Both Chris Hipkins and Christopher Luxon scored themselves an eight out of 10 in last night’s leaders’ debate. As someone I think on Twitter joked, it shows that inflation is even hitting politics – both Jacinda Ardern and Judith Collins rated themselves a seven back in 2020.
Last night’s debate was the first opportunity of the election campaign to see the two Chrises going head to head. We’ve got a full recap here, some group analysis here and there’s more in today’s Bulletin as well.
I was in the studio last night, meaning I was also at the post-debate press conferences. Both leaders appeared pleased with how the debate went. “I really enjoyed it, I hope that actually for New Zealanders watching it was a good chance to get a sense of what both parties have on offer,” Luxon told reporters, adding that this election boiled down to which party was the best economic manager.
The debate went “very fast”, he said, and each section didn’t feel like a full 15 minutes. “I hope it was a good platform for people to hear us both speak, present our respective ideas for about we can take the country forward, and I appreciated having a bit of time to unpack those ideas,” he said.
Asked about undecided voters who may have tuned into the debate, Luxon said he hoped people who had never voted National before may be thinking about the direction the country was going on. “I’d probably give myself an eight out of 10,” he said when asked for a personal score. “Both of us were respectful… hopefully the New Zealand public got something out of that and got a better sense of who we are as leaders”.
Neither Luxon nor Hipkins was surprised by how much they had in common with one another, when asked by The Spinoff. “Yes there are areas of commonality but I think people saw there are also areas of difference,” said Luxon. In our group think, Mad Chapman wrote: “It’s quite rare to watch a debate where the debaters spend more time agreeing than disagreeing, but so goes the fight for the centre.”
The pair did genuinely appear to enjoy each other’s company, at least when compared to the 2020 debates. As I wrote last night, “in the moments before the debate went to air, the pair were chatting jovially – apparently about ‘road trips across America’, according to Hipkins.” Ahead of the 2020 debates, Ardern and Collins opted largely to stare straight ahead without any interaction.
Speaking to media, Hipkins also said he really enjoyed the debate and while he said he was “never very good” at giving himself a rating, also settled on eight out of 10. “I learnt that even with a lot of interjection, you can’t get Christopher Luxon to answer a question,” he said, later adding that he had a lot more sympathy for journalists as a result.
Asked by The Spinoff why it took until the co-governance section of the debate for him to fire up, Hipkins said he objected to the “politics of dividing New Zealanders in order to secure votes”.
He believed Luxon had gone “incredibly negative” right from the beginning, when asked to comment on remarks by a senior National MP who tweeted that Hipkins had been negative during the debate.
Whether anyone will really have learnt anything remains to be seen. The next leaders’ debate is on September 27 and will be hosted by Newshub’s Patrick Gower.