The Dim-Post

August 29, 2014

Quick post debate comment

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 8:28 am

The general consensus seems to be that Cunliffe ‘won’ the debate although not overwhelmingly. Various pundits have wondered what happened to Key. Why wasn’t he funnier? Didn’t he prepare enough? 

I think Key’s problem last night went a bit deeper than that. The premise of National’s campaign is that everything is basically okay; they haven’t introduced any significant policy this election, but Key ‘hopes’ that there will be tax cuts at some stage in the future. 

If you look at the polls most people agree that the country is heading in the right direction, so National’s ‘don’t rock the boat’ strategy makes a lot of sense. But when you put Key up on the debate stage with Cunliffe, who hammered issues like house prices and foreign land sales which the majority of the country thinks are not okay, and which Labour has policy solutions for but National does not, then Key is at a huge disadvantage. Most of the debate consisted of Cunliffe identifying problems and proposing solutions, with Key insisting that the problems didn’t exist and Cunliffe’s solutions wouldn’t work. Key never had the chance to articulate his solutions or his vision, because he doesn’t have any. It’s hard to joke your way past that. 


  1. Alternative theory – thinking back to the coverage of the Biography and his temptation to jack it all in over the Cup of Tea business- is he in that frame of mind again, and just going through the motions? Would he scrape a win and walk away?

    Comment by James Stephenson — August 29, 2014 @ 8:52 am

  2. In politics, you win a debate by exceeding expectations. Clever candidates and campaigns will often deliberately lower expectations so they can claim they did better than was expected, and generate positive reactions. There wasn’t any need for that here: Key was expected to dance and shine, Cunliffe to mumble and waffle. Neither of these things happened.

    I would suggest that if Key had done more “hard” media in the last six years, he’d be better prepared. The kinds of questions raised by the debate (Cunliffe effectively took control and set the terms of the debate) are the kinds of questions that interviewers such as those on the BBC and Radio NZ will challenge a politician with. A Government has to be able to justify itself.

    It is now apparent that Labour has a vision, and a set of unifying themes around which to campaign. That can only be good for them (unless National is able to undermine the premises).

    A final point – pity the Greens, who were left to describe their own vision in an event where they were held to account by Russell Brown.

    Comment by George — August 29, 2014 @ 8:53 am

  3. I think National’s re-election strategy was:

    A/ To keep a relentless stranglehold on the media via it’s two tier strategy,
    B/ Use the polls to hammer home a message that the result is going to be a fait accompli, and
    C/ Sleep-walk to a third term on the back of Key’s popularity.

    Hager’s book has shredded that strategy, and they are floundering about looking for a plan B. I also think Key is looking bored with politics. You know, when Key claims he didn’t see OIA requests for sensitive SIS documents because he leaves that “routine” stuff to his politically appointed minions I believe him – he strikes me as someone uninterested in the details of government or keeping tabs on what Judith are getting up to. That stuff bores him stiff, and now he is on the wrong end of (some) journalists after six years of a rollicking good time for all in the media/Key love in is also pissing him off. After all, the CEO of JP Morgan doesn’t have to put up with this sort of pesky interference so why should he?

    Part of the Key narrative has always been that he is not so much our our elected servant but rather he is doing us all a favour by taking time out from his exciting jet-set career as money man in the global elite to bestow his boom-kapow skill set to run the country like a business. I am guessing he is believing his own propaganda now, and if things get much tougher he’ll be looking to gap it back to a world where journalists don’t ask him annoying questions on topics he doesn’t want to talk about.

    Comment by Sanctuary — August 29, 2014 @ 9:06 am

  4. I tend to believe in the `Key as a classic narcissist’ theory. The sustained media barrage since the publication of ‘Dirty Politics’ has brought into real question (for the first time) the carefully crafted `people’s hero’ (an honest no-bullshit problem solving everyman) that has been on show since he entered politics. In some deep (or shallow) part of his psyche he may have actually started to believe in this fantasy. The hologram is dissolving and that is being born out in his faltering confidence – the unfaltering sunshine of Hawaii beckons……

    Comment by Mag Rod Aigh — August 29, 2014 @ 9:49 am

  5. “thinking back to the coverage of the Biography and his temptation to jack it all in over the Cup of Tea business”
    I assume this is part of the backstory to Winston’s “Judith is going to challenge” mischief – someone will shortly remind everyone that Key was ready to walk over the relatively minor teapot tapes and join the dots to a “vote for National is a vote for Collins as PM”

    Comment by garethw — August 29, 2014 @ 10:31 am

  6. “Labour has policy solutions for” Not for housing unless they start stripping the State of its powers around legislation, land restrictions & dismantling the RBNZ (at very least as an agent of economic management).

    Labour cant build 10,000 houses pa into the current environment in the way they suggest. (current being the status quo for a very long time) The problem is much bigger than the Labour party tinkering around the edges. A political party better sort this monetary & legislative mess otherwise the NZ’s creditors will. (Last time creditors sorted NZ out was the appointment of neo-con Roger Douglas as MoF.)

    As debt growth has far out paced the State measure of economic growth it is simply a matter of time and maths. And by time Labour Greens get in there wont be anything left. It will Roger Douglas again.

    Labour is having a go at foreign ownership of NZ land / property. That is interesting as its foreign money keeping valuations afloat and the banks solvent for the next few quarterly reporting. The system is now in part dependant on Chinese money continuing to come in. David Parker at very least will know that for sure.

    Comment by Simon — August 29, 2014 @ 11:10 am

  7. Yes I pretty much agree with Danyls assessment. Part of the problem also is that Nationals policies are so contradictory and compromised that it is impossible to defend them.

    Take housing – they have consistently been arguing that sorting out the supply side via reforming regulations is the answer. This is a policy or philosophy that you can easily argue in favour of. But then they come out with a demand side sop as their headline policy. And Labours headline policy is supply side, albeit with heavy state intervention. So National has to dance in the head of a pin to defend their strange policy mix whereas Cunliffe can be clear and straightforward. Same goes for foreign land sales.

    Comment by Swan — August 29, 2014 @ 5:00 pm

  8. Yet just a day earlier you were saying that Cunliffe was likely to repel voters. Now you’re suggesting he’s the best thing since sliced bread…

    Comment by Ross — August 29, 2014 @ 5:10 pm

  9. …and how would David Shearer have handled himself? Is that really worth contemplating?

    Comment by Ross — August 29, 2014 @ 5:11 pm

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