Chippy gets snippy, Luxon ducks ructions

Chris Hipkins (left) and Christopher Luxon went head to head in the final leaders' debate before...
Chris Hipkins (left) and Christopher Luxon went head to head in the final leaders' debate before Saturday's election. Photo: NZ Herald
A cross Chris Hipkins was on the attack from the start in the final leaders’ debate before tomorrow’s election, while Christopher Luxon criss-crossed his way through familiar talking points.

After a sterile first encounter between the two three weeks ago, Mr Hipkins seemingly decided attacking like an opposition leader would serve him better than acting prime ministerial.

The Labour leader came out with all guns blazing in the second leaders’ debate and was again bludgeoning National from the start of last night’s 1News debate, making the studio audience audibly draw breath early on with a searing comment about his Labour caucus not containing anyone who had attacked someone with a bed leg.

Christopher Luxon also opted for the strategy he used in debate two; trying to sound reasonable and repeatedly calling on Mr Hipkins to calm down.

"There goes Chris again, spreading misinformation - we are not going to cut benefits, we are increasing benefits each and every year ... You need to listen to Taylor Swift when she says that you just need to calm down," the National leader said.

Mr Hipkins was not going to be reined in, however.

"Why won’t you actually answer questions on this [welfare policy]," he shouted.

"Here are two numbers New Zealanders should remember.

"Our lowest income households would lose $2000 a year under Christopher Luxon’s plan ... and 300 mega landlords, that’s landlords who have millions and millions in properties, would get a million dollars each in tax cuts.

"I think that shows that your moral compass is entirely wrong."

Moderator Jessica Mutch-Mackay, who did most of the talking during the first debate she chaired, was this time regularly drowned out, and thanks to both men’s bad behaviour struggled to keep each section running to time.

Even a question about how to bring New Zealanders together drove both leaders apart.

"I reject racism in all its forms, but I think this country is more divided that it ever has been and that there has been a huge amount of identity politics by this government," Mr Luxon said.

"Rural folk versus city folk, employees versus employers."

"You don’t bring New Zealanders together by calling them bottom feeders," Mr Hipkins retorted.

"And you don’t bring New Zealanders together by using race to divide New Zealanders."

Mr Luxon said he had no regrets about his campaign.

"I think we have run a very positive campaign. We have released upwards of 60 policies and come up with some good ideas"

He will, though, likely be regretting an ill-advised claim that he spent only $60 a week on his personal supermarket shop.

Mr Hipkins, naturally, turned his regret into another attack.

‘I regret not being more assertive challenging National’s relentless negativity from the beginning of the campaign."

Mr Hipkins’ all-out assault will have played well to his base, but it did run the risk of alienating undecided voters with its ferocity.

Mr Luxon’s all-defence approach, on the other hand, seemed to be about having what he holds, which will likely not be enough to convince swinging voters that their pendulum should land on his side of the political spectrum.

The real winners of the debate were the third parties.

Almost one-third of New Zealanders are going to vote for someone other than National or Labour this election, and neither man did enough last night to convince them to do otherwise.