TV7’s Kingmaker debate was an opportunity for the leaders of the smaller parties to promote themselves without being overshadowed by Clark and Key. It’s shallow to give out points for a debate like this or announce winners but the debate did highlight the leaders’ strengths and weaknesses.
Anderton did bloody well. He pointed to where his party stands part from Labour, did an excellent job standing for the Progressives’ well-known and clearly defined principles, and rapped the Right on their constant negativism and ‘New Zealand Sucks’ campaign, while providing a fair amount of humour. On the topic of bottom-lines and who parties could work with, Anderton aid down the gantlet saying voters have the right to know which major party they might be putting into government by voting for a minor party.
Dunne was his dull, say-whatever-the-centre-wants-to-hear self and provided no real vision or reason to vote for United Future. He clearly leans to National but will work with whoever gives him the most power.
Fitzsimmons presented a clear set of principles and an optimistic vision of a future New Zealand. The debate showed that many parties had moved their policies towards the Greens on a number of issues, especially climate change, of course. But once again the Greens’ skill at being right before everyone else was let down by their political skills. Fitzsimmons appeared almost timid, too often she portrayed the Greens as victims their contributions ignored or underrated by media and other parties alike. And her comment regarding tax-cuts that ‘anyone will take a lollipop’ is not the way to win votes. Fitzsimmons needs to work on her media skills.
Hide answered every question by saying we need tax cuts for the rich. The only interesting thing he said was that, following Key’s rejection of the possibility of having ACT’s Roger Douglas in a National-led Cabinet, a number of National figures had approached him saying they do see a place for Douglas in Cabinet under National. That people in National have gone behind Key’s back to make such comments to ACT suggests a deeper level of dissension in the ranks than previously thought.
Sharples appeared under prepared and uncertain at times. He couldn’t give firm answers to a number of questions, saying his party would need to consult with supporters before it could answer basic questions like which of the major parties it would prefer to govern with . Politicians from other parties would be rewarded for this ‘vagueness’ but the emphasis on consultation plays well with Maori.
Peters didn’t show, officially because of a prior arrangement but really because he considers NZF above the minor parties, a mistake that made him seem arrogant and a lost opportunity to appear in a forum in which he surely would have starred.
All in all, the debate was very good. Let’s hope there are plenty more as we head into the election.