The leaders of both major political parties have delivered their final main pitches to New Zealanders as they prepare for the last day of the election campaign.
But the leaders’ debate between Jacinda Ardern and Judith Collins was a markedly calmer affair, with the pair clashing far less than in previous debates.
The debate came hot on the heels of the final public poll of the campaign.
The 1 News/Colmar Brunton poll showed Labour at 46 per cent – down one percentage point.
It’s not enough to govern alone but with the support of the Greens’ 8 per cent, the two parties would be able to form a Government.
National, meanwhile, was on 31 per cent – also down one percentage point.
Even with the support of Act’s 8 per cent, the party is well short of forming a majority.
On the numbers, New Zealand First – which was up to 3 per cent – would be out of Parliament.
Although less fiery than previous debates, last night’s showdown did bring out some new information – such as Ardern’s plans if she loses the election.
She confirmed for the first time that she would resign if she did not win.
Speaking to media after the debate, Ardern said she has been around politics long enough to know that if you don’t successfully lead your party through an election, “it is time to move on”.
“That’s what I would do, and that has certainly been my experience in politics.”
Asked if she would expect Collins to do the same thing, she said it wasn’t her job to set the expectation for anyone else.
“But I know, having been around politics for a long time, that one of the consequences of not being successful in an election is the need to move on.”
Collins, however, said she would not be going anywhere if she loses the election tomorrow night.
“I’m the best person for the job,” she said, when asked why she would not resign if she can’t form a Government.
“If we’re in Opposition, we will need strong leadership,” she said.
She made a strong pitch to any right-leaning voter who was thinking of voting for other smaller, minor parties such as the New Conservatives and New Zealand First.
“It is important for everyone voting for those minor parties now to understand that the only way to have a National-led Government is to party vote National.”
Otherwise, she said, people’s party votes “would be wasted”.
“I don’t think people voting New Conservatives actually want to have a Labour/Greens Government – I don’t think New Zealand First [voters] would either.”
During the debate, Collins revealed that National’s internal polling while Simon Bridges was leader earlier this year had the party “significantly in the mid-20s at that stage – it was actually quite significant”.
This is the first time Collins has so publicly talked about National’s internal polling during the tail-end of Bridges’ leadership.
Speaking to media after the debate, she shrugged off the move by saying: “I was asked a question so I answered it”.
Collins has stayed mum on current party internal polling – when this was pointed out to her, she said National “never talks about the current [polling]”.
Last night’s debate was a stark contrast to last week’s Press debate, where both leaders – particularly Collins – were much more combative towards each other.
The only time sparks really flew last night was when the pair were debating the Greens’ wealth tax proposal.
Ardern has spent much of the week ruling out a Government she leads implementing such a tax.
Despite this, Collins raised it again last night and drew a strong reaction from Ardern.
“Any suggestion that is counter to what I have clearly stated time and time again is mischievous and frankly desperate,” said Ardern.
She went further, saying Collins’ was a “desperate political strategy to try and get votes and it is wrong”.
“This is a blatant campaign of misinformation that I’m putting an end to,” Ardern said, before adding that Collins’ continued attacks on the issue was “frankly sad”.
But there was a brief moment of respite during the debate when the pair were asked to address each other directly.
“It’s been a long time since this has happened,” Ardern said, “but I actually never had a chance to thank Judith for the speech she gave after March 15.”
Ardern said that speech was “incredibly sincere” and she thanked her political rival for her words at the time.
Collins said that anyone who takes on the job of Prime Minister has to put their heart and soul into it.
“Jacinda has been doing that and I think that’s a really good thing.”