Election 2023: National urged to do deal in Ilam to get The Opportunities Party into Parliament, avoid needing Winston Peters

National Party leader Christopher Luxon is steadfastly maintaining his schedule can't be changed to accommodate The Press leaders debate

He's pulled out of the tradition that started after the Christchurch quakes in 2011 and now he's also being urged to pull out of the Ilam seat to get The Opportunities Party into Parliament to avoid Winston Peters. 

Luxon got selfie after selfie in Christchurch, the city he grew up in.

But it's a city he won't debate in. He's still a no on The Press debate.

"The Prime Minister has COVID, okay. It is what it is," he said. 

Chris Hipkins is isolating with COVID until Friday and wants to shift the staple election fixture to next week.

"I've said I will make myself available as soon as I am out of isolation, so any time between Friday and Thursday next week I will go to Christchurch in order to be able to debate Christopher Luxon," said Hipkins. 

Asked why he wouldn't adapt to a new date, Luxon said: "We are in the last week of a campaign, it's pretty hectic and it's pretty busy. We had a look at it, but can't make it work."

The Opportunities Party wants to get its leader Raf Manji elected in Ilam to help get its party into Parliament.

"I'm going to win Ilam anyway, but I think from an insurance perspective it makes a lot of sense. And I think people need and want a new party in Parliament," Manji told Newshub.

He's laying down this challenge to Luxon.

"It's basically Winston or Raf. Who do you want to deal with?"

He's calling on National to stand aside in Ilam so TOP gets into Parliament with a handful of MPs, meaning Luxon wouldn't have to rely on New Zealand First if that's what's needed to form a government. 

Manji said Luxon should "be strategic". 

Electorate deals aren't new. National's done them with United Future and ACT before - most notably in 2011 with the infamous cup of tea with John Banks and more recently with David Seymour.  

Asked what advice Seymour has given him, Manji said: "He said you're in the same position I was in 2017. So he said, look, work hard in Ilam and try and get across the line."

But Seymour said: "You don't win a seat because someone else says you should... You win a seat because the voters want you to represent them."

In his case, National's candidate Paul Goldsmith didn't campaign in Epsom, making it easier for Seymour.   

National's candidate in Ilam is Hamish Campbell. But Luxon said he's not budging to make way for Raf Manji. 

"My message to New Zealanders 11 days out from an election is they're in charge, they're in control," said Luxon.

Campbell said he wouldn't stand aside. 

"We're doing a really good ground campaign, we've got lots of good support and we're going to continue to work hard up until the 14th."

Manji said that showed a "lack of strategic thinking, not just about this election, but future elections".