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Shipley on short leash

2000 web siteNational's lack of confidence in Mrs Shipley's campaigning ability is becoming strikingly clear as the party hides her behind safe photo opportunities, Labour deputy leader Michael Cullen said today.

"National knows, and polling clearly demonstrates, that Mrs Shipley is an electoral turn-off because she talks down to people and is out of touch with ordinary New Zealanders.

"Thirty-two days out from a general election, the question that is increasingly being asked is: what is the Prime Minister doing?

"We understand that pathetically small crowds are turning up for safe photo opportunities, like visits to craft centres and National Party tea-and-scone gatherings, as National pursues a strategy of keeping the Prime Minister under a tight rein.

As The Press reported on Saturday, Mrs Shipley has withdrawn from a leaders' debate sponsored by that newspaper, as National strategists move to limit her appearances to closed television debates.

"In contrast Helen Clark has been keeping up a busy schedule of university campus and workplace visits, town hall meetings, industry and service club speeches, marae visits and ethnic community functions.

"Given the Prime Minister's propensity for making things up and bungling her lines, it is hardly surprising she has been taken to ground. It has all the hallmarks of the hermetically sealed campaign the National Party ran for its leader in 1996.

"Labour challenges Mrs Shipley to come out of hiding and explain to the country what the priorities would be for National and Act, should they get the chance to continue their tax-cutting, core service-slashing, deregulatory and commercialising agenda," Dr Cullen said.

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