Shouty won the debate? | The Jackal

3 Sept 2014

Shouty won the debate?

As you may know, John Key and David Cunliffe squared off again last night at the Press leaders debate 2014. After Cunlffe had won the first debate, largely due to the Prime Minister floundering on some key issues, this was touted by many journalists as a debate that the Prime Minister must win.

The vagaries of how they point scored the debate aside, who did the mainstream media choose as the winner? Let's first start with an article in the NZ Herald by Fran O'Sullivan:

Who won the second leaders' debate?

John Key was pumped with all the energy of a barrow boy ramping up the fear factor about Labour's"five new taxes" and catching David Cunliffe out when it came to the detail on Labour's capital gains tax.

However, Vernan Small reporting for Stuff had a different take:

Leaders debate reveals more even contest

But they also laughed at Key when he said he had fixed the poor maintenance of state houses and they groaned when he talked about his state house upbringing for the second time.

Key said National would release its fiscal plan next week but reiterated any tax cuts would be modest and aimed at low and middle income earners.

He hammered the point that Labour would add five new taxes and tried to reprise the "show me the money" moment from his 2011 debate against Phil Goff asking Cunliffe if his capital gains tax would apply to houses in trusts.

But Cunliffe avoided answering, turning the topic instead to Labour's broader tax plan. His advisers told media in the break that the tax would not apply to the family home oif it was in a trust.

Speaking to media after the debate, Key clarified his attack on Cunliffe regarding Capital Gains Tax applying to family homes that were owned by a trust.

"My read of the [Labour policy] is that if you own a family home and it's in a trust, under Labour you will be subject to a capital gains tax because that policy says that you don't pay a capital gains tax on a family home... if you are the owner/occupier.

"But, of course under a family trust the trust is the owner."

Key said he'd received a "ball park" figure from an unnamed tax specialist that 300,000 Kiwi homes were in trusts.

The latest Census figures showed that was closer to 215,000.

Personally I think that's a far more accurate description of what happened. Besides, why should we believe a single word of what Fran O'Sullivan writes? Implicated in the Dirty Politics scandal, she should come clean before having any further biased opinions published.

The questionable journalist also claims:

He [John Key] neutralised the Kim Dotcom threat and distanced himself from Cameron Slater.

A bit of wishful thinking from Fran there. I don't think Key could do those things in a single debate even if he wanted to.

Let's move on to an NZ Herald journalist who's opinion I actually respect, Toby Manhire, who for some strange reason also thinks that John Key won the debate:

Technically, the livestream was a bit of a mess, with the audio and video head-spinningly out of synch for the first half, like a cheaply dubbed foreign-language film.

Everybody agrees that New Zealand's internet wasn't up to the task. The implication being that the National party has failed to deliver on its ultra-fast broadband promises.

Not to be left out of her peer group, Audrey Young from the Herald also claimed Key was the winner:

Key answered the question himself. It was a calculated ambush and it wounded Cunliffe. You felt embarrassed for him. You could say it was Key at his best, if it weren't for the fact he was wrong in fact.

So, it appears that it doesn't matter if the Prime Minister was factually incorrect on numerous occasions as long as he loudly interjected at the right moments? This seems like a bit of a weird scoring system the Herald journalists have got going on.

In my opinion there was no comparison to the "show me the money" statement Key used against Phil Goff in 2011. In fact the closest thing during the debate to such a statement was something that David Cunliffe said.

While talking about the Christchurch rebuild, Key tried to dismiss the people who hadn't had their claims settled yet as being insignificant in number. Cunliffe responded; "I will not make light of their plight," which received a moderate applause from the audience.

In fact David Cunliffe easily won over the audience, especially towards the end of the debate. Some of those who attended were even heckling the Prime Minister for what he was claiming, which of course wasn't mentioned in any of the mainstream media articles out there.

Not to be outdone, the NZ Herald's John Armstrong also gave the debate to Key:

Slaughter-time. For the second time in successive elections, Labour leader David Cunliffe has come a cropper at the hands of John Key during the Christchurch Press leaders' debate.

If anything is being slaughtered around here it's Armstrong's credibility. Firstly, David Cunliffe hasn't run in an election as Labour leader before. Secondly, the claim that he came a cropper is just rubbish!

Key was making something up about Labour's capital gains tax policy. A pause of a few seconds to contemplate what was in effect another lie by the Prime Minister isn't a scoring situation. Claiming that it was is about as stupid as saying that Cunliffe should have resigned for forgetting about an eleven-year-old pro forma letter.

The deluded Armstrong clearly had his blue tinted glasses on when he wrote:

Cunliffe froze. He bore the demeanour of a freshly-killed sheep hanging from a hook on the chain at the local freezing works. Worse for Cunliffe, unlike last week's TVNZ debate, the real Key actually turned up last night - and with some welcome mea culpa on Dirty Politics. As a contest, it was all over by half-time.

Let's go back to that more balanced article by Vernon Small to see how accurate Armstrong's assessment is:

But Cunliffe rejected criticisms that he was not across his own policy during the debate, after he was unable to answer Key's allegations regarding homes in family trusts.

Cunliffe clarified to media after the debate that Labour's policy placed emphasis on the "family home" rather than legal ownership.

"I've learned to check my facts and John Key got it wrong. A family home does not incur capital gains tax [under Labour], whether it is owned by a trust or not."

We may as well drop in a small poll showing that the public was pretty evenly split on who had won the second leaders debate.

This makes it patently clear that the Herald journalists were cherry picking anything from the debate that made the PM look good. Personally I wouldn't call that journalism, I would it propaganda!

In my opinion David Cunliffe easily won the second leaders debate. By providing accurate policy details, winning over the audience and generally conducting himself with authority, Cunliffe displayed a clear vision for a better New Zealand.