Simon Bridges and Jacinda Ardern both promising 'positive' campaigns but already swapping jabs

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Opposition leader Simon Bridges.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Opposition leader Simon Bridges. Photo credit: Getty

Simon Bridges and Jacinda Ardern are both promising "positive" 2020 election campaigns this year - but the pair are already exchanging jabs about it.  

Prime Minister Ardern used her first speech of the year at the Labour Party caucus retreat in Martinborough to call for a "factual" election campaign and announced Labour will be committing to Facebook's ad transparency rules.

"A perfect platform to recommit to a relentlessly positive election," Ardern, Labour leader, said at the retreat in Wairarapa wine country. She said she'll be delivering "a positive campaign, a factual campaign, [and] a robust campaign".

In an attempt to do that, Ardern is signing the party up to Facebook's voluntary political advertising rules which show who is behind the ad, how much money is being spent and who is being targeted.

Facebook introduced the rules in response to foreign interference in the 2016 US election.

"This is part of our plan to make sure New Zealand has an election that isn't like some of the elections we've seen overseas," Ardern said.

It follows a slew of political attack ads in New Zealand last year plasted on social media by all sides.

The Green Party had removed an ad on Twitter in July making fun of Bridges made to look like a car salesman, with voiceover from an actor using a strong accent.

Bridges himself was punished by the House Speaker in October for defying his ruling to remove attack ads using Parliament TV footage featuring MPs without their permission.

The National Party is stalling on whether it will voluntarily sign up to Facebook's tool - rules only the Greens had signed up to before Labour did.

Bridges said it's a possibility: "We might do."

While Bridges has also promised a positive election campaign this year, Ardern said she has "certainly heard" that the National Party is too negative.

Bridges shot back at the Prime Minister with a dig at the speech she made at last year's Labour caucus retreat, where Ardern labelled 2019 her "year of delivery".

"She should look in the mirror about her fake news of a year of delivery."

Labour's caucus retreat marked the official kicking off of the political year.

An election date has been set, but the Prime Minister is refusing to say when it is, not even confirming if it will be in June, July or August.

"I'm not announcing the election date today."

Prime Minister and Labour leader Jacinda Ardern at the party's caucus retreat in Martinborough.
Prime Minister and Labour leader Jacinda Ardern at the party's caucus retreat in Martinborough. Photo credit: Newshub

Analysis by Political Editor Tova O'Brien 

Labour's messaging was forensically calculated. 

Political parties do immense amounts of work behind the scenes to try to predict voting behaviour. 

Labour's internal polling shows the country's mood is generally positive - that people think it's going in the right direction. 

And in that context, Labour thinks negativity won't thrive, that it looks petty and puts voters off. 

So, this is an attempt to show up National for being on the attack, and it corners Simon Bridges slightly over signing up to those Facebook rules. 

With a smile, the Prime Minister has kicked off election year by delivering a relentlessly positive and calculated attack on National.