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Mr Key flew into the city and into a storm of controversy, facing the media pack for the first time to answer questions regarding Nicky Hager's contentious book Dirty Politics: how attack politics is poisoning New Zealand's political environment.
Before facing the media, Mr Key visited Chatsford, in Mosgiel, and then Forsyth Barr Stadium, where about 80 people had paid between $50 and $75 to hear his view on the world.
Mr Key did not look entirely at ease as he attempted small talk with a few of those attending before he was whisked to the front of the room and the lectern.
After a perfunctory welcome, he rose to his feet and lectured the audience in a rapid-fire delivery which seemed at odds with his normal engaging style.
It was a cold room and Mr Key failed to warm it up.
The usual statistics were rolled out regarding economic growth, unemployment falling, investment in the regions, returning to surplus and the increased spending on health, education and science.
The prime minister seemed ill at ease for someone usually so skilled at having an audience warm to him quickly in formal situations. The audience, of ages ranging from 30 upwards, sat still, totally focusing on what Mr Key was saying.
While mentioning Dunedin-listed company Scott Technology, Mr Key seemed a bit more enthusiastic, but
it was not until he started explaining MMP
that he showed any signs of animation.
Emphasising the only vote which mattered was the party vote, Mr Key started gesticulating as he urged those present to head home and phone 20 of their friends to urge them to vote National first, then any candidate they liked, although he preferred Dunedin North candidate and Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse and Dunedin South candidate Hamish Walker to get the tick.
He jokingly warned Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean if she did not win in a landslide, he would speak to her later - bringing the first laughter of the day from the audience.
Mr Key's first genuine and warm smile came while answering a question on tertiary education when he proudly told the audience his son Max was at Auckland University doing a double degree and two majors.
After speaking, Mr Key spoke to a few people in the audience before facing persistent questioning on Mr Hager's book. He attempted to distance himself, the National Party and party staff member Jason Ede from the allegations, saying Whale Oil blogger Cameron Slater had taken responsibility for some activities mentioned in the book.
Following a central city walkabout, which caught officials by surprise, Mr Key went to the Otago Daily Times Class Act function at the Dunedin Public Art Gallery.
By now good-natured and ebullient, Mr Key addressed pupils, parents and other guests, joking to ODT editor Murray Kirkness the newspaper might endorse the National Party on September 19, the day before the general election.
This was in response to Mr Kirkness' speech, in which he gave a self-professed ''plug'' for parents to buy copies of the newspaper featuring the secondary school achievement event.
''When you said: `Here's for the plug' that wasn't quite the plug I was thinking ...
but you should feel free to throw that in the editorial on the 19th of September.''
Mr Key emphasised the importance of attitude, not just ability, to achieving goals in life. He recalled his mother's advice to him growing up: ''You get out of life what you put into it''.
''We have an election coming up, and if we win it I'll be back for 2015, and if we don't, I'll read about it [in the ODT].''