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PoliticsSeptember 21, 2020

How to win an election debate: A simple 20-step guide


This week sees the first televised leaders debate between Jacinda Ardern and Judith Collins. What are the techniques and tricks Jacinda and Judith will need to win the nation’s love? José Barbosa has watched a podium-load of old debates and thinks he has the answers.

By golly gum I love TV election debates. There’s a real pleasing feeling I get over my whole body when I watch two or more grown people fight for my love. I’ve never felt more needed, even more than that time a random Star Trek: the Next Generation question turned up in a pub quiz and the rest of the team immediately handed me the pen and went to the bar for drinks.

TV debates are do or die. This isn’t a pokey wee neighbourhood debate in the local community centre, this is an audience of hundreds of thousands of people who might just send you to the top floor of the Beehive and shower you with loads of free travel. If you’re going get it right you have to know the best methods to grasp the upper hand.

The techniques are many, but when you’re just starting out as a Padawan backbencher you need only remember to do two things: rag on the opposition as if they’re responsible for the plague, and talk in nothing but vague pompous assurances. Stray even a sliver into a genuine conversation on reform, for example, and you’re done.

But what of specifics? I’ve pulled together a short video story illustrating 20 ways to kill it at debate time. If you can master at least five of these techniques you’ll be well on your way to achieving TV debate mastery.

Watch more of José’s election video tutorials here.

Keep going!