We are now halfway through the three-week marathon of what Labour likes to call hustings meetings for its leadership contestants but what Brian Edwards describes more colourfully as "cavorting round the country like teenage girls having a pillow fight at a sleepover".

Grant Robertson is not taking the comparison to the US primaries lightly. He has a website where his adoring fans post their endorsements. Every day a new endorsement pops up. He has comedians and knights. He has a unionist and a vicar, a musician and a teacher. He has a butcher, a baker and a candlestick maker. No, not really. But there's still time.

He also has Jacinda Ardern, who doubles both as a deputy and a convenient answer to any question he is asked. Asked about his Labour Day messages, he replied: "I've got Jacinda Ardern alongside me and I think what we're trying to say is we need to do things differently."

Andrew Little's endorsements consist of the EPMU and Dairy Workers' Union, as well as David Cunliffe, his cat Buddy and dog Harry. His other weapon is alliteration. He has taken to describing National as "niggardly nasty Nats".


David Parker has taken campaign tips from Confucius and is running a "thought of the day" theme on Twitter. Each day he posts one thought. Just the one, mind, lest he runs out. Yesterday's was typically profound. "The sales of luxury cars are booming, while this year nearly half of New Zealanders got no increase in their pay rate." He is apparently at pains to show his caring, sharing side. So his pamphlet also includes a thought each from his three rivals in speech bubbles.

Nanaia Mahuta has self-belief and nothing to lose.

The rest of Labour's MPs were not content with trying to work out who their own leader was. They were also trying to find out who the National Party leader was. While Labour had four people running to be one leader, Key had amazed them all by announcing he was four men in one body.

This declaration came in response to questions about his links with blogger Cameron Slater and what the Prime Minister had said to him. Key announced the Prime Minister had said nothing at all, but it was possible the leader of the National Party had. The leader of the National Party was distinct from the husband of Bronagh and the owner of Moonbeam the cat.

Parliament turned into a game of "who am I" in which Key was asked various questions and had to guess who he was. All that was missing was the Post-it note on his forehead with the answer on it.

He was father, son, and holy cow. He was Prime Minister except when he was not. He was also Prime Minister even when he was not. He was National Party leader and husband and cat owner. He was goat farmer, breeding scapegoats. He was Spartacus. He was woman, hear him roar. He was a little teapot, short and stout. He was Sam, Sam-I-Am.

Labour's acting deputy leader and substitute leader - while the acting leader runs to be the real leader - Annette King was intrigued by Key's hitherto-unknown chameleon qualities. She wanted to know whether he would now pardon Judith Collins because she had also summoned the identity-crisis defence, claiming her communications with Slater were in her capacity as a person, not a minister.

Between all this, Key was also traffic monitor, ordering motorists to look the other way. He had put in place diversions around the roadblock that Dirty Politics had created for him. One way was via referendum on the flag - a bargain diversion for $26 million. Another took them past sales drops for Lipton, Bell and Dilmah and redundancy for New Zealand's army of chai wallahs with the end of the legal tea break.


Down another route, Paula Bennett clearly had Caravan of Love running through her brain and announced she intended to sex up housing options for the poor folk forced to live in caravans. She went further by making a hand gesture at Labour's Sue Moroney, and Moroney accused her of giving the fingers. Bennett's defence was that it was nothing so crude - simply a "Matrix bring it on" gesture.

The Opposition were not so easily diverted, not least because their own game plan was also one of distraction. The more time Key spent in the phone booth changing his costume to suit his purpose, the less time he was dedicating to witticisms about Labour's leadership.

But how Key must have longed for the days in the honeymoon era when, according to his deputy, Bill English, he was completely out of body, bouncing from cloud to cloud.