose with no mention of what exactly would be done with the money.
The Government didn't appear to think it was its role to decide that detail. It was content to signal a virtuous intent and leave officials to work out what to do.
The next three years are going to be tough as the world struggles to recover from the economic costs of the Covid-19 lockdowns. It is going to be especially tough for New Zealand if we are still pursuing elimination of the virus in the hope of an eventual vaccine.
We're going to need leadership capable of more than talk.