Corin Dann: Dirty Politics should add spice to TV debate

With the Dirty Politics scandal fading, or perhaps more likely just taking a breather, the election campaign spotlight has turned back to spending promises, tax cuts and financial credibility.

Dirty Politics Source: 1 NEWS

I suspect deep down all parties, not just National and Labour will be pretty pleased about this. It now gives them some space to promote their policies and messages.

It's National though that will be breathing the biggest sigh of relief, frankly talking about anything other than dirty politics is preferable right now.

So even though they are being attacked over their new first homebuyers policy and the mixed messages over tax cuts, they will be feeling a lot happier about life than they were this time last week.

Looming large now in this campaign though is the first of the leaders debates - live on TV ONE and at 7pm on Thursday night.

This is a crucial opportunity in particular for David Cunliffe to present himself to voters in prime time as a future Prime Minister.

After six years Kiwis know John Key, there is less to be gained for him and David Cunliffe will go into the debate as the underdog, which is to his advantage.

If people have low expectations of him or don't know much about him, even a solid showing could be enough to surprise people and be called a win by some pundits.

So there is a lot riding on this debate for Mr Cunliffe. If he hits out of the park, it could ignite Labour's campaign.

The elephant in the room though with the debate is the Dirty Politics scandal.

How hard does David Cunliffe attack John Key over it? If he does go there how does he do it without being seen as too negative? Remember Labour's campaign slogan is Vote Positive.

It's a tricky balance that he will have to negotiate.

David Cunliffe is strong on financial issues and should have no trouble matching John Key on that score, but it's on leadership that David Cunliffe is untested having only been Labour leader since last year.

This is where Mr Key will back himself to have the edge.

It's shaping up as a fascinating debate, with the Dirty Politics scandal adding plenty of added spice.