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 Gloves are off

Labour and National launch their official campaigns tomorrow, but on the streets the battle has already begun

By MARTIN KAY – The Dominion Post | Saturday, 11 October 2008 

A gusting wind is bombarding Wellington’s western flanks and ominous grey clouds advance relentlessly over the hills, bringing the prospect of a chilly rain.

It is not a good day to be in the field, but the group huddled for a council of war in a Karori cafe are undeterred as they prepare to brave the brewing storm.

Across the valley in Wilton, where the wind is stronger and colder and flecked with rain, "the enemy" is already on the move, trudging door to door up the sloping, winding streets.

These are the foot soldiers of the election, two of the hundreds of small armies of volunteers who still play a vital role in the battle for votes, despite the increasingly sophisticated campaigns planned by strategists at party HQs. Television advertising, billboards and the Internet may be valuable tools, but nothing beats good old- fashioned door-knocking and leaflet drops to ensure key messages make it to voters’ kitchen tables.

Having already made up their minds who they will vote for, the volunteers who spent last Saturday afternoon campaigning for National in Karori and Labour in Wilton are also a weather vane for what is at stake in Election ’08.

For National supporter Pat McCarthy, a GP who moved from Scotland in the 1980s, the issues are simple.

"We’ve had nine years of Labour and we’ve had great economic times, but they’ve been wasted, and National has got the chance now to get back into office and put things right.

"We want to get rid of this nanny state, we want to give economic prosperity to everyone. We want tax cuts, more money in our pocket. We want to get rid of these appalling levels of crime. Labour’s just interested in political correctness and anti-smacking."

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