- Date published:
1:08 pm, November 1st, 2011 - 29 comments
Categories: campaigning, election 2011, john key, labour, leadership, national, phil goff, tv - Tags: debates, graham henry, paul henry
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.