Prime Minister John Key says next year's election will be a battle of ideas and he is taking the challenge laid down by new Labour leader David Cunliffe very seriously.

His comments this morning come before the leaders face off in Parliament today for the first time since Mr Cunliffe took the reins of his party.

Mr Cunliffe has already laid down a challenge to Mr Key, saying the Government's easy days are over and he is not fazed by his opponent.

Mr Key told TV3's Firstline this morning that Mr Cunliffe was the fourth Labour leader he had gone up against, and the rhetoric from each of them had been "pretty much the same".


"In the end, it's not a war but it is a battle of ideas - that's what elections are ultimately about, and actually I'm going to go into election 2014 very confident that we've got a good track record of what we've achieved over the last six years."

Mr Key said there was no issue that Mr Cunliffe was a "tough opponent".

"I take every leader of the Opposition very seriously and with good reason - at the end of the day, they want to become the Prime Minister and that's a serious challenge.

"Labour is a big machine and they will probably promise and say anything to try to get themselves over the line. But realistically, David Cunliffe is going to take the Labour Party to the far left."

Mr Key said Cunliffe would be "nestling into the arms of the Green Party" who were already to the far left.