Dr Liz Gordon: Ten belated thoughts about last night’s debate


1: My first thought was “What has happened to Judith Collins’s face?” I have met her on a number of occasions. I have never seen anything like that twisted smirk on her face. And it was uncannily like Muldoon in his later years. Has she been possessed by the malign spirit of ole Rob? Surely these facial ticks are not a deliberate strategy – they are very off-putting.

2: Loved Jacinda’s big baggy jacket but I agree with commentators that she looked tiny inside it. Cool outfit but wear something gorgeous next time, I think.

3: I agree that the placing of the podiums (podia? I don’t think so) and the camera angles were very bizarre and seem to be designed to film Judith as if she was looming over Jacinda. Very creepy, given aforesaid facial gymnastics.

4: I also agree that John Campbell was not on good form. A cousin of mine was a famous actor who never went on stage with fewer that 3 large G and Ts in him (really large – they were yummy but I could only manage one without falling over), and mostly took scripts that had him drinking more gin onstage (mind you, he came to a bad end). But perhaps one gin before, and one during, the show might have enlivened John. I suppose not possible in this dour age in which we live.

5: I resent the view that it is only worn out old boomers that would watch a show in that format. I am a woob myself and thought it brought out the worst in everyone. If they had held it in a graveyard, it may have been more apt.

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6: Of course Muldoon had his appeal, and was elected three times, and most voters now would not remember him, so perhaps this is about reincarnating an old model of populist politics (hopefully without the sexism and racism of those days).

7: It was all so old, wasn’t it? Jacinda on working with the poor and young families, increasing wages and so on. Judith on tax cuts (that mainly benefit the wealthy). Environmental protection versus unrestrained production. Bring the gin, FFS.

8: What is with National’s new government department to handle the border? This is just neo-liberalism – privatise the service and regulate it with a new agency. Labour should be going hard on this, I reckon. I do not think that New Zealander’s want quarantine to become a profit leader for the private sector.

9: Are we in the middle of a pandemic that is likely to affect our wellbeing into the foreseeable future? There was virtually no discussion on the Covid and the scariness, second wave outbreaks, a third of a million cases a day and a million deaths worldwide. The pandemic has not gone and needs excellent political management on an ongoing basis. Didn’t hear much.

10: A great deal of thought (or gin) needs to go into the next two debates. Maybe they should all be sat around a table. Maybe the big questions should be asked, rather than unanswerable ones. John needs to delve into what the parties really believe. Are they just the same at heart? What is leadership really about? I thought the closing statements should really have been the opening ones. I am not a broadcaster, but there must be a better way!


Dr Liz Gordon is a researcher and a barrister, with interests in destroying neo-liberalism in all its forms and moving towards a socially just society.  She usually blogs on justice, social welfare and education topics.


  1. In response to Arderns comment on the debate “this isn’t blood sport” Collins replied “poor wee thing”.
    However hidden behind Arderns cryptic message on farming Ardern cleverly called out Collins for being old and outdated, so in a sense Collins is a “rich old thing”, hidden behind her multiple properties and trusts.

    • Chucky is a crusty old toady for big business , – hence her comments that ignored poor wage workers and instead glorified landlords and employers / corporate welfare. Tax cuts for the rich aint gonna cut it anymore. Anyone can purchase a pocket calculator these days and see whose on the winning side under Collins and it sure aint gonna be the overworked and grossly underpaid workers of NZ in the neo liberal interpretations that Collins dreams of.

  2. Yes Liz at 75 yrs old I felt some as you did.

    Especially when the camera was tracking her face all the time!!!! That smirk on Judith’s face most of the time when the camera was set behind jacinda looking over her chin at Judith smirking as Jacinda spoke, it was so horrible to see so the whole setup was made to seem as if jacinda was very “defensive, and now today the media reports that Judith accuses that jacinda was to defensive!!!!!!

  3. What’s with the gin? – gin is the ONLY spirit I haven’t tried and point blank refuse too, – I cant even stand the sickly smell of the stuff!

    And yeah , ” I tell you what ” Collins was using Muldoonist type gestures and punctuations. You could tell she had been studying them. Seems Chucky thinks JC’s a kind of Bill Rowling so she’s trying it on. And if JC responds in kind back at Chucky (which she richly deserves for her oafishness), – then Chucky can stand back and say ” See? , – she’s a hypocrite !!, – she aint that nice after all ”…

    Oh yes, I daresay Chucky has indeed been watching old footage of Muldoon for tips
    in the lead up to that debate.

    But here’s the rub : Muldoon was an old time KEYNESIONIST , – and Chucky is a post 1984 NEO LIBERALIST !!!

    Absolute CHALK and CHEESE !!!

    HOWEVER !! – here’s the second rub ( your cat or dog will love it so read on if you will ), – the pair of them are essentially neo liberals. One is a Thatcherite and the other is a Blairite. And why was it so boring? – Well apart from the natural ambience of a live audience and the boo’s and the hisses and the catcalls and the roar of applause,… they were, essentially , singing from a very similar song sheet.

    The WHOLE CRUX of why we seem to have this inertia these days in getting anything done is BECAUSE of the whole political marriage to neo liberalism that BOTH major party’s adhere to.

    And until that is settled, – forget your housing programs, forget your combatting poverty and child poverty, forget your schools, forget your hospitals and forget your fucking wages and inequality’s and equity’s !!!

    Take note of what the Kid says in some of the first opening lines about his having to attend his very first day at school. And for those who don’t know the difference between NEO LIBERALISM and Keynesian but just know something isn’t right, – extrapolate that to the Kid. THEN you’ll get the picture. Cos THATS how I feel about all these bastards. And I’m not alone. There are many hundreds of thousands of us in this country.

    The Kid (He Swears a Little Bit) – YouTube

  4. And for what its worth regarding JC’s wardrobe on the night? – least of our concerns, but if you want my opinion ( which you probably don’t) – she looked resplendent when she appaired in the Queens palace or whatever it was with that cloak and her hair tied up in a bun, regal in fact herself. So proud of that photo shot.

    So in my opinion , something lace , muslin-ish even! , – for the top with a dark vest perhaps, all colour coordinated , keep the corporate dress thing and the heels and have her hair up in that bun. Stylish , chic , competent and energetic looking . Nix with the boring corporate look.

    Let Chucky tout the sensible shoes and Muldoon scowl and pout. That look went out with the 1960s and Holyoake.

    And that’s my 2 cents worth.

    So there.

  5. I’m not sure what this “debate” was supposed to do but encouraging voting was clearly not part of the deal. Turning off viewers on the other hand, definitely!

  6. As a very worthy recommendation from Wallace Chapman on Radio N.Z i went back and watched the 1984 election debate between Rob Muldoon and David Lange chaired by Ian Johnstone.

    Intense, fiercely intellectual, riveting but mostly respectful and very well controlled. Jacinda would live in this company but Collins would have been well out of her depth.

    Collins is a dirt tracker. A childish shallow muckraker and definitely not Prime Ministerial material.

  7. Oh so Labour are the saviours of the poor are they? Tell that to people who will have to pay for emergency housing after the election. That’s a piece of old school National nastiness being adopted by “kind” Labour & its pals.

    Suffice to say any election should be about “substance” not “style”, polices not polemic. Until Labour appreciate that a lot of old school Socialists like myself are paying attention to policy and are not fooled by rhetoric they wont be winning our vote.

  8. 1. Agreed. I remember ‘Piggy’ well and registered the same reaction on seeing Judith’s various PR encounters. Creepy…

    2. I know I’m very old school and dinosaurian but I thought we no longer judged a woman by her figure and clothes? Does that mean I can call it a choice between teeth or podge?

    3. Dunno. I turned it off once I saw how it was gonna go. Maybe TVNZ’s trying to reflect the reality of us poor schmoes… Judith certainly looms over us the way the Americans do.

    4. My suspicion is that John is a whiskey drinker like Captain Haddock. But your point is still apt. Where did TVNZ get this weird puritan streak?

    5. Another Boomer here. It was that very format, desiccated as it was, that made me turn it off and go to bed with a good book. I think TVNZ is just showing its inability to differentiate style from content…

    6. I remember the old sod well and disliked him with the sort vehemence reserved for Stalin/Hitler/Pol Pot et al. You don’t live your life as a trade unionist and not understand the consequences of his sort of skullduggery. Judith is deliberately emulating him as part of her “I’m a strong leader” fallacy.

    7. I thought John might be a time-traveler. It looked like late 1950s CCCP political propaganda. John should be considered for the next Dr Who.

    8. Spoiler Alert! They are both neo-liberal organs. They’ve already privatised Parliament…

    9. It’s too depressing a subject for something as cheerful and optimistic as an election message. As is poverty and the situation with the Maori (and you heard nada about those either).

    10. I agree. I would just add that I would rather see them both suspended over a vat of boiling pure prussic acid coordinated with the legendary election debate snake. Each point reduction lowers the culprit another inch closer to the bath. I would watch that!

    In conclusion I’m glad I went to bed. It was a really good novel and I prolly got more out of your review than had I stayed to watch.


  9. No 5 – I said the boomer thing in another comment and since that time just prior to the stupid event itself, I have read not one single good comment about this useless waste of everybody’s time. The format hasn’t changed since adam was a boy and it IS taylor-made for the gladitorial boomers that support the bloody Natz. A hundred comments at least have said either directly or indirectly that this debacle was staged for the benefit of Crusher Collins and therefore belittle the PM who is the crowd favourite. No wonder JA had a sour look on her face. What a joke, a very bad joke. There is a definite section of our population who get there jollies watching someone get shotdown especially on primetime tv and they ARE mostly boomers who are way out of touch with modern times and expect everyone else to pander to there ways and the bloody politicians actually do cartwheels to appease them because they are reliable voters. This whole thing is for there benefit and is a bloody sickness that needs to be vaccinated.


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