A much better performance from Clark saw her best Key in tonight’s debate.
As well as being on top of all the issues, as always, she took the fight to Key, calling him up on his lies. After not doing as well as she had expected in the first debate, Clark had adapted.
Key was weak and, enitrely predictably, he stuck to the same forumla that had won him through last time (interrupting Clark, keeping it vague, and running those same old lies). He even looked scared when Campbell asked him about National’s old neo-liberals on the front-bench. He looked very bad when he made a personal attack on Cullen. He started reasonably strongly but seemed actually physically tired by the end.
Clark was visionary at moments too. The defining moment of the debate was when the leaders were asked about freedom. Clark said her purpose in politics is to create more freedom for people – through better education, better health, more jobs, and higher wages. That’s what real freedom in the social democratic ideal is about, freeing people from the constraints of the class they are born into in a capitalist system. Key’s response on freedom was ‘lightbulbs, they’re taking away our lightbulbs’. It made him look petty and small-minded.
At that point, we had the measure of them both. We saw that Clark’s politics arises from deep, principled conviction. We saw that Key is about jumping on the latest populist bandwagon.