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My thoughts on the final TV One leaders’ debate

I’ve decided to base this call on points.  Part-by-part was clearly a silly way to do it, and calling it holistically just doesn’t happen.

This had two main effects on my approach to this debate.  Firstly, for my purposes, I was the sole arbiter of what constitutes a “point”, unlike before, when a “part” was just everything between ad breaks.  I might have split something into two points that others wouldn’t have.  Secondly, it means that I wasn’t afraid to call a point a draw, or even irrelevant, unlike before, when I made a call on every part, even if it was by the slimmest of margins.  If I have the leaders on even numbers at the end of this, so be it.

With this in mind, my additional disclaimer is that I’ve taken all “points” to be of equal value, regardless of how long was spent on it, how important I think it is, or how big the margin was.  It’s additional to this not being an assessment of whose policies I agree with, nor taking account of how the debate was moderated.  Also, it’s not necessarily who I think you should vote for, but then again, with election day tomorrow, I’m probably the last to decide.  The last warning is that, because I took this point by point, this post’s longer, and only shallowly covers each point, so it may lack both depth and conciseness.

The first part
There was nothing surprising or enlightening about the US presidential election, or the one policy of each liked of their opponents’.  When it came to job losses in the financial crisis, Key sort of rambled on for a while, didn’t really go beyond the words “high growth economy”, and his lack of conciseness cost him when Sainsbury had to cut him off.  But while there were no surprises in the leaders’ attitudes to a “grand coalition”, Clark probably overstated the extent of National’s privatisation policy, costing her that point.  I had Key winning the job losses to migrants part, if only thanks to Sainsbury’s prompting him to actually offer a solution.  He did so, he linked it to his diagnosis of fundamental problems, and it made sense.  Clark 1, Key 2, even/irrelevant 2.

Making the economy work
I considered the change part not serious enough to be relevant (though I would have given it to Clark).  Both gave unimpressive answers about the rail, but Clark’s plans seemed more specified.  I was disappointed that neither leader had the guts to give an outright “no” to the Maori Party’s $500-for-free plan, but Clark at least hinted some pragmatism, whereas Key strayed way off-topic.  I would have considered the clash over how much spending is too much relevant if they had had the opportunity to respond to each other.  As for farm animals in the emissions trading scheme, while both leaders gave solutions, Key was more detailed about the basis for his solution.  Clark 2, Key 1, even/irrelevant 1.

Taking a stand
If Key rambled aimlessly again about desperately ill children, luck was in his favour.  He got somewhere with it, when he talked about it not being about “individual cases”, but about a system that “delivers value”.  I guess that was a hard question.  Clark responded well to the suggestion that people stop listening after nine years.  You would think that, with Key’s barrage of statistics, he would set out to prove that the Clark administration was actually sub-standard, but upon prompt, he effectively conceded that nine years from now, his government would be just as useless—whoops!  There was no real clash over the display of tobacco at retail outlets.  Clark 1, Key 1, even/irrelevant 1.

Law and order
I’m not sure if Key changed his boot camps policy, but it sounded a lot better than it did six months ago.  I’m not sure how Albany related to this, but Clark seemed to get drawn to talk about service academies too.  Clark rightly reiterated her early intervention stance, but Key had detailed his (renamed?) Fresh Start Programme enough to take this point.  Asked about how to eradicate P, Key had the more multi-pronged approach; Clark seemed maybe a bit over-obsessed with gangs.  I don’t get what asking about compulsory military training was meant to achieve, and I considered confession time irrelevant (though entertaining).  Key 2, even/irrelevant 2.

Personal qualities
There was obviously never going to be any clash about abortion.  But when pressed about their theistic beliefs and what “moves” them, I felt Clark gave the more genuine answer, whereas Key couldn’t tell it wasn’t the time to be talking about policy.  I guess people might like anecdotes like his, but I didn’t think he could generalise it well enough to be convincing.  In a section about “personal qualities” of leaders, I considered this point to be relevant.  There was similarly never going to be a clash about Israel.  Espiner’s question about flip-flops was a good one, and Clark’s hesitation cost her.  Key stumbled slightly on student loans, but his open admission of his mistakes about Kiwibank and Maori Television made him look good.  Clark 1, Key 1, even/irrelevant 4.

The hard decisions
This section was fun to watch, but there wasn’t really anything decisive.  When the leaders gave their views on climate change, it was largely just reiterating their principles.  If you think it was relevant, then I call that point a draw.  Hypothetical questions about Cabinet were interesting, but I didn’t think it was a point of debate.  Even/irrelevant 4.

Counting up the points…
Clark has five, Key has seven and I saw ten as even or irrelevant.  I guess that means my call is with Key.

In case you were wondering, I didn’t take the final statements into account because they weren’t really part of the debate.  (That doesn’t mean the statements won’t impact my vote.)  And, to state the obvious, because I did this on points not parts, my thoughts here probably aren’t comparable to my thoughts on the other debates.  I might have called the other debates differently if I had done them this way.

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