Labour play safe while National, NZ First and Greens chase votes

A common claim is that this election is Labour’s to lose, and they are doing their best to play things as safely as possible to try to maintain the large lead the polls give them.

With National so far behind the most doubt is on whether Labour will get a majority on their own, or if they survive will NZ First or Greens hold the balance of power. If both the smaller parties make the threshold it’s possible Labour have enough seats to play one against the other – two tales weak.

Greens have been trying to appeal to those who want a much bolder, more progressive left leaning government. That may work to an extent, but they are as likely to get votes from those who want to stop Labour getting sole charge.

Newsroom: Labour, Greens clash over emergency housing

Social Welfare Minister Carmel Sepuloni has hit back at a Green Party U-turn over a rental charge for emergency housing tenants, criticising them for airing their criticisms in the media rather than with her directly.

However social housing advocates say a major change in the way emergency housing operates means the policy is more unfair than when it was first floated – and should be reconsidered.

Meanwhile both National and NZ First have ramped up their attempts to pick up votes, but NZ First is fighting for survival, and National seem to have largely given up competing head to head with Labour, instead trying more to stop a collapse in support rather than seeking an unlikely surge.

While Judith Collins had a better than expected debate against Jacinda Ardern it wasn’t enough to make much difference, especially alongside a poor week for National. They had multiple problems with their economic policy that they had to keep trying to defend, and they also have problems with bad publicity over questionable or misleading claims being made by various candidates.

Luke Malpass (Stuff): National goes hunting for votes on the right while Labour plays it safe

This was the week we found out exactly what the two major parties’ game plan is.

Labour now clearly believes it can win a majority – or thereabouts (although people in the party’s campaign remain pessimistic, citing history). National is now in the business of trying to win votes back from ACT, off NZ First, and off the other social conservative parties, which seem to be making a bit of a run in the polls.

While National has not given up the ghost, it is clear that its aim for the next couple of weeks is to prevent the party going into what its own MPs call the “death spiral”: where potential centre-right voters know National won’t be in government and peel off to other alternatives, defenestrating the party and making the rebuild task much harder.

But ACT, which is now polling at 7 per cent and is the biggest current recipient of the collapse of National’s vote, is now offering something much more consistent, and principled, than National has been able to offer.

ACT’s draft Budget, unlike National’s, added up. It also had some intellectual rigour behind it.

This election remains firmly in Labour’s favour. No-one in National is any longer talking about a ‘’path to victory’’. It’s now about damage control and MPs with even healthy majorities are hunkering down in their electorates, making sure they hold their seats. There’s still three weeks to go and anything could happen, but it’s still Labour’s to lose.

That’s certainly how it looks. National is trying to recover support lost to ACT, and maybe pick up (or stop losing more) a bit of support in the centre.

NZ First have been really struggling. Peters looks a couple of generations out of synch with Ardern. But he is usually a canny campaigner, and yesterday he made a big play, albeit on a well worn topic.

Thomas Manch (Stuff): Winston Peters’ Ōrewa speech is a war-cry to an old, inflated enemy

Winston Peters has reached into the past in the hope of raiding ACT and National votes for his ailing party.

Stuff: Winston Peters unleashes on Labour over Ihumātao in race-relations speech, says NZ First stopped deal three times

NZ First leader Winston Peters has attacked Labour over Ihumātao in a blistering speech, saying he stopped a deal there that would have opened a flood of reopened Treaty claims.

He said only NZ First could “protect” the principle of “one law for all” from “wokeish fellow traveller elites”.

The contested land near Auckland airport has been occupied since 2016. It is currently owned by Fletcher Building who had planned a housing development on the land. The land was originally confiscated by the Crown in 1865. Local iwi struck a deal with Fletchers in 2014 that saw the housing project scaled back, but protestors contend the land should be turned over entirely.

Ardern intervened in July of 2019, saying no new building would happen until a peaceful settlement had been reached.

Peters said this happened without consulting him while he was overseas and it was a “terrible decision” – breaking an agreement the two parties had made to avoid “the sort of politically correct policies that undermined the Helen Clark governments.”

“No consultation was ever done with our party, as by Labour’s agreement with us should’ve happened,” Peters said.

He said NZ First “went to the wall” to stop a deal happening but if Labour were re-elected with the Green Party or by itself a deal would go through.

“We said no to Labour. Not once. Not twice. But three times,” Peters said.

“If Labour governs after the election, by themselves (heaven forbid), or with the Greens (God help us all), then they will do a deal at Ihumātao. Nothing is more certain.”

“If the Crown weakens its resolve after the election you just watch the flood of action on previously settled Treaty claims.”

“So if you want a future free from the past and free of guilt choose the only party that can stop Ihumātao and its domino effect and fallout. If you don’t want a new wave of claims on previously settled Treaty claims it’s in your hands. If you want to live in a country where there is ‘one law for all’ only New Zealand First can protect you.”

Peters said National were “nowhere” in the race and a vote for ACT would be wasted.

So shots fired from Peters in all directions. His anti-Ihumātao outburst will appeal to some, but it’s hard to know whether it will swing enough votes NZ First’s way. Peters has struggled to shed an image of being not just yesterday’s man, but last century’s man.

And voters will remember that he didn’t deliver on much of his rhetoric from the last campaign, nor for his enabling of a Labour led government.

Another relative youngster has also been outperforming him.

ACT leader David Seymour said Peters had created the problem by making Ardern prime minister.

“Peters could have promoted one law for all in Cabinet for three years, instead of rolling it out three weeks before the election,” Seymour said.

“This is all too little, too late.”

I wouldn’t rule out a last ditch scrambling out of a political and poll ditch, but times have changed since previous Winston inspired houdini acts. He used to be able to attract a lot of favourable and free media publicity.

After yesterday’s speech Peters got some coverage but he was well down the TV headline pecking order last night, and he is hardly dominating today’s news cycle.

On top of that, most people hardly or don’t follow mainstream media any more. Peters hasn’t adapted much to social media – even National are using new media a lot now.

Labour and ACT are doing what they need too do successfully. Greens may have recovered a bit of essential ground.

National and NZ First are scrapping for any support they can find, and the going is tough. They should also be wary of advanced NZ and New Conservatives picking up some fringe support off them.

It’s three weeks until the election. Maybe the campaign will get interesting, but it’s hard to see Labour losing, it seems more a matter of how well they win.

Open Forum Saturday

This post is open to anyone to comment on any topic that isn’t spam, illegal or offensive. All Your NZ posts are open but this one is for you to raise topics that interest you, or you think may interest others.. 

If providing opinions on or summaries of other information also provide a link to that information. Bloggers are welcome to summarise and link to their posts. Comments worth more exposure may be repeated as posts. Comments from other forums can be repeated here, cut and paste is fine.

Your NZ is a mostly political and social issues blog but not limited to that, and views from anywhere on the political spectrum are welcome. Some ground rules:

  • If possible support arguments, news, points or opinions with links to sources and facts.
  • Please don’t post anything illegal, potentially defamatory or abusive.

FIRST TIME COMMENTERS: Due to abuse by a few, first comments under any ID will park in moderation until released (as soon as possible but it can sometimes take a while).

Sometimes comments will go into moderation or spam automatically due to mistyped ID, too many links (>4), or trigger text or other at risk criteria. If they pass muster they will be released as soon as possible (it can sometimes take hours).

More mistakes in National’s economic plan could be inconsequential

There are claimed to be more problems with Nationals numbers in their economic plan.

Last week: National Party admits $4 billion hole in their promised spending

The National Party officially launched its election campaign today, but it was hindered by a $4 billion hole in its flagship economic policy.

The party’s finance spokesperson Paul Goldsmith was forced to concede his numbers did not add up after Labour revealed the significant gap in its costings.

“This is an irritating mistake. We missed it, and our external checker missed it as well, and that’s a mistake that we made,” he says.

Now the party will instead borrow the missing billions, which Goldsmith argues is still far less than what Labour is borrowing.

National Party leader Judith Collins told media after the launch it was inconsequential in the scheme of things.

Two days ago National’s fiscal hole appears to double to $8 billion as Paul Goldsmith denies double count mistake

The hole in National’s alternative budget may have blown out by another $3.9b after the party appears to have double-counted part of its transport programme.

The error has come about after National twice counted $3.9 billion left over from the New Zealand Upgrade package, an infrastructure plan announced by the Government in late January.

In fact, the left over money was put into Treasury’s multi-year capital allowance back in May. In National’s costings, the party had counted the two sums of money separately, when, in fact, the NZ Upgrade programme money now only exists in the capital allowances.

Today the story continues – National says fiscal plan stacks up after Labour insists there’s another mistake

National’s finance spokesperson Paul Goldsmith remains defiant the party’s economic plan stacks up – but has had to make another correction after using out of date figures.

Goldsmith says National’s “estimate is that would lead to about half of the people who are getting in the first year getting it in the second year”. The party is looking at a threshold of about $90,000 for an annual household income, he says, but that would be “clarified at the appropriate time”.

A second $88 million error, by using Budget figures for the 10-year ‘Existing Capital Allowance’ instead of the pre-election update, has now been corrected in National’s online plan.

Labour says there is a second $4bn error as National has double counted transport funding.

“Paul Goldsmith is floundering”, Labour’s Grant Robertson says.

“He’s trying to change his plan quietly in the background so he doesn’t have to own up to his leader for another mistake.”

Labour says National has allocated $3.9bn of transport funding under the NZ Upgrade Programme, but that money no longer exists in that programme as it was transferred by the government at the start of this year into a more general capital fund.

It says National has also counted and allocated that money in its general capital fund – so has double counted.

Goldsmith says he doesn’t “accept that at all”.

Whether Goldsmith is right or not this time is of little importance compared to the ongoing exposure of National’s less than competence economic plan.

Collins is probably right. In the scheme of things it is likely to be inconsequential as National look almost certain to not get a chance to implement their economic plan, especially if mistakes keep being highlighted.

National’s bad year continues. They have done a bad job of rebuilding the party after losing power in 2017. Covid hasn’t helped, but multiple leadership changes, disunity, an exodus of experience and an inability to put together a competent economic plan makes most of their problems self inflicted.

Greens – wealth tax, top priorities versus bottom lines

This may be little more than semantics given how malleable election promises and committed bottom lines are – Winston Peters in particular has a record of asserting bottom lines during an election campaign that disappear from coalition arrangements.

MP Julie Anne Genter said at a small business panel discussion the a wealth was a “bottom line” for the Greens if they were to join into a second Coalition government with Labour.

But co-leader James Shaw has followed up saying it would only be a top priority, and Greens don’t do bottom lines.

Newstalk ZB – Wealth tax ‘a bottom line’ for a Greens-Labour government: Genter

The Greens election policies include a plan to make Kiwis with a net-worth greater than $1 million, pay 1 per cent of their wealth to the government as a tax.

Those worth more than $2m would pay out 2 per cent of their wealth as tax.

Greens MP Julie Anne Genter today told a Newstalk ZB small business panel discussion the tax policy was a “bottom line” condition that must be met for her party to join into a second Coalition government with Labour.

However, Labour MP Stuart Nash quickly rejected the idea, saying Labour would not be introducing a wealth tax.

“[A wealth tax was] off the table,” he said.

Genter defended the wealth tax, saying it would only affect the wealthiest 6 per cent of Kiwis.

“Any sensible economist knows that we cannot carry on with the status quo. There is a tiny percentage of New Zealanders that would be affected by this tax – they are the top 6 per cent wealthiest New Zealanders,” Genter said.

“It’s not an individual who owns a $2m house and has a $1.5m mortgage.

“Tax reform has to be a bottom line, this county is not going to be better off if we continue to allow the wealthiest people and the wealthiest New Zealanders to accumulate more and more wealth.”

However, Labour’s Nash said Treasurer Grant Robertson had ruled out imposing any wealth tax.

“As the Revenue Minister, I have had a look at a wealth tax and I think it is very, very difficult to implement,” he said.

“It’s on unrealised gains, which make it very difficult for people to pay who are asset rich, cashflow poor.”

Robertson has already emphatically ruled out the Green tax policy – tow weeks ago Grant Robertson categorically rules out adopting Greens’ tax policy if Labour is re-elected

Grant Robertson has categorically ruled out adopting the Greens’ tax policy if Labour is re-elected, but James Shaw says he’s prepared to walk away from forming a Government with them if a wealth tax isn’t adopted. 

“Reforming the tax system and ensuring that people have their basic living costs met is one of the highest priorities that we are taking into this election campaign,” Shaw told Newshub. 

National Party leader Judith Collins says that’s the Trojan horse that will storm through Labour’s “no more new taxes” if elected policy. 

“The Labour Party having released its tax plan has not ruled out doing deals with the Greens on more asset tax or anything else,” Collins said on Thursday. 

Except Labour’s finance spokesperson Grant Robertson did when Newshub asked him if he could categorically rule adopting the Greens’ tax plan. 

“Yes. This is Labour’s tax plan that we announced yesterday and I said very clearly yesterday that is what we will implement in Government,” Robertson said. 

His message is don’t even bother bringing it to the negotiating table. The only tax Robertson will add is Labour’s higher tax rate of 39 percent on income over $180,000.

“I can’t be clearer than what I’ve been,” he said. 

But Shaw seems optimistic. 

“There is the small matter of an election to go,” he said. 

And if voters send the Greens back to Parliament, Shaw says they won’t accept a raw deal. 

Newshub asked Shaw if he would walk away from negotiations if the Greens don’t get their tax plan and if he will sit on the cross benches outside Government. 

“It’s always a possibility,” he said. 

Robertson said he heard Shaw say yesterday that it was a top priority and not a bottom line. 

Though it appears he didn’t run his hard line by the boss. 

When Labour leader Jacinda Ardern was asked if she would flex to the Greens, she said, “In the aftermath of the election we deal with what the voters give us.”

That is what you call wriggle room. 

So Labour seems to have a position of a wealth tax of definitely no, maybe.

In reaction to Genter’s assertion it would be ‘a bottom line’ in any coalition negotiations Shaw has pulled Greens back to maybe.

RNZ: Wealth tax not a bottom line for Green Party but they will push for it – Shaw

Green Party co-leader James Shaw says one of his senior MPs misspoke under pressure when she said a wealth tax was one of the party’s bottom lines.

Shaw told Morning Report: “It’s a heat of the moment thing and that happens during these debates” and said the extended election campaign was taking its toll.

“People are getting tired and I think she was just pressed on the point.”

She did not accidentally “tell the truth”, he said.

Earlier this month Shaw and party co-leader Marama Davidson told RNZ they had absolutely no bottom lines.

Shaw put it like this today: “At every election we lay out a series of priorities and say ‘how many MPs do we have and are we in a position to negotiate?’

Shaw says the Greens aren’t making the tax a bottom line because “when we get into negotiations we have got to see what the result of the election is. And it’s as simple as that”.

But they will be pushing for it.

“[Tax] a top priority and we have said that. We want to make sure people have enough to live on. We know that Covid-19 has exposed those pre-existing inequalities in our society. Actually the stimulus is making those things worse because the capital is flowing through wage earners and towards asset owners, so it’s driving up house prices, and we’ve had a record close on the NZX even while the median wage has fallen.

Whether or not it becomes a bottom line depends on how many people vote for the Greens, Shaw says.

“That is ultimately the situation we are in. We want to ensure that the next government is led by Jacinda Ardern again, that the Greens are part of that government and that we are able to ensure that it is as transformational a government as possible…

“We are pushing for [tax], we are pushing to significantly expand the state home building programme… we are pushing for significant action on climate change, for sustainable farmers… and so on.

“We will be putting all those things on the table with Labour after the election and saying ‘What can we do together?’.

Obviously first Greens have to get back into Parliament. If they do it their negotiating position will depend a lot on whether Labour have a majority on their own, in which case they will be able to do what they like, or if they need the Greens to form a government, which will give the Greens a stronger hand in coalition negotiations.

But even then any agreement would have to be approved by the Green Party membership.

So top priorities and bottom lines should be taken with a grain of salt.

The top priority for all parties is to get as many votes as they can, which means saying whatever they think will attract support.

After the election policy horse trading and power position negotiations will override specific policies.

I’ve seen some interesting reactions on social media – first applause for Genter appearing to show some strength in having a bottom line on a wealth tax, and then anger that Shaw had watered the Green position down.

One example was Martyn Bradbury who posted Oh sweet Jesus – why BOTHER with the bloody Greens!

This morning I woke truly refreshed brothers and sisters.

I finally knew who I was going to vote for.

The beautiful Greens.

It had happened at the most unexpected moment.

Yesterday, the mighty Julie Anne Genter told a small business panel discussion that a bottom line for the Greens to go into Government with Labour would be their wealth tax!

It was extraordinary!

FINALLY there was a reason to vote Green!

They had brilliantly, for the first time in 3 years, realised that to play politics, you gotta throw a fucking punch!

………and then this…

Wealth tax not a bottom line for Green Party but they will push for it – Shaw

Green Party co-leader James Shaw says one of his senior MPs misspoke under pressure when she said a wealth tax was one of the party’s bottom lines.

…ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING!!!!

WHAT ARE YOU DOING?

THIS IS THE REASON TO VOTE FOR YOU YOU FUCKING CLOWN!!!

WHY ARE YOU NOW WALKING AWAY FROM IT?????

They need to go. Just go now.

These people are fucking muppets.

Bradbury has been a political yoyo lately and this response is more emotive than most but similar sentiments have been expressed elsewhere.

While Ardern seemed to leave the door slightly ajar to Green tax policy the equivocation from Shaw pretty much guarantees that it can’t be a Green bottom line, so it will have to be a top priority, apart from the higher priority of getting back into Parliament of course.

Open Forum Friday

This post is open to anyone to comment on any topic that isn’t spam, illegal or offensive. All Your NZ posts are open but this one is for you to raise topics that interest you, or you think may interest others.. 

If providing opinions on or summaries of other information also provide a link to that information. Bloggers are welcome to summarise and link to their posts. Comments worth more exposure may be repeated as posts. Comments from other forums can be repeated here, cut and paste is fine.

Your NZ is a mostly political and social issues blog but not limited to that, and views from anywhere on the political spectrum are welcome. Some ground rules:

  • If possible support arguments, news, points or opinions with links to sources and facts.
  • Please don’t post anything illegal, potentially defamatory or abusive.

FIRST TIME COMMENTERS: Due to abuse by a few, first comments under any ID will park in moderation until released (as soon as possible but it can sometimes take a while).

Sometimes comments will go into moderation or spam automatically due to mistyped ID, too many links (>4), or trigger text or other at risk criteria. If they pass muster they will be released as soon as possible (it can sometimes take hours).

Peters complains about polls in warts and all coverage

Winston Peters has been busy touring the country in his bus trying to build back support for NZ First. He is usually good at extracting publicity from media.

As usual he is complaining when the coverage he gets isn’t favourable, and he is complaining about the polls. And he is attacking journalists, clashing a number of times with Katie Bradford from 1 News.

Last time NZ First were in Government, in 2005-2008, they ended up being thrown out of Parliament by voters after failing to make the threshold, getting just 4.07%, and Peters failed to hold his Tauranga electorate.

Polls from a month before the election weren’t far from the mark.

1 News Colmar Brunton: 2.6%, 2.1%, 3.0%, 2.4%
Herald/Digipoll: 2.1%, 3.9%
Roy Morgan: 4.5%, 4.5%
NZ First election result: 4.07%

So overall the polls weren’t too far off, allowing for the margin of error and late shifts in support.

Last election NZ polling a month before the election was actually often better than their election result.

1 News/Colmar Brunton: 10.0%, 9.0%, 8.0%, 6.0%, 4.9%
Newshub/Reid Research: 9.2%, 6.6%, 6.0%, 7.1%
Roy Morgan: 11.5%, 6.0%
NZ First election result: 7.2%

This election (up to a month before election day):

1 News Colmar Brunton: 1.8%, 2%, 2%
Newshub/Reid Research: 2.0%
Roy Morgan: 1.5%, 2.5%

So while polls are just a rough indication of voter support for parties at the time they are taken, it’s fairly obvious that NZ First have hit a rough patch.

And Peters is getting grumpy.

1 News: ‘Boring, laughable, ridiculous’ – Winston Peters goes on attack after another poll puts NZ First out of Parliament

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters has once again gone on the offensive when quizzed about his party’s consistently low polling in the lead up to next month’s election.

“Geez, Kate, could you get off your boring narrative about the polls, so to speak?” an exasperated Peters said to 1 NEWS reporter Katie Bradford during a media conference in Kerikeri today. 

“I hope on election night that you’re going to fly a white flag and resign because of countless questions you’ve asked on this silly question.”

He said he knew the National and Labour parties “seriously believe that New Zealand First is going to make it,” asking, “What do they know that you don’t know?”

Of course Peters could be just making that claim up. National and Labour won’t be counting NZ First out, but I doubt they “seriously believe that New Zealand First is going to make it”.

National’s Curia polling had NZ First on 3% at the end of July, and UMR who poll for Labour had NZ First on 3.9% at the end of August.

Leading into the 2017 election UMR had NZ First on 8% (1–8 Aug 2017) and 9% (11–16 Aug 2017), and Curia had them on 6% 20 Sep 2017 with NZ First getting 7.2%.

“You can’t write us off when there’s thousands and tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of forgotten New Zealanders whose only hope is New Zealand First,” Peters said.

He said he “didn’t bother to see” last night’s poll.

While New Zealand First has ranked poorly in political polls in the past, Peters has long been an opponent of what he called “rubbish.”

“I don’t like rubbish. I don’t like rubbish and I don’t like rubbish pollsters,” he said.

“Katie, with the greatest respect, you owe New Zealand First better coverage than this.

“To come along every day and talk about your boring polls is actually risable, it’s laughable, it’s ridiculous and it’s contemptuous of a fair coverage of a political party this campaign.”

Peters said people “deserve better coverage on your national TV than the bias” of 1 NEWS.

This is just Winston-speak for him wanting favourable coverage and no unfavourable coverage.

Peters expressed concern over a Labour-Greens government, saying they “don’t have the experience.”

They have just spent the last three years in Government (with NZ First), so that’s experience.

The popularity of Jacinda Ardern, who is not much more than half Winston’s age (she was born after Peters first became an MP in the Muldoon era), suggests that a lot of voters have moved on from old school politics.

He was also against a National-ACT government, telling Bradford to “do the mathematics.”

“You’re the one that’s always banging on about the polls. Do the mathematics, Katie, and be consistent for five seconds.

“You know that they’re 40 per cent shy of even making it, and if you’re going to bang on about the polls, try and be consistent about it, but I don’t believe in those sorts of polls because New Zealand First, our voter base, has never been fairly represented by them.”

Typical Peters, asking a journalist to be consistent while demonstrating his inconsistency.

Actually it appears that 1 News have been providing a range of good and not so good coverage of Peters campaigning. Over the last week:

That seems like a reasonable range of coverage.

Peters attacking journalists is normal for him. I think it is his way of trying to bully or coerce them into giving him better coverage.

But he has a real problem competing with Ardern’s niceness approach to politics.

And he is also competing for support with a resurgent ACT Party, and also with other parties seeking niche votes like New Conservatives and Advance NZ.

Peters has promoted NZ First as the anti-government party with some success in the past, but that’s difficult for him this time having just enabled the Labour led Government for three years.

He may still find some issue with which he can strike a chord with voters, but with Covid and Ardern dominating he is running out of time.

NZ First may hang on, but if they do they will likely be a lot weaker next term. Labour probably won’t even need them to form a Government.

Kudos to Katie Bradford. She has been in close contact with Peters on the campaign trail and she has the gumption to ask him difficult questions, and to report on Winston warts and all.

Open Forum Thursday

This post is open to anyone to comment on any topic that isn’t spam, illegal or offensive. All Your NZ posts are open but this one is for you to raise topics that interest you, or you think may interest others.. 

If providing opinions on or summaries of other information also provide a link to that information. Bloggers are welcome to summarise and link to their posts. Comments worth more exposure may be repeated as posts. Comments from other forums can be repeated here, cut and paste is fine.

Your NZ is a mostly political and social issues blog but not limited to that, and views from anywhere on the political spectrum are welcome. Some ground rules:

  • If possible support arguments, news, points or opinions with links to sources and facts.
  • Please don’t post anything illegal, potentially defamatory or abusive.

FIRST TIME COMMENTERS: Due to abuse by a few, first comments under any ID will park in moderation until released (as soon as possible but it can sometimes take a while).

Sometimes comments will go into moderation or spam automatically due to mistyped ID, too many links (>4), or trigger text or other at risk criteria. If they pass muster they will be released as soon as possible (it can sometimes take hours).

Debate reactions

There seems to be fairly consistent reactions to last nights leaders’ debate between Jacinda Ardern and Judith Collins.

1 News had done their best to talk the debate up as a much anticipated big event but it fell flat.

Collins did a bit better then expected and a bit better than Ardern but not enough to lift National much if at all from poor polls, 31% in the latest 1 News/Colmar Brunton poll.

Ardern was clearly below her best, she looked tired, and she chose to stick to wordy prepared talking points, and she failed to present her strength, an empathy with ordinary people. Too much political and bureaucratic jargon. But she was ok and didn’t do badly enough to change many if any minds.

John Campbell was poor. He tried to take the stage and speak for the leaders too often. He has been to long doing chat style TV shows where he gets to say what he likes.

Some fairly consistent responses from journalists:

Mark Jennings (Newsroom): The leaders’ debate: An unmemorable watch

The first leaders debate was expected to fire some life into a so far ho hum campaign. But, as Mark Jennings writes the Jacinda, Judith and John show fell flat.

To be fair to Collins, she was the one who gave it a go and scored a few hits.

Ardern’s lack of energy was unusual. Perhaps the answer lies in the fact that she was in the same building 12 hours earlier. Ardern had appeared on the breakfast show at 7am which means she was probably up at 5.30. Add in a campaign day and it’s hard to peak for a 90-minute debate that kicks off at 7pm.

The group of journalists watching in the Atrium all felt the debate had been underwhelming.

RNZ’s political editor, Jane Patterson: “I think it was one of the flattest debates I’ve seen. Jacinda had no energy…she is tired.”

The Spinoff editor, Toby Manhire: “Everyone is just knackered, just knackered. I think Collins won but not in a way that will move the dial”

Politik’s Richard Harman: “I thought this debate might produce a focus but there was nothing there. People expect Jacinda to be so good all the time – she can do better than she did tonight.”

Steve Braunias, writing for The Guardian: “I thought Collins did well but she is a funny old bird.”

Sam Sacdeva (Newsroom): Collins edges Ardern, but Labour’s formidable lead remains

There were no knockout blows in the first leaders’ debate of the 2020 election, and while Judith Collins may have just had the better of Jacinda Ardern, Labour’s continuing strength in the polls gives the Prime Minister some breathing space.

Neither Campbell, Ardern nor Collins brought their A-game, understandably so given the general sense of fatigue that has shrouded this odd campaign.

The National leader probably edged the encounter, in part thanks to the lower bar that attaches to being the underdog and in part to a spikiness that contrasted favourably with the passivity on show from the Prime Minister.

But it is hard to see many, if any, votes moving between the two major parties as a result of the muddled proceedings – and the minor parties may yet have some hope of peeling some support away in the coming weeks.

The National leader spent more and more time on the front foot, cutting into Ardern’s answers and audibly sharing her displeasure when she felt the Prime Minister had dodged a question or given a poor response.

That did not mean she was perfect, far from it. Collins’ answers to some questions were vague in the extreme – she said National would create jobs by putting a greater emphasis on the tech sector, but pressed by Campbell on how exactly that would occur, then claimed the jobs were already there.

But overall, she offered up a level of aggression commensurate with her party’s position in the polls without tipping over into needless hostility.

In contrast, Ardern seemed strangely defensive, even accounting for her role as the incumbent.

Ardern has largely delegated the rough and tumble of politics on the campaign trail to senior ministers like Grant Robertson, Chris Hipkins and Megan Woods who are more than willing to pick up the cudgel.

But they cannot tag in for her on the debate stage, and while she may have calculated she was better off not allowing Collins to drag her into a bare-knuckle brawl, she seemed disengaged as a result.

When Ardern did press the case for Labour’s re-election, it felt somewhat abstract.

Luke Malpass (Stuff): Leaders’ election debate verdict: Jacinda Ardern lost, but Judith Collins didn’t win it

Jacinda Ardern lost the first leaders’ debate, but Judith Collins didn’t win it.

Collins proved her worth to National tonight: it is unlikely she lost any votes.

Ardern, for her part, a now hardened political professional, seemed determined to avoid creating a viral Internet meme out of the night. If that were the intent, she achieved it.

Collins came out with nothing to lose: swinging, heckling, interrupting and taking the fight to the Labour leader. In response, Ardern largely stuck to her talking points, emoted and generally reflected Labour’s risk-averse campaign.

The tactic from Collins seems to try to get under Ardern’s skin, while Ardern seemed to be trying to be relentlessly optimistic and nice – presumably to draw a contrast between the two. She consistently hewed back to Labour talking points.

Both leaders fell back to entrenched positions and didn’t answer a lot of questions.

This is more of a risk for Ardern, whose trademark is authenticity. She appeared both flat and unusually unenthusiastic. 

The Spinoff – Leaders’ debate #1, election 2020: the verdicts

Toby Manhire: Everyone is knackered

Given that most of the country, most of the Covid-battered world, is basically just knackered, is it any surprise that tonight’s opening debate felt a bit knackered, too?

Things never quite fired up. So the when Campbell, who did a good job at keeping things rolling, at one point observed, “You sound like you’re both on auto-pilot,” he was mostly right, except that would have required leaving the ground.

That sums up the whole election campaign to date.

Trish Sherson: Collins was pitch perfect

Morgan Godfery: Ardern is impossible to beat

It’s not worth quoting either of them.

Ben Thomas: Ardern was strangely hesitant

Ardern was strangely hesitant. National leader Judith Collins started off slowly, with the fixed smile she’s worn for much of the campaign. But she soon warmed to the task, and seemed to effectively niggle and provoke Ardern with more of her traditional toughness.

Collins won, as underdogs often do in the first debate of a campaign, but faces a long road ahead.

Justin Giovannetti: Who’d have been swayed?

Labour’s Jacinda Ardern found herself often on the defensive, forced to explain why her party hadn’t lived up to the promises it made three years ago. Her answers were often technocratic and lacked warmth. Someone who has been called one of world’s best communicators struggled to explain her vision.

National’s Judith Collins was the better debater and certainly the better interrupter. Going in tonight her party has been sliding in the polls. Voters who have dismissed Collins were introduced to someone who spoke plainly and clearly.

Your take on the debate might come from where you watched it. If you were in the comfort of a warm home you own and worried about losing your job, Collins may have spoken to you. If you were in a rental apartment you can barely afford, losing a battle with mould, she probably left you seething.

Madeleine Chapman: Mālō, Judith

Debates are where many, many words are said and only the zingers are remembered. Unfortunately tonight’s debate was, quite frankly, quite boring. The only line from Ardern that stuck with me was “John, if I may” and “if I may, John”.

And from Collins, “I’ll tell you what, John” and “John, I’ll tell you what”. In a huge loss for anyone under the age of old, both leaders argued about who could commit the hardest to not taxing property. In my mind, we all lost tonight. 

I don’t think we lost anything. We just didn’t win anything, nor did we gain much insight into Labour and National policies.

This was just the first of four leaders debates. Can we be bothered watching any more?

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Ardern v Collins debate

The first leaders’ debate of the election is tonight on 1 News at 7.00 pm until 8:30 pm.

This puts Jacinda Ardern head to head against Judith Collins, Labour versus National.

We will have to wait and see what impact this will have on the election.