John Key took a big risk during last nights Press leader’s debate. (Which was excellent, by the way, you can view it here.) Key and Goff were more-or-less evenly matched for most of the evening, with Goff arguably coming out ahead. Then the Prime Minister took time to walk the audience through the balance sheet of Labour’s fiscal policies, arguing that there was a fourteen billion dollar shortfall.
This could easily go badly – the audience gets bored with the accounting talk, the chances of making a mistake while performing calculations on the stage are high, and it meant the PM was talking about the opposition instead of promoting himself and his party. He was offering Goff a platform to showcase Labour’s fiscal policies.
But Goff couldn’t respond. He couldn’t account for the $14 billion shortfall. Instead he prevaricated. He talked about asset sales. He talked about tax evasion. Key continued to press him, and Goff insisted we’d get a spreadsheet ‘soon’, which explained everything. Then he spent the final quarter of the debate insisting that he’d already explained where the money was coming from, while Key and the audience simply laughed at him.
It was a humiliating defeat. And totally unnecessary. Three-and-a-half weeks from the election and Labour’s leader can’t produce a credible budget.