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State Of It: Leaders’ Debate – A Rumble In The Jungle

Article – STATE OF IT by Selwyn Manning

Video: Glenn Williams & Selwyn Manning’s State Of It: The performance had to be impressive. Goff’s tactic was to position Labour’s message as honest and John Key’s as less up-front, untruthful. Key had to paint Goff as a big spending incompetent.

Radio Wammo: Glenn Williams & Selwyn Manning’s State Of It – Rumble In The Jungle.

Glenn Williams hosts State Of It, a weekly look at politics with Scoop’s Selwyn Manning as New Zealand enters an election campaign before Polls on November 26. This week: Rumble In The Jungle – Did Phil Goff deploy rope a dope political tactics?

State of It Run-Sheet – November 2 2011

Well the General Election for 2011 is certainly underway with the leaders of the two main parties indicating they are prepared to get down to knuckle dusters should that be necessary.

There was a lot riding on this leaders’ debate. Why? Because they are becoming a rare event. For a start, remember the Prime Minister John Key refused to line up with the leaders of all the other parties currently in Parliament.

Key insisted that he would only front up against Labour’s leader Phil Goff. Clearly Key thought Goff would be an easy-beat.

Goff then decided, ok fair enough, I’ll front up to that challenge and take him on, one on one.

For this debate, the performance had to be impressive, it had to be decisive.

Goff’s tactic was to position Labour’s message as honest and John Key’s as less up-front, untruthful.

Key had to paint Goff as a big spending incompetent.

Check out this segment from the TVNZ One News leaders’ debate where Goff deploys changes to Labour’s retirement policy to deliver a hit, and Key’s response:


Another big issue of debate was asset sales – or more accurately the National Party’s intention to place state owned assets out to be traded on the stock market.

State asset trading is a key attack point for Labour.

Goff knows Kiwis like to see their publicly owned assets doing well, profits feeding back into Government coffers for the betterment of all of New Zealand.

Key knows this too, that’s why his Government has been loathed to flick off state assets to private corporate interests. His plan is to float half the value of state owned assets on the share market and push the line that Kiwi investors will be able to invest in this stock.

It is a contestable topic.

Goff’s Labour Party suggests only wealthy Kiwis will be able to afford the spare cash to invest – that the stocks will end up being owned by overseas companies – that once these assets are sold, they will never be able to be bought back.

Check out the clash on the Leaders’ Debate:

As you heard there, John Key’s position is if the assets were doing so well, why didn’t Labour buy up all 100 percent of Air New Zealand and other investments. TVNZ’s Guyon Espiner cut it off and led them into a debate on Labour’s controversial Capital Gains Tax.

A couple of months ago, this move by Labour took the National Party strategists by surprise No political party in New Zealand has every had the courage to tackle this one. Everyone, pundits included, thought to announce a CGT would spell death to any political party.

Labour soft-launched, then hit with the details around nine days later.

By then, key business icons came out and said, well, actually, this idea is a good one, it is overdue.

Could Goff sell another tax to the Kiwi punter? Here’s his pitch:

Fairly credible argument?

Here’s Key’s response:


National is vulnerable on mining and potential oceanic and coastal pollution from deep sea drilling.

The Rena oil spill has reminded us all how vulnerable and ill-prepared we are.

On the environmental impacts of mining, including deep sea mining, both Goff and Key could have been equal losers. Goff had been unclear on what Labour’s position was on deep sea mining. Key wants it to go ahead but wants to hold on to a perceived blue-green voting block.

Check out this clip of Key from the leaders’ debate:

So that was John Key. In this instance, not once did he mention lessons learned from the Pike River mining disaster.

And here’s Goff on the same question:

With the Leaders’ Debate, TVNZ’s political science pundits oddly were preoccupied in the trivial – appearance, who was slick, who looked convincing, who appeared confident. Confidence is important in politics, but it is a total diversion for analysts to obsess on this veneer

The media representatives were much more skilled in their analytical questions – Wallace Chapman in particular. And it was a shame TVNZ did not juxtaposition Wallace and Fran O’Sullivan into some sort of crossfire configuration. Clearly they would have been up to it.


Key began as the most convincing. He appeared – as the political science pundits argued – slick.

In contrast Goff had on occasion a slight hesitancy in his delivery.

But that was to his credit, he delivered a sincerity that the public probably has never seen before.

In this, Goff clearly had the measure of Key.

Goff won because of the way he unfurled his tactical plan. He peeled away at Key’s veneer exposing some of the inner frailties and his detachment from the contemporary Kiwi struggle.

One was left to wonder: How could Key empathise with beneficiaries, low income earners, middle income New Zealanders? Key has amassed a minimum of $55 million in personal wealth. How can he be convincing when he tells us what it is like to be poor.

Once the show was almost over TVNZ’s Guyon Espiner delivered a key question, is it sometimes necessary for a politician to lie?

Look at this:

And in a moment of solid tactical performance, he turned to Key. Well, look at this:

Key exposed himself tresorting to an untruth there. Was he rattled or was he taking a habitual short cut away from facts and truth?

For me, the debate exposed the viewing public to a rare thing. An underdog contender who came out of his corner composed and tactically sharp.

It was almost boxing… by using a cause… effect… solution… combination Goff took Key off guard.

Key was showy, quick to respond, mostly on message, clearly a National celebrity.

But it appeared Key thought Goff would be preoccupied with his own internal pressures and cause his performance to stutter.

Instead Goff came to the debate armed with values connected to that extraordinarily unfathomable thing… the Kiwi way.

And due to that, he won on the night.

And that was the State of It for this week.


State Of It broadcasts on KiwiFM and Radio Wammo at 7:40am on Tuesdays. Video on demand episodes also webcast on


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