First debate – Ardern v English


—The first leaders’ debate in the 2017 campaign will be live on TV1 tonight at 7 pm, and will also be on Newstalk ZB.

It was a much anticipated test of both Jacinda Ardern and Bill English, and interest has just been ramped up after a Colmar Brunton poll has Labour just tipping National off top spot, 43-41, still margin of error territory but a major vote of confidence for Ardern..

Labour have all the momentum at the moment. English will have a big task to stop it and turn it around. Ardern is likely to be cut some slack in her first big debate.

The first round started fairly even but when English warmed up he got the upper hand on tax, but Ardern is hanging in there.

Round two on housing and employment English got lost and Ardern finished more strongly.

And so it went on.

Ardern was well prepared and well versed, often passionate, but tending towards a bit airy fairy. Overall a good performance, especially first up.

English wasn’t always fluent. He knew his topics well but got into a bit much depth and detail at times. Overall ok but he didn’t stand out as he probably needed to do to stem the bleeding.

There were a few strengths and weaknesses from both but fairly minor overall.

No obvious bad mistakes or major hits. No winner or loser, that’s just the first round.

They both conducted themselves cordially and there were no personal attacks or antagonism – if this respectful approach to politics spreads our democracy will be much the better for it.

So the campaign will continue with uncertainty about the outcome of the election.

The most common reaction on Twitter was how refreshing it was to see a civil debate, with both Ardern (especially) and English contributing.

I think this is a quote from English afterwards:

‘The whole atmosphere was quite civil, people don’t want low level politics’

In last night’s finance debate the audience made it clear they weren’t interested it being hijacked by the Peters super saga, they wanted a debate on economic issuees.