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Minor Parties Leaders’ Debate by underground

How much more interesting what last night’s minor parties leader debate than the Helen Clark v John Key bout the Labour leader won the other week? Some of the politicians really impressed and others were as predictably average as one would expect. Here I my thoughts on how the leaders performed, no doubt my opinions will differ from the media commentator consensus.

Rodney Hide – Act

Having seen Hide speak in person, his poor performance last night came as no surprise to me. The way he speaks to the voter as though they are children, although possibly warranted sometimes, is condescending. A sufferer of political amnesia, Hide appears keen to turn the clock back 20 years, not surprising considering his inclusion of Roger Douglas on the party’s list. His ‘three strikes you’re out’ policy was shown up as the ambulance at the bottom of hill that it is, if other issues are not addressed also. He spoke often in slogans and was not very clear on details. Hide’s no minimum wage policy sounds counter-intuitive for a man who is keen to halt people leaving for Oz, so I’m keen to hear more on exactly what he is proposing.

Peter Dunne – United Future

Good, but Dunne really struggled to justify his decision to support National after the election. On many issues the party is clearly more closely aligned with the left, and if in a coalition with National and Act (and Maori!), I wouldn’t expect the government to last long. His parties change of allegiances created the biggest stumbling block for Dunne last night, as in order to talk up his own achievements he had to effective talk up Labour, but had to then criticise them to justify his position with National. His opinion of the Green Party was shown up as ill-thought out and stubborn, so he is still yet to explain himself adequately on that issue too. A hard night for the United Future leader, but considering the difficult position he was in at times, with no leg to stand on, he coped very well.

Jim Anderton – Progressives

Another I have seen speak in public, Anderton did not disappoint. On form as usual, doing a great job talking up his achievements in party, which do help quieten criticism (that I too have held) that the progressives are simply a personality cult centred around the leader who is simply a Labour member in all but name. I like his party’s emphasis on affordable dental care, which as with health in general, needs to be more affordable. The Christian’s can look no further for the true “family party”, Anderton was able to promote his success in bringing in paid parental leave and four weeks holiday, which have done more to promote family than those on the right ever have. Anderton’s references to old elections shows the great man is smarter than three quarters of New Zealand’s population.

Winston Peters – NZ First

Winston was surprisingly good. Impressive even. Considering the clouds that have hung over this man head in the past few months he was unfazed. He came across as everything you expect him not to be: principled, reasoned and honest! His great knowledge and experience was clearly evident and put Hide in his place frequently. With his political future in the air, it is difficult to say where he will be after the election, but if he is back, National’s decision to shun NZ First may come back to bite them.

Jeanette Fitzsimons – Greens

Possibly the most impressive for me, especially as I had low expectations for the Green Party leader. I recall in past leaders debates Fitzsimons coming across weak and unsure, compared to her late co-leader Rod Donald. However this time she was assertive and I think her calm nature worked in her favour. She spoke well on the economy, which is an area the Greens are often attacked, and alongside other leaders made Hide look out of touch in this area. Made some very valid points on housing. The Greens have stuck a balance between the essential needs of the economy and compassionate social and environmental policy. Their ascent up the polls in hardly surprising in light of this.

Tariana Turia – Maori

Those politicians who were able to say exactly who they would side with after the election coped better htan those that didn’t last night. The Maori Party’s insistence that they will wait until after the election to decide made Turia’s night difficult. She had to dodge or dance around many questions and she was not assertive in her answers often because of this. She was stronger than expected; like Fitzsimon’s I have often found her co-leaders to be stronger speakers. Perhaps males are at an advantage in debates, something to do with lower voices or something. Anyway, Turia spoke well on social issues and on the needs of underprivileged Maori. She came across knowledgeable and debated her ideas well. Perhaps a little weak on the Maori seats, but a great grasp of history nonetheless.

Ranking: Anderton, Fitzsimons, Peters, Turia, Dunne, Hide

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