UPDATE: John Armstrong is wrong – Cunliffe vs Key – first leaders debate: what does winning & losing look like?



This is your election ‘moderator’ – just one more reason an incoming Government need to sack everyone at TVNZ and reform it into an actual public broadcaster.

The first leaders debate happens this Thursday, 7pm on TV One. I have been invited to be part of the Green Party’s ‘Green Room’ to commentate on the debate as it happens so I will be live tweeting my thoughts during that, but before we get to there, let’s look at what winning and losing looks like for Key and Cunliffe.

What does winning for Key look like? It has to be a total knock out. Key is one of the most confident, laid back leaders of our lifetime. His ability to appeal to NZs deep anti-intellectual streak makes him seem far more affable than he really is, but it works a treat on TV. He beat Helen Clark and he beat Phil Goff, the expectation is that a win for him means he needs to crucify Cunliffe and with Key’s best mate Mike Hosking as the ‘moderator’ there is no excuse for Key not to knock Cunliffe out. A win for Key has to be total shock and awe by Key, anything less than that will be a big loss, especially with his mate moderating it.

What does winning for Cunliffe look like? After a vicious character assassination by the mainstream media that included false stories about $150 000 donations, false stories about $15 000 books, false stories about $100 000 bottles of wine, bullshit stories about what colour scarf he wears and a constant sewer of filth published on whaleoil, Cunliffe is blessed to just make it to the podium for the debate. All Cunliffe needs to do to win here is draw even. He doesn’t need big swings and misses, he just needs to calmly front foot it and look like a possible PM in waiting. If he draws even, Cunliffe wins. Cunliffe comes in as the total under dog here and if he manages to show who he really is to NZ, their mainstream media perception of him will be challenged and they will start wondering, ‘why am I not voting for him again’.

Key’s weakness: Those who watch Parliament TV know Key is s smug vicious monster at times. Those who watch the mainstream media think he’s a laid back chap you want to have a beer with over a BBQ. If Key’s real nature comes blurting out in all its snarling glory, the mums and dads at home will suddenly realise  Nicky Hager’s Dirty Politics isn’t a work of fiction after all.

Cunliffe’s weakness: If Key lands a knock out, it’s all over rover.


TDB Recommends NewzEngine.com

UPDATE: John Armstrong says today in the Herald that Key has less to lose in tonights debate. That simply isn’t true. Key destroyed Cullen, Clark and Goff, anything less than that for Key gives Cunliffe momentum and oxygen. Key has the most to prove tonight, Cunliffe just has to remain standing.

Here is the GreenRoom link


First Leaders Debate – 7pm Thursday TVOne.


  1. Im interested to know if other people believe NZ is possessed of a strong anti intellectual streak? Compared to other countries?

    • Yes, but imo not more so than other countries. e.g. the US voted for George W. TWICE. Boris Yeltsin in Russia. Also Tony Abbott.

    • Personally, I would suggest that after 30 years of the neoliberal policy regime and the dumbing down of mass culture I would say that most developed nations have a very high level of anti-intellectualism. The US had George Bush, Australia had John Howard, now NZ has Key. There was a great book published a few years back which argues that the dumbing down of culture is particularly prevalent in the corporate world. The book is called, The Triumph Of The Airheads and the Retreat from Commonsense, by Shelley Gare. The roots of the American Dream lie in the ‘natural’ justification of wealth and poverty – i.e. being down to the individual. It is a more subtle and powerful motivational tool than the protestant work ethic. The A.D. is increasingly focused on ‘stardom’ as the ultimate form of success, and to kindle the dream that anyone can make it – it must reward mediocrity, ergo dumbing down. Andy Kaufman was a genius at articulating this through all of his manifestations of character throughout his career.

      • Although your comments are valid it’s not a recent trait here, nor only a product of neoliberalism.
        For example, Muldoon constantly played to anti-intellectualism sentiment.

        I suspect it goes back to the great escape from Britain and its class structures in the nineteenth century. Anti intellectualism has been confused/conflated within the ‘Jack is as good as his master’ sentiment.

        • There are many reasons for anti-intellectualism, I just mentioned two that are very pernicious. However, anyone who has empirical evidence for the social damage that a particular political policy inflicts becomes a danger to the ruling hegemony. These people are usually academics and so must be undermined by the power elite.

    • You bet it is. My NZ heritage goes back 5 generations, of which all (yes, all) the males worked in construction and civil engineering. Then I came along and wanted to read books and poetry, and be an artist. Cue some very unhappy patriarchal faces. When I was older, I enrolled in university, only the second person in our whole family (my cousin, a girl, was the first, but that’s ok, she’s a girl) to do so. My grandfather’s first response to me was “Don’t you bloody well think you’re better than us.” Instead of recognising that I have always been the bookish kind, and university was simply a natural extension of that, he could only adopt the tall poppy response. It goes deeper than just my experience though. At school, if you weren’t into rugby and guns n roses, if you wanted to spend your time in the library instead of the sports field, you were labelled weirdo or poofter. It was 25 years ago that I walked out of that particular shithole, but I remember the attitudes quite well.

      That kind of attitude doesn’t just die out when people leave school. They have it in the first place because they are trained into it by their families and friends. School reinforces it and (via peer pressure and cliques) rewards it. After years of psychological molding, people don’t “just change.” They carry their psyche with them, they take it into the workplace, into bars, and everywhere they go. They start families and they pass it on to their children.

      Yes, there are exceptions, and yes, generational changes can be seen to be slowly reshaping NZ into something better. But we do still have more than a few nasty hangovers from our commie pinko poofter hating past, and more than a few monsters hiding under the bed. Hell, some of them are running for office again, and their mates have infamous websites.

      • Completely agree – intellectuals are dangerous because they can provide logical and rational argument for their positions (OK perhaps not all of them).
        When I see the NZF tagline – “It’s common sense” it makes me think of the Einstein quote “Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen.”

  2. All prep by Cunliffe’s team should be done a full 24 hours before the debate. On the day of the debate he should just chill. Don’t come across as too uptight and defensive in the debate. Less is more. Come across as a relaxed good guy. Go with your inner flow. Make Hosking and Key be in your Zen, not the other way round.

    • Agreed.

      Yesterday with Guyon Espiner DC was asked why Labour were pulling back on election promises. The answer given was because of the pre election financial update said the books were worse than thought and that Labour were being responsible. However Espiner then asked why Labour didn’t wait for the PreFU and its here Cunliffe struggled.

      This interview was no surprise and the questions reasonable.

      What most thinking people suspect is the books have been cooked and the so-called surplus is really the 6th deficit delivered by National. If DC had said as much, “That we in Labour have to make some form of commitment with costings well before the election not 5 minutes before election day so we based our commitments on the Rock star economy budget night statement we’ve all been sold by National but guess what Guyon, it was all piss and wind, so we have been forced to have a rethink! You can’t trust National and they don’t know what they are doing with our economy”

      That was the reality I believe, but he didn’t communicate this. It came across as stalling, not answering the question fully and sounding sort of guilty.

      I’ve said it before, much more thorough prep is needed for all possible questions and answers as DC doesn’t seem to be one to think on his feet. Although this is more preferable to Key making shit up as he goes!

      • Hear! Hear! Xray.
        Could not agree more. I was very disappointed in Cunliffes responce. If he had used your comment I would have cartwheeled for joy but no. I fear more of the same old Labour.
        What I would like to see from Labour is some real passion and an apology for 1984!

    • “Less is more. Come across as a relaxed good guy”

      You mean be more like John Key? Surely he should try and just be himself. A big problem with the guy is that he keeps changing his persona (whether it is conscious or otherwise, that is the perception) – this is not the time to change it again.

  3. Cunliffe should talk policy but short sharp jabs, not expositions. He has to have some reasonable basis of policy costings too.

    • He needs one liners to sit Hosko on his haunches if he plays up
    “the man that never met a mirror he didn’t like”, “what party are you supporting again Mike?”, “are those blue contact lenses”, delivered with a grin.

    • needs one liners to deal with ShonKey too if Mr nasty does surface.

    • needs short statements for important electorates-opening Hillside workshops will go down well in Dunedin for example, which links into outsourcing, state asset sales etc. Sorting out Christchurch, school class sizes, free doc/dental for mothers. If he gets tripped on super at 67 (appalling move by Parker) he just needs to say that people flogged out at 60 will get looked after. There is 1-2% votes in this I reckon amongst boomers.

    Cunliffe does not need to try and persuade the sheep shaggers and tradies he needs to go left for the night and mention the Greens now and then too. This is a title fight in highly hostile territory he needs to tuck a blade down his shorts just in case.

    A bland middle of the road approach not to scare the horses will not do it imo because of the way the media will frame it before and particularly after.

  4. Is Hoskins ‘in charge’?
    If so …on what planet is that fair?…………..Kim Hill or john Campbell are the only intellectually superior media presenters that are neutral and ‘free thinking enough’ to handle this rather important job.

    Mind you the Natz do control the media through their wealthy supporters, so I guess we’re screwed !!!

    p.s. Why do all these Lame Street Glove puppet media reporters let (F)JK get away with constantly referring to KDC as being part of the Labour-Greens etc alliance?……………….Why don’t they ask about the money behind the Natz and use those names accordingly when referring to the Natz Government?????.
    Or mention the Government being the Natz, Maori, (crooked)ACT and the Dicky bow idiot, when they refer to his allience, as a counter to his propaganda?????
    It seems as if they’re all scared for their jobs and come across literally as accurately judged, GLOVE PUPPETS.

    • Jim Mora would be able to handle it better than John Campbell – Campbell is too easily exasperated by stupidity (not a bad fault in itself).

      But I suspect all of the interviewers with any sense (and there are a few), said a polite “No thank you.”

      Hence Hosking.

  5. It’s actually more important than a game but that’s what these ‘events’ have turned into, winners and losers.

    Other sports where the seriousness or the purity of the game is not enough, have their “pick the score competitions” ‘dream team’ selections and so on. But those actually are games, entertainment, diversion and divertissement.

    Apparently cricket even has betting scams and doctored games.

    In that spirit I’ll prognosticate. I can see a book will coming out in the future, probably compiled and penned by a Hager chap. One of the chapters will be about a particular host on an election show of a public broadcaster having laid bets before the show, big bets, with bookies on the sub-continent on who the winners and losers would be.
    Apparently even though had had ties to the gambling industry at home their specific sphere was different.

    The certainty is the public will be, already are, the losers.

  6. Good summation Martyn.

    David Cunliffe is a strong debater, something FJK is not strong on at all. FJK has to rely on petulant nastiness to score points, which after the Dirty Politics expose` could hit a few raw nerves with the public.

    Once Cunliffe starts intelligently debating the issues, FJK will be at a loss, unable to debate policy without reverting to vicious rantings, which will come after a while. Watch for the “left wing conspiracies” ravings to take over!

    The disturbing aspect of these debates for me though, is the presence of Mike Hosking as appointed moderator! I’m picking FJK will be in contact with his buddy, asking to give him a cruisy ride in the debates! Hosking will dutifully oblige!

  7. As an alternative to TV3’s televised debate the Green party has it’s own major party televised/live stream programme at the same time, where they are asked critical questions by Russel Brown (who says he’s not a Green voter). Please watch it, it will be much more informative and deeper… (last election the Greens clocked up more viewers than the Nat/Labour leader’s debate that was on at the same time…)
    What: The Green Room.
    When: 6:30pm, this Thursday (28th Aug)
    Here’s the Face Book link (or google ‘The Green Room’ with Green Party): https://www.facebook.com/events/312018752310785/
    And, here’s a link to it on Public Address for more info: http://publicaddress.net/hardnews/in-the-green-room/
    (TV3 should be more democratic and include the Greens in the major leaders’ debate)

  8. Having Hosking as moderator reminds me of Borgen when Alex takes over the newsroom and tries to turn the leaders’ debate into a game show.

    When is there going to be a NZ version of Torben to stop this insanity?

  9. “All Cunliffe needs to do to win here is draw even.”

    “A win for Key has to be total shock and awe by Key, anything less than that will be a big loss, especially with his mate moderating it.”

    This is the most absurd defeatist analysis I’ve ever seen.

    Give Cunliffe some credit for his debating skills and accept that a he will win or lose it on these and his intelligence rather than anything else.

  10. Cunliffe needs to play on the weakness you’ve outlined. If he can somehow get that pompous, school bully to come out, he can show the rest of the country what those of us see when we watch clips of question time.

    • Ah, so only numbers carry any importance. The winner is the one with the biggest score, and no-one else deserves to even try. If you really want to stand by that logic, just take a look at your comment ratings on this site, and see what “right” you have to be commenting alongside the others here.

      Does that work for you, IV?

  11. With Hoskings as (parasitic) ‘host’, I don’t even I will bother wasting my time, with bias TVNZ – will watch the Green room instead.
    And @ in trin sick, remember we have an MMP system, not FPP.

  12. FJK will be all about the money side of everything.
    So all DC needs to do is always bring it back to the people, and show that his heart is for the actual people who need assistance from the govt, now that FJK has messed up their lives.

    It will be easy to show up FJK for who he really is, if DC takes this path.


  13. THIS: “Those who watch Parliament TV know Key is s smug vicious monster at times. Those who watch the mainstream media think he’s a laid back chap you want to have a beer with over a BBQ.”

  14. I’m off-shore until early next week thus , i’m struggling with fucking awful internet connections and even worse fucking hideous Windows Confusers . I just want to put it out there ; Good luck David Cunliffe . I hope you fuck jonky’s shit right up tonight . And by God . Don’t be shy if you must punch the fucker up his hooked snout .

  15. Hmm Mr Armstrong – nifty header but can I just say Muldoon vs Lange? All David Cunliffe needs to do – I believe – is just be himself and stand up when asked the same question – repeatedly – aka Espiner on Nat Rad as mentioned earlier. That ’14 mins’ is what I’ve seem at the two meeting I’ve been to – it’s probably not surprising he can look or sound a bit staid or standoffish as the media start growling the moment he answers a question – if not walks in the room!

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