Lining up eight men (yes, men) to debate politics was never likely to produce a single winner or a clear statement of each leader’s position.
OPINION: But TVNZ’s minor leaders debate did sort the wheat from the chaff.
The latter including independent Brendan Horan and ACT leader Jamie Whyte. The latter, before he caught himself under pressure from host Mike Hosking, reinvented the definition of burglary to be only of a residential home. (The Crimes Act section 231 defines it as any building, ship or even enclosed yard.)
At the other end of the spectrum Green co-leader Russel Norman made the most of it, with a clear statement of his party’s position – and a suggestion that past successes in deals with National meant it would not be irrelevant if Labour did not form a government. He was matched by Winston Peters who showed his usual skills in debates.
UnitedFuture leader Peter Dunne also shone with his moderate approach, and his experience showed through.
In the middle of the pack Hone Harawira finally reappeared after almost going AWOL from the national campaign, and he and Maori Party leader Te Ururoa Flavell were remarkably conciliatory. Flavell even named Harawira as the MP he most admired in another party.
Conservative leader Colin Craig also got his message away and kept his cool under extreme baiting from Peters – including an extraordinary claim NZ First was ‘‘going past 10 per cent as we speak’’ and that ‘‘your polls are wrong and we’ll turn them into confetti on election night’’.
Craig also made an impression by calling for a change to MMP to get rid of the coat-tailing provision and lower the threshold to 3 per cent.
Given the number of voices that had to heard moderator Hosking did a fine job letting them reveal themselves.