Political debates: Will they change our minds?

Yes, it’s a question worth asking. Many countries have them, many of us enjoy watching them. Are they there to convince us, affirm us, or for us to have a laugh at? Do we enjoy watching them for the fireworks or the policy and debate between the leaders? I was sent to Monday’s Newshub Leaders debate to find out.

After the first debate, which really was not that fantastic, I was a bit skeptical about whether or not the two leaders, Bill English for the National Party and Jacinda Ardern leading the Labour Party, could put up a proper fight. It was all a bit too kind for my liking, and in the end my mother and aunt spent more time complaining about how Ardern was wearing her hair. Both leaders were shaky, which was not expected as English has got experience in a leaders debate, while Jacinda was up for the first time. The most interesting thing however, was how she held her own against him and made it a very close call. So after a few days spent with their analysts and advisers, I wondered if the next debate would be any different.

When I got there, you could feel the tension in the room. Nobody knew how this debate would go. Patrick Gower was obviously nervous as he walked up to the lecturn. We were all nervous and excited to see who would come out on top. Would it be Billy Dipton who’s already dropped it once, or the new girl in town who’s whipping up a storm?

As the lights dimmed and the show started, the leaders walked out. English had a sense of nervousness around him, he knew he had to go the extra mile to win this debate, while Jacinda walked out with a smile on her face and determination in her step. They both had everything to lose, both had losses to account for. First question was directed at English; is it okay for a Politician to lie while in office? He bungled it, avoiding the topic of the question while trying to prove the work of the last 9 years. This one moment I believe, put him on the back foot for the rest of the debate. Yes, Jacinda had moments of mistake, but looking back on them, many of those were caused by misinterpretation of English and Gower when discussing Labour’s policies. She had the answers, while English was left to stall using his 9 years defense.

Probably the biggest moment of the night was the announcement of English that they would take 100,000 kids out of poverty in 2 and a half years, after his initial policy only said 50,000. This can be viewed in two ways; a planned firework, or one which went off randomly because somebody lit the wrong fuse. To me, sitting in the debate it felt like the latter, as a way of National defending Labour’s claim that in the last 9 years, nothing has been done enough to reduce the figures involved with child poverty. I guess time will tell whether or not these claims will be followed up by the government who promises them.

This debate had more energy within it. There was more bickering (as Jacinda called it), there was more policy talk and there was more controversy, much of which was shut down by the accused party. The adjudication of Paddy Gower was much better than that of Hosking for the TVNZ 1 debate. It was close again, both leaders debated well, but I am going to say that Jacinda won it again, although many polls show that it could have gone either way.

So has it changed opinion on who the public will vote for?

We will find out for sure in a few short weeks on the 23rd.