by Tim Watkin

In election week, it all depends on what you see when you look around the country that will determine who gets to celebrate on Saturday night

I was walking out of a meeting with two fine people the other day, one a National Party supporter and one a Labour Party supporter. The centre-right man reckons his team has lost it, but he sighed, "the economy's going so well, we should do as little as possible. Just keep it the same".

The lack of transparency in this campaign is galling, but it's not just around tax and water. Under MMP we're voting for a coalition government and it's time politicians started acting like it

Tax, tax and more tax. Jacinda Ardern has been fending off questions about tax nearly every day since she became Labour leader. Depsite all the questions, her position is anything but transparent. But she's not alone. New Zealanders are heading into a knife-edge election blindfolded by almost all the parties.

So is Gareth Morgan going to go to court to force his way onto TVNZ's minor party debate? That story is a familiar one to me, but it also will be a defining moment for TOP

Well, this brings back memories. A colleague tonight tentatively asked, "now I don't want to trigger anything, but what happened with you and Colin Craig?". I assured her nothing but frustration was triggered, but it did take me back to 2014 and The Nation's day in court against the Conservative Party.

National and Labour leaders show just how close it is and how much is at stake, by upping the risk factor with new policy announcements live in the second leaders debate

Bill English has taken to calling this election a drag race between the two big parties, but that doesn't do justice to the twists and turns it's already taken. Today, those two main parties added significant risk to the campaign - they're taking those corners at high speed now, as we enter the final 18 days.

It was a wonkish, nervy, tepid debate, but the political earthquake had come earlier and it changes the way we look at Election 17

Timid, vague and exposed on tax, she still did enough. The morning after the first prime time TV leaders debate, Jacinda Ardern will be the happiest of the two party bosses, not because she won the debate in any signifcant sense, but simply because she didn't lose. And because of more important things that happened earlier in the evening.

One party leader wins the feel-good vibe from the first TV leaders debate, while another actually resets his party's campaign and lays down a new bottom line

The first TV leaders debate of the year on Three's The Nation this morning was full of zingers and a reminder of the diverse and vital political views our minor parties offer, at a time when their relevance has suddenly dwindled. It allowed Marama Fox to shine, but more importantly provided a reset platform for the Greens.

A stark difference has arisen between the two major parties in recent days - one doubling down on old ways and another bursting with new generation vibes. Peter Dunne's resignation reinforces the sense that generational change is coming. But when?

So is this it?

Jacinda Ardern and Labour have time on their side for a change. It may allow New Zealanders to think it's their 'turn', but only if they can avoid distractions like, oh, trans-Tasman squabbles

Timing is just so important in politics, as in so much of life. Plenty of able people don't have the luck – or planning – to be in the right place at the right time. But right now, timing may be Jacinda Ardern's greatest gift.

The 2017 election campaign hasn't properly started, yet it has taken another twist as two Greens MPs chose their conscience over party strategy and broke ranks. But who's really been the most indulgent and how might voters react? 

Strategy vs integrity. The long game vs the short. Individual conscience vs the collective good. These are tensions at the heart of politics, tensions that create drama, and which can engulf a party, as they have the Greens right now.

What looked like a campaign set to be dominated by third parties now has suddenly been tilted back towards the big two. Jacinda Ardern's election to the Labour leadership makes many new things possible, but one key thing even more likely

Beware cries of a Labour miracle. While Jacinda Ardern is "a young proposition", she's not just been pulled from the bullrushes, and while the past 36 hours have seen a remarkable 'Jacinda Effect', she's not the saviour. But she has changed this election campaign utterly.