Reactions to leaders debate #2

It was a Newshub run debate so I’ll start with them – Newshub Leaders Debate: Who won?

Media seemed obsessed with who ‘won’. Each debate is just one part of a month-long campaign.

The leaders were quicker off the mark and shed some of the starchy politeness of the previous leaders debate.

While there was some dissent over who won the debate, the bulk of Newshub’s panel gave the night to Ms Ardern.

Morgan Godfrey said Ms Ardern felt like the Prime Minister in waiting, saying the reason was because “she got to speak about vision and values”.

Fairfax’s Tracy Watkins said Ms Ardern was “not as nervous” this time around, but said both Ms Ardern and Mr English “came out firing.”

In a column Watkins wrote “This time we have a genuine bare knuckle contest on our hands” – see Jacinda Ardern and Bill English both passionate and fired up

But commentator Matthew Hooton said Mr English won the debate with his commitment to reduce child poverty.  “Bill English’s historic announcement that he wants to reduce child poverty by 100,000 in about two and a half years was the most major and important aspect of the debate,” he said.

Hooton seemed uncomfortable in what otherwise looked like an Ardern fan club panel.

And he was wrong on this – it wasn’t an ‘historic announcement’. English made it clear that legislation was already in place that would enable 50,000 kids to be lifted out of poverty, all he did was commit to lifting another 50,000 in a few years if there was enough money.

Annabelle Lee from Three’s The Hui said Ms Ardern was the winner. “It’s one thing to be relentlessly positive. It’s another to debate with compassion and conviction as she did tonight,” Ms Lee said.

Lee is obviously a fan of Ardern, as many are, but I saw more repeat rhetoric than passion.

As Mike Yardley says at Stuff: Labour and Ardern big on rhetoric, short on substance

Labour’s campaign tactics bare an uncanny resemblance to the dumbed-down simplicity that swept Donald Trump to an improbable victory. Not that they’d ever admit it. It’s all about sloganeering and threadbare policies. “Better healthcare, better schools, better jobs . . .”

But beyond the aspirational rhetoric, the sizzle and soundbites, the substance is glaringly lacking – just as it was for Trump. Labour has opted to paper over its policy detail dearth, by simply fire-hosing its election platform with $19 billion in new spending.

Ardern talks a big game on being “clear and transparent”. Show us your hand then. It’s time to walk it with courage, conviction and clarity.

But one could say that Ardern is ‘lying by omission’ about her refusal to commit on Labour’s tax plans other than saying she will take advice from an undefined expert group.

Stacey Kirk:  In a numbers game Bill English has the edge, but Ardern no pushover

Explaining is losing, but not by much. And Jacinda Ardern spent part of the second leaders debate on the back foot, largely unable to dig deep into her party’s numbers to explain their spending plan – effectively only able to “stand by it”.

Knowledge of fiscal and economic matters is one thing, but an innate sense of how it all intertwines only comes with time and experience.

English was banking on it and capitalised when he tore apart Labour’s Kiwibuild policy based on their immigration plan. Ardern claimed 5000 Kiwibuild visas would be enough to fill the 56,000 builders apparently short to build the number of homes needed.

She had no response to how the other 51,000 construction jobs would be filled.

He also perhaps can be awarded the line of the night, after being asked how he was different now to when he lead National to a record defeat in 2002.

“I got back up.” It was aspirational – much more so than the much-used “I don’t accept” prefix, Ardern has taken to beginning her sentences with.

Ardern had her own one-two punch though, straight to the heart of English’s hallowed Social Investment policy: “It’s called early intervention and Labour was built on it”.

If there was a deadlock to be broken it wasn’t in the Newshub leaders debate, but voters did get a sense of how the two leaders handled themselves under pressure.

Stuff: Who won the second leaders debate?

Associate Professor Grant Duncan, who teaches political theory and New Zealand politics at Massey University’s Albany campus, called a win for Ardern.

“Indeed, she was more confident and more visionary on most questions, for instance abortion and home affordability. Bill struggled too often. Jacinda won.”

A policy analyst at the New Zealand Initiative, Janesa Jeram said English won this one — just.

“Ardern held English to account on the housing crisis and homelessness under his watch, while English managed to land some blows on Labour’s tax and immigration policies.

“Crucially, and what swung it for me, was Ardern backing herself in the same corner as John Key when it comes to superannuation, and struggling to assure New Zealanders of how Labour’s tax policy will affect them.”

Political commentator Liam Hehir said: “Bill English won the debate through greater mastery and communication of details.

“[Ardern] was good at stating her values, but too often it looked like she was returning to this as a crutch. Ardern was rattled at times and this one goes to the Prime Minister.”

Stuffs non-scientific online survey “Who won the debate?”:

  • Bill English 54%
  • Jacinda Ardern 40%
  • It was a draw 6%

NZH: The verdicts on Bill English vs Jacinda Ardern second leaders’ debate

Audrey Young: Bill English

English showed some determination to take the fight to Ardern – and even the unflappable Ardern was flapped under some pressure over her answers on housing.

Liam Dann: Jacinda Ardern

Ardern was stronger this time. She still struggles with two big holes in Labour policy – ill-defined tax plans and a belief that you can slash immigration and build more houses.

English was forced to interrupt, at risk of appearing overly aggressive. He had his moments and made a big bold call on child poverty. But he was on the back foot.

Toby Manhire: Bill English

English and Ardern comfortably beat their Thursday selves. It was a bigger risk for English, and if at worst he was interrupty and condescending, at best it looked passionate.

Ardern was better, too, but if anything there was too much values and vision and “how people feel” – she’s so far ahead of her opponent on this stuff that laying it on so thick starts getting mawkish.

English edged it tonight, but it could come back to bite.

Heather du Plessis-Allan: Split decision

English’s winning moment came when he got angry. He argued for solid projects over Ardern’s “vision”.

Ardern’s moment came when she sounded less like a politician and more like a human.

If it was a boxing match, Ardern won the first half, English took out the second.

The NZH unscientific online survey: Who do you think won tonight’s second leaders’ debate?

  • Bill English 51%
  • Jacinda Ardern 39%
  • Don’t know – too close to call 39%

RNZ:  Leaders debate: The greatest hits