Jacinda Ardern in Onehunga and Judith Collins in Rosedale today (Photo: Phil Walter/Dave Rowland/Getty Images)

One last afternoon on the campaign trail with Judith and Jacinda

The 2020 election campaign is coming to a close. The Spinoff followed National’s Judith Collins and Labour’s Jacinda Ardern as they travelled Auckland during the final hours of campaigning.

Labour’s slogan this election is “Let’s keep moving”, but the party’s campaign got bogged down in Onehunga today as Jacinda Ardern was swamped during a walkabout.

During her third public walk in three hours, Ardern stalled traffic on Onehunga Mall as her final public appearance of the campaign turned into a local spectacle.

People hung out of second-floor windows for pictures while one man got up from a barber’s chair, mid haircut, to pose for a selfie. “You’re my leader,” he pumped, still wearing the barber’s cape. People on the upper level of double-decker buses, stopped by traffic, were also taking pictures.

Ardern waved at the crowd, flanked by public officers and her security detail as they struggled to keep her from being completely lost in a swarm of people. The owners of a nearby bakery dropped their aprons and waded into the crowd for a photo. Across the street, a crowd formed on the steps of an Oranga Tamariki office and yelled her name. “Jacinda!”

Labour’s campaign focused on Auckland in its final day, meeting people across the city’s south, with earlier stops in New Lynn and Manurewa.

One of many selfies with Jacinda Ardern on Onehunga Mall (Photo: Justin Giovannetti)

In the north, Judith Collins went out to work a crowd of party supporters. The National leader visibly lit up with excitement at every opportunity to dunk on Phil Twyford or rage about Labour’s undelivered promises. 

It was with some concern that the Collins who debated Ardern on TVNZ last night looked like she had accepted defeat. The Collins from the first few weeks of the campaign was gone, replaced with a drone, who went through the motions. Worries that she’d be the same today were quickly put to rest.

In front of a North Shore street corner lined with National Party supporters and placards, Collins looked like her old self again. Her audience may have been drivers, largely sealed within their cars, but with every toot from a passerby, the smile on Collins’ face grew wider. 

To a backdrop of chants of “Judith!” and “Two ticks blue!”, Collins waved her sign, smiled and hugged supporters. She posed for the media entourage and recorded a video for Instagram: “You know what to do: two ticks blue,” Collins said.

This afternoon’s display of “human hoardings” at the corner of Apollo and Constellation Drives in Rosedale was the final event on Collins’ campaign schedule. Tomorrow, she’s having her hair done and, almost certainly, a cuppa or two.

One day out from polls closing and with 1.7 million New Zealanders having already voted, the final day of the campaign seemed to bring new life into Collins. Too late for it to have any impact, probably, although 15% were undecided or refused to answer in the latest Colmar Brunton poll.

Act put out an appeal to wavering National voters. “Lend me your vote,” said leader David Seymour, promising that Act would deliver the conservative ideas they want, without the chaos and colourful leadership provided by Collins. Speaking after last night’s debate, Collins said she’d heard from a lot of National supporters confused about how they should vote. That explained her party’s fall in the polls, she said – people who just don’t realise they’re supposed to vote National, and not for Act or other right-wing challengers like the New Conservatives.

The day started with a media stand-up in Mount Roskill. It was ostensibly a chance for Collins to campaign alongside National’s candidate Parmjeet Parmar, but in reality an opportunity to gloat about the absence of light rail in the suburb. “I could go on all day,” Collins said when prompted to discuss Labour’s list of failures in government. 

“It’s very hard for someone to roll the prime minister,” she said, with a wink, after being asked if she’ll still be National leader in a week.

Judith Collins campaigns with National supporters (Photo: Stewart Sowman-Lund)

As for Ardern, Collins said the Labour leader would probably head to the UN if she lost. During the previous evening’s debate, Ardern said she wouldn’t stay on if she wasn’t prime minister. Asked about whether she had any pending moves to New York or Europe, Ardern dismissed that as a last pinch of “mischief making” from Collins.

The quips, winks and eyebrow raises felt like the Collins we all know. 

Next on the campaign schedule was an opportunity to meet with party faithful in Browns Bay. 

Compared to Ardern’s schedule, filled with public walkabouts, Collins spent most of today surrounded by her backers. After last week’s disastrous visit to Ponsonby, that’s probably intentional. It’s harder to be ridiculed when you spend a day with your biggest fans. 

The lack of “risk” in today’s campaign schedule means the footage of Collins on tonight’s 6pm news won’t be of her defending her caucus or responding to leaks. It’ll be the Collins that National wants people to see: smiley, cheeky and surrounded by supporters. 

National will be contending with pictures from Ardern. After about 20 minutes in Onehunga, her entourage of press secretaries were juggling gifts she’d received. A bouquet of flowers was passed back. Then another package was handed to her staff – inside were handmade finger puppets.

“We’re not going to get the corner,” a member of her staff said with a cringe. Ardern was surrounded by about 30 people, with more supporters and media behind her. There were more people coming up the street for pictures.

As the crowd finally worked its way down a single block after about 30 minutes, Ardern noticed the commotion on the street. “Are we stopping traffic?” she asked a nearby police officer with concern.

Her grey van, which has carried her through the campaign, is only a few metres away. With a last series of pictures, she was in the van and the door closed. She’d taken about 85 selfies. And that’s about it for the Labour campaign in 2020.

– Stewart Sowman-Lund and Justin Giovannetti



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