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My thoughts on the first leaders’ debate

Here are my thoughts on the first TV One leaders’ debate.  They represent what I thought at the time, when I first watched it on YouTube, because I missed the televised debate, owing to a test.  I’ve picked a “winner” for each section, and then attempted to combine everything at the end.

Opening statements
One would be disappointed if both statements weren’t impressive, and both were.  What put Key ahead was his emphasis in his vision on concepts related to how New Zealanders, or more properly “we”, feel, which were more likely to strike a chord with the average voter.  Key.

KiwiSaver and tax cuts
Key was able to extensively detail his views and plans for the economy, but his failure to address the question, “will people get fired”, lost him points.  Clark, conversely, could convincingly answer everything put to her, but her only impressive moment was her promises of job-rich projects to ensure high employment through a financial crisis.  While it was enlightening, Clark’s inability to launch enough dents into Key’s KiwiSaver plans, and Key’s unusually sound detail on his ideas (bar the last question), clinched him this section.  Key.

Housing and the economically disadvantaged
Clark’s comments on KiwiSaver helping first-home buyers were credible, but Key was able to offer a different yet compelling perspective here.  He benefited from pinpointing “red tape” as a contributor to high housing costs, though the part about shower nozzles might have been a bit excessive.  Clark lost a lot of points when in heated debate she accused Key of being “used to shouting people down at home”.  She then gave a long-winded definition of the rich-poor gap, while Key related a simple explanation to experiences people know about, and then to his own background.  Both leaders seemed to go off-track a bit when asked about how they would help low and middle-income families get through the recession, or at least, unable to clearly relate their policies to the question.  Key.

Climate change and sustainability
Key made good points about the difference between rhetoric and pragmatism, but was unable to clearly articulate his position on the matter.  Whereas Clark could show an obvious stance on the issue and back it with practical evidence and experience, Key found himself arguing both that a balance between economic opportunities and reducing emissions was needed, and that Labour’s policies had failed to address climate change, leaving voters unsure as to whether he would bring that balance, or bring policies that would do what Labour couldn’t.  Clark.

Both leaders shared the same view on direct answers to both YouTube questions.  Key spent perhaps an excessive amount of time talking about youth crime, but that and his rant on people needing to defend themselves would have resonated well with the emotively moved.  Clark’s stumble on whether the new cops were on the front line cost her slightly, and while Clark gave good answers to all questions, Key showed no differences, so his seizing the opportunity to show his priorities put him forward by a nose.  I’m not entirely sure how a sports tour twenty-seven years ago relates to combatting crime, so I’m going to ignore that part (which would have fallen in Key’s favour, but pointlessly).  Key—just.

Key’s obsession with his national standards policy cost him, as Sainsbury had to prompt him again to get an answer about universal student allowances, in contrast to Clark’s straightforward response.  He then had difficulty defending national standards in the face of Clark’s attacks which referred to advice from the teaching profession and suggested over-regulation on National’s part.  Key exposed Clark’s loss of touch with reality when she tried to say that parents didn’t have to pay for education, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the shortcomings of his national standards policy.  Clark.

Leadership – what it takes
Key killed it when he tried to assert—repeatedly—this was a “change” election, especially after an unconvincing response to the first YouTube question asking for examples of freshness.  Clark later hashed out the “change” argument to her advantage.  If it wasn’t for this, Key might have won.  He made good, comforting references to his experience in finance and getting through tough economic times, but he simply had to try too hard to set the “fresh” mood in my mind, which didn’t look good.  Clark.

A simple count of seven sections would have my thoughts in Key’s favour, but the counting’s a bit more complex than that.  The opening statements can’t be considered an entire section, given they were relatively short and prepared, so it should get less weight.  More importantly, one of the sections I thought Key was stronger in, I also thought was a marginal victory.  In contrast, I felt that all three of the sections Clark had were relatively convincing.  With this in mind, I could assign numerical values to the margins and weightings, and summarise it in a table, but I think that would put too much of it to what numbers I assign.  Instead, I could look at it holistically.  I can’t say I was swayed either way.

Apologies if you were expecting me to call an actual winner.  I might be swayed a bit further on.

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