Swing Seats

Swing Seats

I'm writing this just before it screens on freeview and streams online. We went to the tvnz 7 "Swing Seats" debate, being, as Dom pointed out in a previous post, particularly privileged in terms of that ghastly election practice known as strategic voting.

Firstly, everybody but Hide admitted that they were campaigning for the party vote, which kinda detracted from the "town hall-style" atmosphere in which the debate was supposed to be housed; the questions were posed in terms of party policy and only tenuously linked to electorate issues. Instead of the candidates being faced with an audience of concerned citizens they were confronted by their own choir, quartered into partisan cohorts and drawn up in order: ACT, Greens, National, Labour. And yeah, the questions came from the floor, but from people already convinced in their vote; apart, perhaps, from the small contingent of local high-school students, who began with a kinda broad question but got in a better one later on.

Kate Sutton was dwarfed by the veteran Epsom candidates, and rattling off the trust, look at what we've done party lines definitely didn't help. She did compliment me on my hat before we went in, which had me pleasantly confused until I figured out who she was.

Keith Locke did his usual quiet insistent thing, answering reasonably but strongly. Perhaps he realized that although we couldn't hear him under the barracking he had a microphone, and the TV audience, probably more open to what the candidates had to say than the live audience, actually could hear him. Unfortunately, a well-meaning supporter of his asked a question about the _rising_ price of oil; and the whole point of the finitude of these magical things called resources was lost amidst suggestions that the questioner read the paper.

Richard Worth was criticized as having given up on the Epsom seat, which he countered by the party vote argument. Like the Labour candidate, this guy got disregarded a bit. Unlike Labour, National's support contingent weren't very vocal at all, just kinda waved their signs…which was all made up for by the vociferous ACT supporters whom we were unfortunately seated directly behind. An amusing and perhaps indicative situation played out in front of us: a woman gave her seat to a new arrival that he might sit next to his ACT buddies, and he thanked her sincerely; very soon, however, we noticed that she was physically shying away from her new neighbour, who was getting into the habit of letting out booming condemnations, and when the next opportunity arose she removed herself. Rodney did what he does best, playing to the crowd, walking in front of the other candidates rather than behind, speaking in that way of his which makes everyone shut up and listen. Unfortunately for him his supporters didn't do him much service, but he of all the others seemed most interested in supporting Epsom. I don't think it would be fair to say he's only interested in the electorate for the purpose of staying in parliament.

Meh, I'm new to the electorate; perhaps I haven't acclimatized yet.

This guy didn't do the best job of controlling the candidates, let alone the audience. I'm not even sure whether we should apply a word with the audi- root to that group of people. The questions didn't get the chance to be answered, let alone debated. We moved swiftly from education to crime to economy and I don't think any of those issues was properly addressed, but that's what you get when you pile a whole lot of people who know their party lines and are sure they're right into a room. I'll be interested to see how it comes across on the teevee.