In a rare of unity, the National Party and the Labour Party this week refused to share the stage with any of the minor parties in TV debates this election campaign.
The backroom deal has already seen TV3 cancel its planned 90-minute Leaders Debate (set down for October 9), although the network admits a head-to-head debate between John Boy and Madam is still being considered.
However, National's decision to agree to the deal reflects the lack of savvy media and communications heads in the party, and could end up backfiring on them. Despite what some in the party seem to believe, John Key is pretty ropey when talking "on the fly" and is easily tripped up.
As Colin Espiner (political editor of The Press) points out, "for the minor parties, TV debates are a one-time shot to get the sort of publicity they couldn’t hope to buy in a million years." It was Dunne's "worm-turning" performance that boosted his party to 8 seats in 2002.
TVNZ has also expressed disappointment at Key and Cluck's stance, but have decided to hold two separate prime-time debates... a head-to-head between National & Labour, and a second debate with the minor party leaders, who could hold the crucial balance of power come November.
* Stuff: Debate cancelled after Key, Clark bow out
* Stuff: Colin Espiner - TV3 puts ratings ahead of MMP leaders’ debate
Posted at 5:06 pm