Leaders' debate gets testy as Labour rises in the polls

by Jane Patterson / 08 September, 2017

Jacinda Ardern and Bill English challenged each other in a more direct way than in previous debates. Photo /  Fairfax Media

As the polls change in Labour's favour, the leaders' debates are becoming more feisty.

We now have a different image of the New Zealand election - courtesy of Bill English - of stardust being sprinkled over unsuspecting voters beguiled by the Labour leader Jacinda Ardern.

It was not a compliment however, more like an insult dipped in glitter.

Mr English said he did not mean to be offensive but was just drawing attention to the sparkling but ultimately insubstantial leadership qualities of Ms Ardern; while initially glittering and new, the attraction will soon wear off.

Ms Ardern said she would rather be compared to stardust than to Donald Trump.

But there was nothing ethereal about the rest of last night's Stuff Leaders Debate; it was firmly focused on the Christchurch rebuild, the economy, tax, climate change and, once again, child poverty.

One exchange in particular crystallised the choice voters are being presented with this election.

"My generation is being sold down the river by your government," declared Ms Ardern.

"I know this generation - I've raised it," Mr English shot back.

Superannuation, home ownership, climate change, the state of rivers and lakes - they can all be seen through a prism of inter-generational conflict, and Ms Ardern is positioning herself with younger New Zealanders who will arguably suffer the consequences of the actions of the baby boomer generation.

The leaders challenged each other in a more direct way than in previous debates, and Mr English continued to drop warnings about Labour's tax plans - at one stage whipping out a 'list' of all of the possible taxes a Labour government might impose.

But have the attacks worked? Not according to polling, which has Labour slowly pulling away from National after a week of direct and deliberate assaults on Labour's economic policy from finance spokesperson Steven Joyce.

But Mr English denied that was attack politics, saying instead it was a fair strategy to robustly scrutinise an opponent's manifesto, with conclusions "most people" agreed with - that last part is a major stretch.

This week, however, Ms Ardern has not needed National to create confusion about Labour's tax plan.

Over the course of a few days she was asked about whether the land under the family home could be subject to a land tax, as proposed by other political parties.

Vague answers to those questions left open the possibility of such a tax under a Labour government, a possibility that carried great political risk.

Labour is still leaving a land tax on the table but Ms Ardern eventually clarified the party's intentions, saying there would be a exemption for any family home and the land underneath it.

The difficulty for Ms Ardern is that by deferring tax policy to a working group after the election, it makes it easier for National to raise the prospect of several different types of tax Labour could introduce.

And a new line from National during the debate: that voters would have to trust in a "committee" under a Labour government to set their taxes.

As the debates have proceeded the exchanges between the leaders have become more feisty, more direct and more challenging.

There is still one live televised debate to go between Ms Ardern and Mr English, just before election day, but with advance voting starting next week many voters will have already made up their minds.

This article was originally published by RNZ.

MostReadArticlesCollectionWidget - Most Read - Used in articles
AdvertModule - Advert - M-Rec / Halfpage

Latest

The Man Who Invented Christmas – movie review
85037 2017-12-14 00:00:00Z Movies

The Man Who Invented Christmas – movie review

by James Robins

A charming drama captures Dickens as he creates his Yuletide classic.

Read more
Electronic music duo Sachi on how they create their beat
84710 2017-12-14 00:00:00Z Music

Electronic music duo Sachi on how they create thei…

by India Hendrikse

Electronic duo Sachi, aka Nick Chrisp and Will Thomas, were plugged by Diplo back in 2015. Now, the 19 year olds are poised to be the next big thing.

Read more
Christmas dinner: Everything you need for a three-course festive feast
85039 2017-12-14 00:00:00Z Food

Christmas dinner: Everything you need for a three-…

by Lauraine Jacobs

There’s something for everyone in the family this Christmas dinner.

Read more
The unsung heroes of Auckland's restaurant kitchens
84948 2017-12-14 00:00:00Z Dining

The unsung heroes of Auckland's restaurant kitchen…

by Kate Richards

Nothing happens if the dishes don’t get done.

Read more
Where to see Christmas lights in Auckland, plus more festive activities
85033 2017-12-13 15:52:06Z What's on

Where to see Christmas lights in Auckland, plus mo…

by India Hendrikse

The Paperboy agenda. Your guide to what's on now and later in Auckland!

Read more
They're only 19 but electro-pop Auckland duo Sachi is aiming for the top
85016 2017-12-13 15:21:46Z Music

They're only 19 but electro-pop Auckland duo Sachi…

by India Hendrikse

They've been plugged by mega-producer Diplo, and now Auckland duo Sachi is gearing up for the next level.

Read more
How music is therapy for neo-soul singer Bailey Wiley
85010 2017-12-13 14:37:24Z Dining

How music is therapy for neo-soul singer Bailey Wi…

by India Hendrikse

After performing with Syd Tha Kyd in the US, Bailey Wiley is back recording her upcoming new album.

Read more
Four summer festivals in Auckland you won't want to miss
84999 2017-12-13 14:02:06Z What's on

Four summer festivals in Auckland you won't want t…

by India Hendrikse

Start booking your tickets: These summer festivals will be full of sunshine, good beats and good people.

Read more