I’m not sure attempts to spin expectations around tonight’s leaders’ debate are credible.

Take the people saying  ‘all David Cunliffe has to do is draw’. Unfortunately, last year David Cunliffe’s supporters in the leadership contest argued he should lead the  party because of his superior debating skills.

Here’s Martyn Bradbury from the Daily Blog in the NZ Herald in June of this year:

“Cunliffe’s performance in the debates and on the campaign trail will be one of the most convincing components of a Labour-led win.”

David Cunliffe was widely praised for his skills as an effective debater and his presence on TV.

A Standard blogger talked him up as ‘Labour’s best performer’

“…. in the House and on television: just the tough, well-prepared and clear speaker that is needed to front against John Key in the next election.

More recently, when polls started to drop, the spin was, ‘Don’t worry, just wait for the debates. That’s when Labour will turn the polls around.’

Here’s Brian Edwards, a David Cunliffe supporter, in 2013:

“Cunliffe may or may not be nice, but he is hugely experienced, has an in-depth understanding of policy, conveys confidence and authority, handles the media superbly and can make mincemeat of anyone on the other side of the House.”

It’s inconsistent to then argue, as Martyn Bradbury attempts, that  "All Cunliffe needs to do to win here is draw even."

“If he draws even, Cunliffe wins. Cunliffe comes in as the total under dog here and if he manages to show who he really is to NZ, their mainstream media perception of him will be challenged and they will start wondering, ‘why am I not voting for him again.”

You can read the same line on other blogs. 

Having picked David Cunliffe to win the leadership debates, I don’t believe the naked attempt to shape expectations really works. 

Stop spinning. Just let the debate run. We know John Key is a formidable debater - he performed strongly in 2008 and 2011. There will be two quality and skilled debaters on stage. The job is not to find a ‘winner.’ Its for voters to learn more about how they want their country governed.

Comments (6)

by Anne on August 28, 2014

Whether they're "credible" or not... don't you think this is a rather one-sided argument Josie?

In contrast to the furious 'lauding and spinning' on behalf of John Key by a majority of MSM commentators and a large number of online commentators and bloggers, one would think that David Cunliffe is entitled to have a handful of bloggers etc. talking up his undoubted talents as a speaker and debater - not to mention his superior academic qualifications.

David Cunliffe has also been the target of some despicable 'dirty politicking' from the moment he was elected leader. In such circumstances I find it hard to accept you are willing to write a negative post concerning him less than four weeks out from an election.  

by Glenda on August 28, 2014

Anne, of course Josie is right.  Cunliffe was the slick talking smarty pants who was going to whip Key in the debates.  Key, who has had the worst two weeks of his leadership. Key, who has been lambasted nonstop by the "MSM" you are so quick to deride (by the way, can we euthanise that acronym, along with term Beltway; they have no place in NZ). My Cunliffe supporter friends told me over and over again, "wait till the debates" and they mocked Shearer constantly for his lack of articulatesness or polish.  Well, this is Mr Cunliffe's moment to shine.  Mr Shearer kept Labour in the thirties at least!  Simply put, Cunliffe has run out of excuses! 

The Key Government has almost self-immolated in the past ten days, Anne, and Cunliffe has Labour at 24 percent, less than half of National's vote. Stop the excuses. Stop the spin. Please. Whatever else, Anne, stop the spin. 

P.S. Josie, you are a beacon of commonsense in a fog-heavy world of self-proclaimed "leftists" - whatever they think that means - who have abandoned all common sense.  We are losing the election and all they can see is that it's the fault of someone other than the people in charge. The whingeing is without relent, and it will burst my eardrums!  Exasperating!!  

by Andrew Osborn on August 28, 2014
Andrew Osborn

He can have the best debating technique there is but if he hasn't got a solid set of policies which have been properly budgeted then he has a major problem.

I don't see any of those policies standing up to close scrutiny.






by Josie Pagani on August 28, 2014
Josie Pagani

Anne, to respond to your comment let me be very clear. I was doing the opposite of criticising David Cunliffe. I was the criticising the people who are now saying 'all he needs to do is draw.' Have faith that his debating experience and his grasp of policy will have him win this debate. Trying to persuade people now that he isn't a winner and he just needs to do a half decent job isn't helping and just sounds like spin.

And it's wrong. He needs to win. That's what he'll be trying to do, so get behind him. And stop making excuses before the debate has even happened.


by Anne on August 28, 2014

Josie, you have been consistently critcising Labour and David Cunliffe on various public forums for a long time now. Coming from someone who purports to be 'of the left'  it has been disappointing and uninspiring for many Labour supporters - including me.

I don't know of anyone rationally discussing this debate who is attempting to run down David Cunliffe. What I have witnessed time and again is that the MSM commentariat - many who seem to have an inexplicable love-in with the recently exposed two-faced PM - will call it a draw even if Cunliffe is way ahead on substance as well as delivery. If they come out of it on equal terms then the same commentariat will say John Key won. That is my prediction. We will know soon if I am right.

by william blake on August 28, 2014
william blake

I hope Key uses the line about "government historically being bad at building houses", in the debate with Cunliffe. Key forgets he grew up in a house built by a left wing government.


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