Cunliffe beats Key in First Leaders debate


I watched the First Leaders debate at the Green Party #GreenRoomNZ, they were very kind to include me and the atmosphere was great.

The debate was a resounding victory to Cunliffe. He won Round 1, Round 2, Round 3 and Round 4.

As for the text result at the end, were people watching the same debate? I think many Young Nats maxed their dad’s Gold Card out tonight. If Key’s lacklustre and lost performance genuinely impressed people, I’d suggest switching light bulbs off and on would also astound them.

I think many NZers will have watched that leaders debate and will now be asking themselves ‘why aren’t I voting for Cunliffe again’? The most important thing Cunliffe did tonight was reset the campaign. After a vicious character assassination by the media, no one cares about $100 000 bottles of wine that never existed or what colour scarf he’s wearing, they care about what he will actually do, and he was given the platform to tell the country just that.

All Cunliffe had to do was hold his own and he ends up winning the argument – that’s an incredible boost for Labour, it reassures the Party they chose the right leader and now there’s a chance to change the Government on September 20th.

TDB Recommends

As for National, all those 40 staff at the Stanford Plaza didn’t help – less time shooting hoops with Max and more prep time Mr Key. Key demolished Cullen, Clark and Goff but got beaten by Cunliffe.

When ZB of all people say this – National should be bloody scared…


  1. so pissed off, but of course, no surprise there that Hoskings was a useless moderater he deliberately let Keys do his little ‘lying through his teeth’ rants about what he thought was wrong with Labour policy and didn’t give Cunliffe enough time/chance to fairly come back with a response.good example was the important issue re capital gains tax . Hoskings gave Keys way more talk time and the questions were just skimmed over ..bloody dissapointing! Cunliffe def looked composed though and stronger when he did get a decent chance .

  2. Cunliffe was the clear winner. He started strongly and wasn’t swayed by Key’s early jibes. Key on the other hand seemed taken aback by Mike Hosking’s early line of questioning and looked weak when cornered by both Hosking and Cunliffe.

    Key did not use his time answering questions effectively at all. He avoided answering them properly and instead went straight to “This is why you should vote for National, because we are a strong stable government with a plan”, or words to that affect. It looked too prepared and unnatural. Cunliffe on the other hand was on message with a variety of policies and looked confident. Key began to interrupt him in order to regain the control of the debate. Cunliffe however was able to deal with it well.

    I mentioned on Twitter during the debate that Cunliffe had to be careful not to speak over Key because pro-National people would point to it if Key was losing. Almost instantly Steven Joyce sent out a tweet claiming Cunliffe wouldn’t let Key speak. What’s ironic here is Key’s interruptions were because Cunliffe was looking strong, Cunliffe’s interruptions were to defend himself.

    Key lost the first to sections but seemed to shade Cubliffe in the third which was on foreign land ownership. Cubliffe found it difficult to shift Mike Hosking’s narrative of the farmer losing money on their property but it probably also brought out Cunliffe’s strongest comebacks of the night. This was Key’s strongest section of the night but even then he only just won it.

    Key did not look his comfortable and relaxed self tonight. Credit must go to a wonderfully prepared and polished oerformance from David Cunliffe, but I have to wonder if the dirty politics saga is beginning to take it’s toll on the Prime Minister. Tomorrow’s NZ Herald front page will be interesting. On the back of another bad poll for Labour, this was surprising and clinical victory from the Leader of the Labour Party.

    • Yes, Key began very badly but appeared to recover somewhat in the final quarter.
      Cunliffe wiped the floor with Key in the opening.

    • Good analysis, Sam and I agree. I think Key did make a bit of a recovery, but Cunliffe won the debate overall. Also, I’m far from a Labour fan. I don’t like National or anything further right, but as a semi neutral, I thought Cunliffe did a good job. In fact, at times, I thought Cunliffe really showed his pedigree, focusing on positivity, whereas Key tried to do the hook and bait, but didn’t get any purchase.

  3. Cunliffe gave a great performance, answering every question concisely, backing up his statements with supporting evidence.

    FJK as expected was evasive, particularly on the tax cut issue. I think his mind might have been elsewhere, thinking about the enemy within. That being Judith Collins, giving him more grief, making another devious move behind his back, according to Winston Peters (TV3 news tonight)!

    Tonight definitely belonged to Cunliffe, despite the rigged TVNZ result.

  4. Never seen Cunliffe debate before. By god, he’s good. Deeply impressed and, no, that’s not my bias talking. I really didn’t know what to expect from him but you’d have thought he was the six-year PM, not Key. I thought Key wasn’t quite a disaster but he was definitely a distant second.

  5. I thought Cunliffe was great. Excellent job.

    What I wonder about from the left is a tactical voting guide? For example, Nathan Guy is the sitting mp. Who would have the best chance of beating him?

    I see the party vote as about choice and vision, and I see the electorates as potential tactical votes toward a coalition. Is that anti-democratic? I don’t know, I just would like to see a strong left shift and want to know the best way to go to achieve this. Or does this just create lame-duck placeholders like that that chap in Epsom?

    • Fulfilling your political intentions by tactical voting is entirely democratic. Falling prey to the vagaries of what can be a counter-intuitive and inconsistent voting system and having your real intentions unfulfilled is undemocratic.
      The system is being gamed – in Epsom and Ohariu where transNational will effectively pick up a couple of seats unsupported by 1.66% of party vote (what they’d have to get if those seats had National MPs). Nullifying that gaming is entirely legitimate.

        • I disagree. That’s within the ‘rules’ too. You might not like it, but it’s certainly within the boundaries. If not, they wouldn’t have been allowed to do it.

  6. The moderator was appalling. I usually find it too difficult to watch Key because he’s usually Painting himself as a fair-minded, eminently sensible man of the people whilst simultaneously dumbing down the conversation and passing off facile comments as common sense. Tonight, however, he was rattled. A side I haven’t seen before. Therefore I loved it.

  7. Cunliffe was quite good but he did butt in and speak over Key a lot. If he just holds back a little in future he’ll win debates hands down. Whether that will translate to the election, who knows.

    • I find it incredible that people refer to “butting in” regarding David Cunliffe’s excellent interjections in this debate. It’s not preschool – it’s a debate!!! interjections are normal!!! Cunliffe was superb.

      • Well it ended up looking like preschool, that’s the problem. And you are very wrong about debates. A debate does not involve interjecting except in a pre-arranged segment for that purpose. Cunliffe was rude and arrogant, but then we knew that anyway.

        • “Cunliffe was rude and arrogant, but then we knew that anyway.”

          Did “we” ? Bit arrogant isn’t it, presuming that you know what others think?

          Stuff has reported Cunliffe as saying – “We’d been briefed beforehand that there was no set time for individual speakers and [moderator] Mike [Hosking] invited us to parry and play. That was the kind of debate that he told us he wanted.”

          So Maybe it’s you that is very wrong about debates.

    • No more so than Key and Hosking did to him. From the first question he was asked, Hosking interrupted, so Cunliffe did no more than respond in like

      • Perhaps paradoxically I think the butting in worked for him – on one level he may have looked rude but deep down in the rat brain he looked authoritative and unafraid of his opponent. He certainly didn’t come off as a wuss and I think that was significant.

  8. Cunliffe came across with soul and authority whereas Key as a financial facts and figures automaton. Was astounded at poll result .

  9. Audrey Young is the only Herald commentator out of four to give it to Key. No surprise there (sniggers behind hand).

  10. David definitely the winner tonight. Got in a good uppercut at the end having acknowledged respect to John Key then adding but you are the past and Labour is the future!

    • That parting shot reminded me of David Lange telling Robert Muldoon that his voice would always be considered in Labour’s future and inclusive (cough cough) Govt at the end of one their TV debates.

      But I didn’t hear Key reply that he “loved DC too”.
      Key was probably too shell shocked.

  11. The only person in the room with a spark of life was David Cunliffe, Hosking and Key are the dead eyed past, bring on the future! David rocked the house! I was on the edge of my seat and my husband was so nervous for David he could hardly contain himself. Also lizard Key was drinking water in every ad to unstick his forked tongue. It looked like he had a case of the dry horrors!

  12. Didn’t watch debate but caught up with my sis: now ex-National voter, and her partner too. (They weren’t influenced by Dirty Politics, but by Key’s actions since 2011.)

  13. Well, one thing for sure is that our fears about Mike Hosking were confirmed. Give him his due, I felt he was trying not to be too biased… but as a moderator he’s just awful. He is the kind of guy who has to be the centre of attention, he can’t stand aside and let the speakers talk, and it showed.

    Too many times Hosking cut the speakers off before they’d had a chance to make a point, and then some times he let them ramble far too long (mostly Key but he also let Cunliffe talk a surprisingly long time in places). And then no control when the speakers talked over each other, so we ended up with too much squabbling. Cunliffe was trying to be statesmanlike, but the moderator did so poorly he couldn’t rise above Key’s pettiness.

    This debate was definitely moderated poorly. No flow, too disjointed, and thus not as interesting as it should have been.

    Surely TVNZ must have someone who could do better? If they don’t, it’s a savage indictment of their rock-bottom standards.

  14. A resounding win for Cunliffe!

    Not only was Key rattled, he was sweating and looked pale. Keys body language was withdrawn and meek through most of the debate while Cunliffe appeared comfortable and assertive.

    • @Clubconnecter – absolutely right on there. Cunliffe was the star. Labour is on to a winner here 🙂

      I think the events emanating from Nicky Hager’s book are beginning to tell on FJK. His whole demeanour last night was almost one of defeat. He didn’t look well and he has lost weight. Then there is the Collins woman to contend with …

      National’s blue eyed boy is feeling the heat now it seems and it’s beginning to affect his performance. Good.

      Now we wait for 15 September and see what Dotcom, Greenwald and Assange can do to add to FJK’s woes.

  15. Cunliffe shouted over Key. Key talked policy. That’s why Key won the public vote and Cunliffe won the pundits. Guess which one really matters.

    • Key won the public vote because clearly the Nats arranged for loads of people to vote. Even the Herald lot said it was a Cunliffe win, three to one. Are you seriously saying Key won that, hand on heart? You’d have to be one-eyed or delusional.

      • The Herald you refer to are pundits. As I said, the public said Key won, and that’s what counts. Cinliffe’s bully boy tactics failed.

        • The public vote on the Herald site has consistently had Cunliffe winning by three to one. Last time I checked it was around 330 votes to 130. All depends whose public vote you believe, eh? 😉

          And you, of the right, dare to talk about bully boy tactics? That’s a bit rich, even for the Billionaire Boys Club that’s the National Party.

        • IV I did not vote because TV3s website was down, I am sure i am not the only one in that boat. I don’t pay anyone to have a vote on anything.

    • You know that text votes were $0.75 and online votes were free? The result of 61-39 to Key is false due to free voting not being available for half of the debate while text voting was available throughout.

      • Texts are sent via cell phones. The left are always arguing that polls including cell phones are the most accurate. The idea that a 0.75c charge precludes labour voters is just nonsense.

    • The one point against Cunliffe; he continually interrupted and spoke over Key. Not a good look, as Steven Joyce showed the public on 2 August on TV3’s “The Nation”.

      However, aside from that, Cunliffe dominated the debate and forced Key on the defensive. Also, it’s not a good look when the PM focuses on Labour’s policies instead of National’sw.

      Cunliffe showed his metal and looked assured and Prime Ministerial.

      Key looked tired, bored, and wanted to be somewhere else.

      On course for a change of government on 20 September.

      • Agreed Frank – that’s what irked me – Key kept talking about Labour (& Greens) and how their stuff wouldn’t work but little substance of his own.

        Key certainly gave no vision of a prosperous future for all or even for many.

      • I also noticed that John key did a fair amount of talking over David Cunliffe too. At one point David Cunliffe said to key ‘you’ve had your turn”

        But isn’t that what happens in a debate !!

      • When you consider the appalling deal he’s had from John Armstrong, Hosking and various other ‘notables’ in the media, you couldn’t really blame Cunliffe for interrupting, so eager would he have been to finally get his message across in his own words without being reduced to an out-of-context 20-second soundbite.

        Really, this has been his one shot to date to prove that the repeated character assassinations are just a big crock of the stinky brown stuff stirred by Slater and the rest. To show the people that he’s not the moronic, shambolic, sleepy clown he’s been portrayed even up till the last 24 hours or so.

        So actually, no, it doesn’t bother me that he interrupted Key, who, until the past 10 days, has had a dream six years of getting out his message without interruption from anyone.

        For this election, and potentially for his political career, this was make or break for Cunliffe. If he’d got a pasting tonight it was all over red rover. He’s kept Labour in the game when it could have been the end game. And it wasn’t even a level playing field with Hosking running the show.

        The interruptions? After all he’s been through he’s earned the right to interrupt the lying toe-rag. Good on him. Job well done. Do it again in the next two.

        • I totally agree INKY, actually I am so over listening to Key’s ventriloquist bullshit I wish he would just leave the country and take his Grimmer Worm Tongues with him. I would rather listen to Cunliffe’s views and vision uninterrupted by all the pathetic rigged right wing dullards. After everything we now know with Dirty Politics do we really have to keep putting up with the corny fudging polls and right wing commentary flying in the face of democracy and decency? They are like spoilt brats trying to win by cheating and rigging results and it is an insult to our intelligence and so bloody obvious now. And saying that Cunliffe is over talking is just another ridiculous ‘get back in your box’, sound bite for the right. Yawn!
          I hope Cunliffe wipes the floor with Key’s lies and bullshit next time, yeeha bring it on!

    • Here he is….the comic relief guy who away’s puts in a showing when the his beloved Far Right is looking poorly….erm… by the way….as we all know , ACT’s gone and joined the Titanic at the bottom of the sea….have you jumped ship to National now?


  16. I think we should give credit where credit is due, although Hosking wasnt the greatest moderator, he managed to somewhat reign in his bias as hard as he could.

    The only way anyone could think Key won that, was if they had just tuned in, and didnt know which one Cunliffe or Key was.

    • I just tuned in three quarters through as they were just about to discuss Land sales.

      David cut the Gone Key into a hundred pieces after key again made that stupid mistake of saying broadly

      “it is such a small piece of land already sold to foreigners”????

      David drew out the knife saying 1 million hectares has already been sold of our most productive farmland in the last six years, OUTCH !!

      Key fell for it. Clearly he is not aware of just how much of our “productive farmland was sold in the last thirty years since 1984, 25% or Two million hectare’s of our total of 8.7 million Hectares has gone to foreigner’s now.

      David please next time add that according to our MAF land registry document’s of 2013 we only have eight million hectare’s and previous to Key’s Government it took 24yrs to sell the other 1 million Hectare’s!

      We have now lost 25% of our productive farmland, is that a worry? you bet it is.

      Use this next time David please.

      Great beginning David you excelled wonderful performance for all our benefits.

    • David Cunliffe won by a country mile.Key just looked sullen and he seems to be over the entire thing

  17. It all seemed a bit flat and Mike Hosking needed to control both leaders better. As for the result, actually I felt it was about even, Cunliffe needs to come up with better specifics to say HOW he is going to do things in the next few years if he is to win over the ‘knife edge’: coming up with a couple of individual examples of people who are doing it tough is not going to win the voter over in terms of how the overall economy is going to flourish under labour, under any NZ Government there will be people making a tough choice to move to Aussie to find work, this is hardly an indicator of National’s spectacular failure. Key did not rock the house by any means though, in fact I expected better from him as he seemed a little sedate. Unless there are clear and specific wins, many voters (those less interested in the personal attacks and invective being shown in this forum) will opt for the status quo IMO. Voting in a Government is like a marriage, you will not always like the other person or agree with their policies on certain subjects, but the ‘Devil you know’ works better than the Hydra you dont. 😉

    • I’m pretty sure this will make no difference to how you feel but I think you may need to rewatch the debate. Much of what Mr Key said wasn’t actually backed up with any fact and – just using your stated example – there was certain facts missing from his arguments. He may know the names of all 80 people who’ve left for Australia but I think you will know an extremely important reason why people are returning from Aus and not leaving is because of the dropping job numbers and the treatment of kiwi expats there.
      Also I think you’ll find for many people, voting for the ‘devil you know’ depends on how comfortably off you are and you also need drop the rhetoric and be honest – they are both ‘hydras’ – if you feel that way (National, Act, Maori Party, United Futures – John Key has said this).

    • Then why come here and tell us that then? Do you have a desperate need to prove to yourself that you are not deluded?

    • Yes Peter, blind loyalty from the hypnotised is all that may save Key now. Cunliffe more human, funnier and made Key look old and nervous.

    • Sure, but you’d probably still vote National if all of their MPs were caught on video kicking kittens on live television.

      In other words, you don’t vote based on logic, reason, intelligence, or critical thinking. That…doesn’t seem smart now does it?

    • Youre a traitor to New Zealand by voting for a corrupt national party, that are selling us out. Shame on you Peter.

  18. It is very hard to objectively pick a winner, because nearly everyone has a personal favourite of the two and this inevitably clouds judgement. In saying this however, I thought David performed well, with dignity and purpose and although Key tried hard to rattle him with innuendo and b…s, David stuck to his guns and insisted on explaining carefully and calmly what he meant. Hosking tried a Womans Day approach to the questioning at first, which cheapened it and I thought oh God, what kind of rubbish are we going to get now? However, he did get down to the hard questions eventually and conducted the debate fairly reasonably, especially given his public alignment with Key. The “poll” figures on the night only prove that right-wing trolls are better able to afford 75 cents per text. Wonder how many texts each troll sent? I didn’t send a text because the results mean nothing and I am not about to become a donor to TV NZ, I already pay enough taxes to that worthy organisation, thank you very much.

  19. This is what the Natz feared. A confident, articulate Cunliffe making Key look like the liar he is. As Cunliffe said some time ago, he has Keys number.
    Perhaps Key will come out with another feeble excuse, like maybe he has the flu. It seems the MSMs tactic is to play the debate down cos Cunliffe won. Imagine the avalanche of negativity if Cunliffe had not performed well.

  20. Mr Cunliffe need to stop the interrupting habit. It’s not a very good look. Otherwise, he seemed to hold himself well, and Key seemed a rather embattled by it all.

  21. It’s very interesting to watch the large amount of obviously biased MSM journos, suddenly jumping ship and siding with Cunliffe, after the majority of various polls showed Cunliffe to be the people’s choice.
    Covering their own a****s maybe?
    Sorry NZ Herald, TVNZ, RNZ, I still won’t be reading, watching or listening to you after there’s a new government in power on the 20th.

  22. I’ve just watched the debate again counting the interjections:
    Part 1
    DC interjected x3
    JK interjected x1
    MH interrupted DC x5 and JK x4

    Part 2
    DC interjected x15
    JK interjected x14
    MH interrrupted DC x11 and JK x6

    Part 3
    DC interjected x17
    JK x6
    MH interrupted DC x13 and JK x7

    Part 4
    DC interjected x10
    JK interjected x20
    MH interrupted DC x12 and JK x5

    Part 5
    DC interjected x1
    JK interjected x2
    MH interrupted DC x3

    David Cunliffe interjected 36 times
    John Key interjected 43 times
    Mike Hoskings interrupted David Cunliffe 44 times
    Mike Hoskings interrupted John Key 22 times

    • Wow now that is interesting isn’t it. It’s like Cunliffe is supposed to say “permission to speak”? Your analysis here DIALEY should be on the news and in the papers instead of the soundbite that Cunliffe butted in. Also if he didn’t Key would drone on and on and on and the press would say Key kicked butt. It’s painful listening to the news, ch 1 presenter gave us the stats of the poll (which was broken and this wasn’t mentioned) from the debates what a joke, and no mention of all the other polls. Key better be gone and all of his goon show has to be cleaned up or I really don’t want to be here anymore to watch this crap for another … Probably for ever as NZ will be completely stuffed.

  23. Unbelievably biased TVNZ coverage on One News Friday evening.
    I use the word unbelievably advisably, as political bias is now almost to be expected from the carcass that was once public broadcasting.

    After a token mention of divided viewpoints on who did better in the debate was given and opinion bites from Joe and Jane Average, it was all about the godKey and how well he did and how marginal was Cunliffe’s effort. All was presented with the repeatedly mentioned results of the ridiculous TVNZ poll on the outcome and no mention of the results for any other assessments or professional commentators. No mention of problems with the website voting or the text charges. All geared to talk-up the godKey.

    Truly sickening.

  24. The media can lie as much as they like but we all know what we saw. And that goes for the Nats too, even though so far I’ve seen only one of them honest enough to admit it. Deny all they want, but they know. In their hearts, they know.

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