Minor leaders debate more rabble

09:25, Sep 05 2014

Two relative unknowns, Maori Party leader Te Ururoa Flavell and ACT leader Jamie Whyte.

One old dog, Winston Peters, whose face is as well worn and as familiar as the theme to Coro Street, the programme that followed tonight’s TVNZ’s minor party leaders debate.

The unfailingly predictable Peter Dunne, who surprised no one when he declared as a statement of some pride ‘‘we’ve never set out to be spectacular’’.

Colin Craig, who managed to rile Peters every time he opened his mouth.

Hone Harawira who, along with Flavell,  managed to make it through the hour and a half debate without raising his voice.

Brendan Horan, who never properly managed to explain why he was there as a minor party leader when his place in Parliament is all down to Peters and NZ First. And finally one winner – Russel Norman. 


Or maybe it’s just that Norman carried the gravitas of a minor party leader whose party consistently polls in double figures compared with his single digit rivals. Isn’t it time the Greens were elevated to the top table in these debates?

For most of the hour and a half long show, it was more of a rabble than a debate. But that was probably always going to happen with eight leaders starved of oxygen for far too long in a campaign that went off the rails weeks ago.

Their opportunities for the undivided attention of the electorate have been slim to nil in recent weeks so they were always going to compete to talk over the top of each other at their one opportunity to woo some new voters.

Whyte may have fallen at the first hurdle; he scorned the prospect of his children working at McDonald’s and vowed that ACT’s mission on earth was to carry on the work of Sir Roger Douglas.  Peters, meanwhile, was characteristically belligerent toward the young upstarts around him.

‘‘You’ve not been around long enough; you can’t even remember the year,’’ he sniped at Craig.

As for NZ First’s negotiating position on coalition  – if anyone seriously thought Peters would spill the beans, they’ve obviously been around for even less time than  Craig.

There were some nice moments though; asked what he wanted to be when he grew up, Peters listed fighter pilot or fisherman.

Top three movies? Casablanca, The Color Purple and Midnight Run ‘‘for a bit of fun’’.

Dunne’s picks for best prime minister ever was Peter Fraser, and Helen Clark in second place. John Key may feel aggrieved that he didn’t make the list given that he has accommodated Dunne in his Cabinet for six years, minus time on the bench under suspicion of a Cabinet leak.

Norman, meanwhile, remained on message and beat the clean, green, New Zealand drum. However, if anyone mistook being Green for being a walkover, he dispelled that notion by making it clear the Greens expect seats around the Cabinet table, and the plum jobs, including deputy prime minister and finance minister.

He might have sugared the pill by naming a Labour MP when asked to pick the MP he most admired from another party but didn’t even try. Bill English was his pick.