Monday, 29 September 2008

Arrogant TV Debate decision could backfire on National

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.

For Labour and PM Cluck, the demands were perhaps understandable. As ACT leader Rodney points out, she doesn't want to have to defend Winston Peters in a nationwide prime-time TV debate, and certainly doesn't want to be tripped up by tricky questions or responses from the minor party leaders.

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.
The National Party are obviously still clinging to the very faint hope that they may be able to govern alone, and fear losing support to minor parties like ACT and United Future if Rodney Hide and Peter Dunne impress the public in a tv debate.

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.
Dunne says TV3 was "craven to buckle" (meaning they lacked courage), while Jeanette Fitzsimons says TV3 were "bullied by National and Labour to gag the MMP parties", and believes it "shows how similar the two old parties are."

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

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  1. homepaddock Says:

    TV isn't a good medium for a debate between 8 people - too many people with not enough time and that broken by ad breaks.

    TV3 made a commercial decision that a debate without the two major party leaders wouldn't rate.

    And the leaders of the wee parties will get a better opportunity to put their messages across if they're not competing with Clark & Key.

  2. Heine Says:

    ACT would wipe the floor if they put out their finance spokesmen together... in fact ACT would also do the same in welfare and the leaders debate.

    National and Labour are just showing their total lack of regard to MMP.

  3. Harvey Hare Says:

    I could not disagree more. Not only are the other parties mostly hapless, but no-one really cares. Getting rid of the noise and the static will improve the debate greatly.

  4. Heine Says:

    In that case HH we may as well do away with MMP and all the minor parties as well.

    Labour bullied National into not doing the group debates and the result is we will not see the main leaders ability to deal with a great range of opinions, because National and Labour are almost one and the same.

    It is just Clark and Key playing safe. Peters and Hide potentially could make them look bad.