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Battle of the Henrys

Written By: - Date published: 1:08 pm, November 1st, 2011 - 29 comments
Categories: campaigning, election 2011, john key, labour, leadership, national, phil goff, tv - Tags: , ,

It struck me watching Goff and Key last night that it’s a bit like watching Graham Henry arguing with Paul Henry. One was staid and sincere and not prone to torrid flourishs, the other smugly smirking confident that his showmanship will carry the contest.

To be perfectly honest when I first started watching Goff last night I was a bit disappointed, but to be fair, I suppose my hopes and expectations were very high. Key dominated the first half of the debate in terms of words per minute and appeared (to the ignorant at least) to be in control of the facts. Key definitely came across as a dick on the personality front, but I think many kiwis might overlook that and gain the impression that Key did well.

Goff, on the other hand seemed to hold back too much and let Key walk all over him, which wasn’t helped by Espiner being more accommodating of Key than Goff when it came to turn-taking and interjections – seems the set was all-blue in more ways than just mise en scene . Overall I wanted to see more fire from Goff. He seemed too passive in my opinion and I would have liked to see him speaking more energetically and more positively – by which I mean making assertions about ‘what is’ and what ‘should be’ rather than negations and statements about what isn’t, and keeping in mind you can be damning of Government and still sound overall positive.

The second half of the debate saw Goff do much better and Key weaken. Goff scored some serious hits with “Key a liar” (which has now been re-printed and re-broadcast to a much larger audience than watched the actual debate) and overall looked like he had Key rattled. Worthy of note was how Key buckled when stuck in a corner. He crumpled. So Goff needs to keep Key on the ropes as long as he can and ignore the advice of National party supporters like Claire Robinson to stop attacking Key. Of course they want the attacks to stop – Key chokes under attack then goes to pieces.

After the debate I thought the tv and print media reported the event overall as something of a draw, which in a way I suppose it was. The TVNZ text-in-poll and the Stuff poll both had it at about 60/40 in favour of Key, which sounds about right. When you consider margin of error, the self-selecting nature of the samples, and National supporters being better disposed to pay for multiple votes, that split comes close enough to being even. More importantly, many, many voters would not have seen all or any of the debate, and will judge themselves on the basis of how it was reported.

The other thing to keep in mind is that Goff is the underdog. He started out a bit nervous but actually got stronger as time ground on. The opposite applied for Key, yet all the general public expectation, after three years of careful protection from exposure to hostile questioning, is on the PM to win. One of the things that helped Key against Clark in the last election is that a PM must be seen to clearly win in order to win. A draw, for a PM, is effectively a loss.

So in hindsight I find I’m more optimistic about Goff’s performance. Criticisms aside, he still did a good solid job. He didn’t set the world on fire (although I thought I saw smoke coming out of that thing on John Key’s head when he was exposed as a liar), but there were definitely flashes of brilliance. I hope Goff can relax a bit more, turn up the energy a bit more, don’t passively let Key run on or talk over him, and get more aggressive when the moments to whack Key present themselves. Other than that, just be generally beatific, super-intelligent, compassionate and handsome. I mean – no pressure – but how hard can all that be? 😉

And when you think about who won, it very much depends on what you were judging the two by. If you are Claire Robinson, you’ll be judging by whoever is National, and thereby deciding they won. If you are dim enough to find Paul Henry amusing and erudite, then you’ll probably be convinced, like a turkey voting for subsidies to the poultry industry, that John Key is in control and a competent leader. On the other hand if you were judging by who seems more trustworthy and sincere, solid enough to stay the distance, serious, to the point, then Goff won easily. And it’s in that respect that Goff’s style is  more like Graham Henry. Not exactly the Lady Gaga of the media, and sometimes inclined to tell you what you’d rather not hear with gritty no frills realism. But that’s a leadership archetype that New Zealanders respond to – especially when times are challenging.


29 comments on “Battle of the Henrys ”

  1. vto 1

    ha ha, fantastic shot of Key with a Donald Trump wig. How appropriate …

  2. Rain33 2

    All I can say is good on Phil Goff for doing the medias job for them, actually tackling Key on the tough issues. Off course Key looked rattled, he gets a free pass from the media (most of whom I am sure would prefer to be asking Key round for a beer and a “barbee” than having to actually question or challenge him) and I wouldn’t be surprised if they quietly offer up an apology to Key at the end of the interview.

    Goff showed some knackers (self flagellation aside) and proved to many that he is indeed up to the job. And while I’m at it, could someone please tell TVNZ to inform the viewing public of their “mid-debate commentators” political biases…are you listening Clare Robinson?

  3. higherstandard 3

    Actually a debate between Paul Henry and Graham Henry would be far preferable to Key vs Goff.

    Can you imagine either of them as PM – ha fasntastic !

  4. Roy 4

    “If you are dim enough to find Paul Henry amusing and erudite, then you’ll probably be convinced, like a turkey voting for subsidies to the poultry industry, that John Key is in control and a competent leader.”

    Unfortunately there are a lot of dimwit rednecks who do find Paul Henry amusing and erudite, and they vote.

  5. insider 5

    WHat’s with the slur on Clare Robinson? Is this based on the fact that she worked in Parliament, under a National govt, as an official, as do hundreds of civil servants? Does that disqualify her from voicing an opinion on anything political, ever?

    • Galeandra 5.1

      a) declare her allegiances beforehand
      b) comment on issues with explanation/evaluation.
      I can do style critique myself.
      c) give credit where it’s due.

      She fitted well in this media circus/non-debate.

    • ianmac 5.2

      I had no idea who Robinson was but instantly picked by her words and body talk that she was very biased towards Key. Her body sneer and disdain when other commentators opined was very telling. Reap what you sow.

      • insider 5.2.1

        You also perhaps see what you want to see. Sprout thinks Goff held back and lost the first part of the debate, I thought he won it and should have taken off the Mr Angry eyes at times. I can’t really remember what Robinson said – it was that unmemorable and uncontroversial – I think it was that Key was basically sticking to his script and that Goff hadn’t rattled him. I don’t recall her saying Key was wonderful, superior, and she wanted to have his babies, and that Goff was unelectable, mean and nasty etc, yet to read some of the Labour/left reactions you’d think she’d painted demon’s horns on a Goff billboard.

        • the sprout

          You also perhaps see what you want to see
          Also true. Danyl at Dimpost has a good take on this

        • lprent

          I can’t really remember what Robinson said – it was that unmemorable and uncontroversial

          It was unmemorable because it was politically moronic. There were several statements she made that looked as though she was reading from a pre-prepared script that she’d made the week before and that she hadn’t bothered to watch what was actually happening.

          The one that I found particularly idiotic was she was saying that Key was looking relaxed – when he looked like he was kind of zoned out on Prozac shuffling papers and not really in the debate. Here comment on Goff was something like that he was looking uncomfortable when he’d just finished that segment quite energetically putting his view.

          Quite simply I think that she was looking at some other debate. I have no idea what idiot put her in as a pundit. However in my view she makes every other idiot they have ever put in the role look good.

          • the sprout

            Even mild-mannered super reporter Vernon Small thought she was biased


          • higherstandard

            If you can damn people for saying things that are unmemorable and politically moronic perhaps far more of the vitriol should be directed at Key and Goff – after all they were the most unmemorable and politically moronic persons on display…….. along with Guyon of course.

            • One Anonymous Bloke

              lol speak for yourself – actually the more the debate progressed the more I warmed to Phil Goff. I regard the Labour party as the worst possible party apart from all the other ones, but I am starting to feel quite a warm glow at the prospect of voting for them. Perhaps it’s the tequila.

              • higherstandard

                comment deleted
                [sprout: you’ll have to get more entertaining or imaginative with your insults than that.
                moronic and never to be remembered. poor effort]

                • higherstandard

                  comment deleted

                  [Arguing with moderation is plain dumb. What’s gotten to you hs? Really you used to be a lot better than this…RL]

  6. Tiger Mountain 6

    Paul Henry is a sociopath so can fit in where he desires, the downside for him being not everyone sees the world as he does. Claimed to be a Darren Hughes friend too.

    Hopefully a leaf blower is produced in ShonKey’s presence soon so that the rug/comb-over hypotheses can be tested.

  7. ianmac 7

    Sprout: “The other thing to keep in mind is that Goff is the underdog.”
    Very true. The disgraceful way that MSM has hammered Mr Goff for a year or so should have left Phil as a wreck. After having a boot on Phil’s neck and a kick in the ribs every time he moved they seemed surprised that he is clever, alert, fluent and likeable.

    • indeed. they seem on the whole remarkably fair towards Goff this week.
      we’ll see what happens as the race gets closer

    • insider 7.2

      Goff seems to me a genuine good bloke, passionate, decent, bright and well intended, good debater. He seems to have a flaw about having his integrity challenged whcih seems to put him out of touch with common reality, and to me has come across as a bit of a try hard at times – slightly geeky guy trying to be one of the gang (but most pollies do that at times).

      I don’t think you can blame the media for showing the dysfunctionality that Labour has displayed at times or those flaws (look at how they did it to Brash), but I don’t think it is a campaign or disgraceful. The gallery are reef fish responding to stimuli; no stimuli, no reaction.

      There is also the legacy issues Goff has in being different in style and power from Clark. Clark could stomp on anything vaguely threatening from her team and did as PM. Goff perhaps has less power to do so in opposition (particularly given the ratings) and I don’t think he is wired that way, eg the way she dealt with Dover Samuels and the way he dealt with Darren Hughes (politically naive but decent on a personal level).

      • the sprout 7.2.1

        agreed – Goff is all of those things – an essentially decent and highly capable person.
        true that Labour and Goff stuffed up the handling of a number of issues over the last three years.
        also true that by and large he has received pretty poor treatment from the nz msm during that period.

  8. The ‘ongoing’ RadioLive – Horizon poll (the link to the poll is in this TV3 link) is an interesting counterweight to the txt/internet polls so far.

    Probably no less scientific than them.

  9. Rodel 9

    Can’t believe that you can give the slightest credence to the TV text polls. They are ridiculous, regardless of who the respondents support. No scientist, political or real would take any notice of such rubbish.
    If they went out on the street or even phoned a hundred people for a response then there would be some validity. Text in polls are less than nothing.Don’t even give them any of your brain cells.

    • agreed, i’ve written many posts and comments to that effect. only referred to them because in this case they seemed roughly plausible in terms of reflecting the split perceptions of the performances. and while they have zero validity, unfortunately they are also part of the public perception-forming mix.

      but yes, text polls are methodologically absurd.

  10. Wobble 10

    I think Claire’s analysis is (and always has been) poor. But I don’t think she’s a National hack.

  11. hoom 11

    To me Goff thoroughly won that.
    Key looked weak & disinterested, unable to decisively respond to Goffs ‘dinemic’ attacks.
    The admittedly small sample of people I’ve discussed it with all saw it as a clear Goff victory too.

    • the sprout 11.1

      the more people i’ve spoken to, the more i’ve heard they felt Goff won too – although having said that most of those people are reasonably intelligent, politically informed, and not necessarily representative of the electorate as a whole.

      i see too that some of the later online “polls” have given the win to Goff.

      of course a lot of the more naive voters probably didn’t watch anyway, hence the importance of the msm’s secondary reportage of the event.

  12. prism 12

    Perhaps we should be thinking Hooray Henrys.

    Meaning of Hooray Henry (from The Phrase Finder)
    A loud-mouthed but ineffectual upper class fool.
    This sounds very much like a phrase of British origin – possibly from the pen of P. G. Wodehouse. In fact it’s an American phrase, coined by Damon Runyon. In a piece for a 1936 edition of Collier’s Weekly, Runyon wrote:

    “He is without doubt strictly a Hoorah Henry, and he is generally figured as nothing but a lob as far as ever doing anything useful in this world is concerned.”

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