Clark vs. Key: Round One

Clark vs. Key: Round One

Tonight was the first leader's debate of this campaign.. minus all those pesky minority parties, of course. Going into it I had three real main questions: 1) Was Clark going to live up to her reputation as a political giant? 2) Was Key going to "Brash it", or actually give a real showing? 3) Were they going to be made to answer any real questions?

Quite frankly, I think Sainsbury got handed his balls on a platter. The man couldn't control them, he was completely ineffectual. Willie Jackson did a better job stopping Peters and Hooton killing each other on Eye to Eye. I don't think Clark lived up to her reputation. She was strong, yes, but talking over top of him made her look like she was literally having to compete with him for attention. Also, her personal digg - shouting at home - was appalling, and berating him about the Springbok tour made her look like she was living in the past.

She was strong on presenting her experience and she perhaps made up for the perceived disparity between their ability to handle the economic crisis by talking decisively about a post-economic plan. I was disappointed to see her dodging so many questions, though, especially the ones from the Maori commentator and specifically the one regarding 1/2 of all Maori boys leaving school without NCEA Level One by appearing to claim that she herself and come up with the idea of the apprenticeship.

I was abundantly impressed with Key. Yes, I'm partisan, but as a debater I thought he was impressive. He was knowledgeable - he answered questions instead of reverting to points and he gave lots of detail which is normally a Clark speciality. He was confident and forthright. He really had to come out and present himself as a man who could be the next leader of our country and I felt he did that. Yes, he gave in to the squabble a bit and I cringed at that but I thought he gained a lot more than he gave away. He pulled her up on Climate Change which was great to see and he definitely redeemed the party post the Brash massacre of '05.

Finally, were they made to answer any real questions? I think the YouTube thing was an interesting idea, but I hope the next debate is purely moderator - one with some stones, hopefully - driven. The commentators asked some hard questions but they weren't really forced to answer them. Yes, that's politics, but I would like to see someone really stick it to them and force them to get specific. They focussed mainly on domestic policy, but that's fair enough because in a country this size that's where elections are won and lost.

I'll be interested to see who gets declared the winner by impartial consensus - I think it was fairly evenly matched but I'd say Key gained a lot whereas Clark lost just a little too much by not coming out as the strong force we expect. So far the Herald has called it 2/3 for Key, but I'll be intrigued to see what the TVNZ poll says.

Your thoughts?



My thoughts: I want to see a debate moderated by Sean Plunket, Geoff Robinson or Kim Hill.
Radio New Zealand has 3 of 5 debates left moderated by Kim Hill, however so far neither Labour nor National have sent their leaders (though to be fair the last debate was about Health).

Interestingly, the Maori Party tend to be sending people-who-aren't-MPs-but-are-likely-to-be-elected.

The debates are at 5pm on Sunday nights on RNZ National.
Yeah, the Maori spokesperson at the health debate I went to performed the greeting and farewell but when it came to representing her party's policy admitted she hadn't really been briefed; she unfortunately became the quaint comic relief (along with the RAM guy).

And yeah, Kim Hill oughta be able to keep 'em in line: must listen. I'm still hanging out for a debate which includes major and minor parties.
These debates are open to all eight parties. The first debate in Wellington didn't have NZ First (day of their campaign launch), and in the second debate David Cunliffe arrived 3 minutes after it started (hooned down from Auckland from Labour's campaign launch).
cool, thanks. I had been planning on going bowling on my birthday, but why not a debate!
Yet again, Key hammered the violent youth crime line. That's rubbish. Ephebiphobia, against the facts, is as bad as racism.
Speaking of racism, you make it sound as if Clarke was the one who brought up the issue of The Tour, when it was Barry Soper. And, frankly, he has a point.

The Tour isn't just something that "happened 27 years ago". It was and is fucking important and relevant, even today. It's a part of our political landscape, whether Key likes it or not - as much a fixture as Maori seats and tax rates.

Simply: which side of the issue someone came down on speaks of their character. In Key's case, he claims he lacked conviction either way. That's disturbing. Sure, not as disturbing as if he'd attended matches, but it is still a worry. Consider: if he lacked the judgement to see what was right back then (exact words: "I was probably mildly pro-the-tour"), will he have the judgement to make the right decisions tomorrow?
Are you actually kidding? You're saying that in TWENTY-SEVEN YEARS, somebody probably can't learn to differentiate between right and wrong?

I don't agree with you that the Tour is still a very present reality in our political landscape. Its something we *did*, yes. Its important to recognise as a part of our political history, *yes*. But what side you were on in that debate - or even if you were in the debate at all, and I think people forget just how divided the country was back then - does not, in my opinion, tell me whether or not you will be able to lead our country. Put it this way: somebody who fought against Apartheid, against oppression by the government rammed through a bill that has stifled EVERYBODY's free speech?? How can she *possibly* have changed an opinion in TWENTY-SEVEN YEARS????

Caps lock is cruise control for awesome.

My point isn't that Key hasn't learnt something or changed his mind since '81. I recognise that he's since reconsidered, and that he now thinks the tour was wrong, and let me say plainly that's a good thing, and it's to his credit.

But what worries me isn't just his previous lack of moral conviction. It's his judgement. Here, let me use a five year old example:

Leaders are often called up on make decisions based on incomplete information. Consider the choice a leader faced in 2003: to support the coalition of the willing in Iraq, or to stay out of it. At the time it was possible to be for, against or even ambivalent to the proposition of going to war. You might have held "no strong conviction either way". You might have been mildly pro-war, but didn't go to marches. Any of these positions is possible.

But. we now know that to have gone to war would have been the wrong decision to make. It's wrong in a timeless sense; even if you didn't have all the facts, even if you had faulty intelligence, even if it was an entirely reasonable decision to make. To go to war would have been the wrong decision, a failure of judgement.

In a similar sense, Key's decision to support the tour was wrong. It was a failure of judgement.

Suppose we face an international crisis tomorrow. I want to know the Prime Minister of New Zealand is able to make the right choice. Key has a history of making the wrong one. That's why the tour is relevant.
Okay, I take your point, but I still believe mine is valid.

I'd rather a leader who has made wrong decisions, but now makes the right ones rather than somebody who has gone the other way - like Clark.
"He was strong, yes, but talking over top of her made him look like he was literally having to compete with her for attention."

Fixed that for you. Try 10:40 here:
The worst parts were when they were both in agreement. The question about debating with the other parties: Clark says, look, it's gonna be one of us two; look across to Key nodding his head. Is it really a decent multi-party system when we are told that the only value other parties have is to decide the power of two main parties?

And both agree (against, it would seem, the person who posed the question) that human beings are contributing to the changing of the climate; Key attacks the disparity between Clark's rhetoric and record but doesn't offer any intention to improve on her record. That Clark's efforts to lessen the impact of us on our environment have been ineffective means either that the effects of the admittedly recent legislation have not manifested themselves yet or that _stronger_ methods need to be brought to bear, not that nothing needs to be done or that current legislation needs to be weakened. Their collective answer to the question seemed to be, well, actually, question-asker, climate change _is_ a real problem, the debate is closed (at least between us two); it's just neither of us are doing anything about it.
Key's points about Clark's ineffectual environmental policy were mostly flat out lies. From The Standard (

Lie: carbon emissions from coal have doubled under Labour
Fact: electricity emissions have increased 20%, more electricity is generated per unit of emissions, there is a ban on new baseload thermal generation, and Huntly will be replaced by renewable generation

Lie: productivity has halved under Labour
Fact: productivity is up 15% under Labour

Lie: power prices have increased 50% under Labour
Fact: power prices are up 18% after inflation, incomes are up 25% after inflation
TVNZ Poll:

47000 votes cast

32000 believe John Key won the debate
15000 believe Helen Clark won the debate.
80% of people believe trees make wood out of dirt.

Most people believe summer is caused by the Earth being closer to the Sun (mainly because we continue to show orbits as ellipses in faux-3D:

Hell, don't get me started on the coriolis effect, the generation of lift by a foil, the mutual incompatibility of religion.

So, even if the poll were 100% unbiased, even if it wasn't a text poll for a televised debate, even if it didn't cost $1, even if it didn't allow multiple voting, even if it was a fucking census, it still wouldn't mean shit.
Polls are polls are polls.

If they didn't mean shit, they wouldn't do them.

And, I know John Key is a millionaire and all, but spending $32000 to make himself the winner is not only against the EFA but unecessary when he has blatant public support behind him.

..Or have you not seen the latest CURIA polls?
seriously, why do we hold polls? The only advantage I can see is for parties to adjust their campaigns or for voters to adjust their opinions solely on popularity. A poll I'd be interested in would be on public opinion on some of the important policies; then I could compare the results with party policies and perhaps even make a vote that wasn't selfish, that considered the desires of my co-citizens (is that allowed?)

ah, here we are:
Interestingly, Winston Peters is trying to push for a ban on pre-election polls 28 days before an election.

Something which both ACT and Greens strongly oppose.
The only thing I could quickly find on that was from 2001... I suppose there is some interest in tracking public opinion leading up to the election, and realize also that to some extent my proposed investigation can work in reverse: you can find out who people are voting for and then check out those parties' policies; although I think that would yeild a poorer judgement of public opinion on policy. So I don't know about banning the polls, just wonder why we place so much stock in them, why newspapers are obsessed with them.

If indeed Peters is still now pushing for such a ban, if indeed the figure 15% which he quotes is at all indicative of the number of votes influenced by popularity polling I think I'd be inclined to support it.
Peters won't be pushing for it anymore. Now that he feels the danger of the threshold as much as ACT and the Greens, he'll realise why polls are vital for small parties in single figure percentages: they convince potential voters that small parties are viable.
Well, actually, there's polls, and then there's polls. You can't seriously entertain the thought that a TVNZ or Stuff poll is anything like a Gallup or a Colmar Brunton.

As for your argument "if they didn't mean shit, they wouldn't do them", there is the little issue of them making $50,000 off the poll we're talking about. I'd say that's a reason to do something, wouldn't you?
True enough.

And no, I don't seriously entertain that thought - give me at least a *little* credit.
"Is" is supposed to be "was". I edited it for some reason.
And you shouldn't need polls for people to check out a parties policies. People should take that upon themselves.