When is a debate not a debate?
You thought John Key's three-way awkward, gate-crashed, handshake at the Rugby World Cup was an embarassing clusterfuck, wait till John Key attempts one with Don Brash and Pita Sharples to cobble together a government. Now that will be awkward.
Key and Goff appeared on Maori TV's Native Affairs election debate last night. Well, they appeared, but did not debate. When is a debate not a debate? When everyone agrees. Two who don't agree go on separately and the others who agree are put on together. Which is what happened.
That's how the two main parties have got away with stage managing their leaders - they no longer have to debate the other leaders they have a pre-recorded interview (or in the case of the other networks their own one-on-one debate amongst themselves). National and Labour colluding to keep the pressure off themselves and the media going along with it. Most unsatisfactory. It may be an MMP multi-party system on paper, but the way it is presented on TV is very much old school FPP he said she said Nat-Lab duopoly politics.
I missed the John Key bit - sort of like how he missed the handshake and missed most of the last ten minutes of the rugby. Caught a bit of Phil Goff, and he looked assertive, but bland - that's Phil. Then came the debate between Pita Sharples, Winston Peters, Meteria Turei and Hone Harawira - the first election debate of the campaign. The result a disappointingly dry discussion where there was broad consensus on the planks of economic nationalism, but without National and Labour being present no sparks or fireworks or a real contest. The right wing micro-parties, anti-Maori parasite parties to National, United Future and Act were not involved.
They were all left-of-centre opposition parties by what they said, but the Maori Party stood out by having supported the National government and making it clear they would again should the Nats ask them. Pita's defence of having voted for GST by basically saying 'they tricked us' was perhaps the weakest card in a losing hand. A doormat strategy that repels most Maori voters and that sat unconvincingly alongside the tough talk from the others.
Everyone was on message: Pita: we will go with anyone. Winston: I told you so. Met: it's the environment. Hone: the government are liars.
The four of them together could form a bloc for coalition negotiation purposes, but the egos involved (and by that I mean Winston) wouldn't permit that to happen.