Smiling Goff holds own against Key

Phil Goff
Phil Goff
It was the turn last night for Labour leader Phil Goff to smile during a leader's debate when he firmly grasped his role as an Opposition leader when facing up to Prime Minister John Key.

About 500 people crowded into Christ's College Hall in Christchurch to hear Messrs Key and Goff face off for the second time this week at 2011 Election Leaders Debate.

While you could not declare a winner, Mr Goff could walk away last night knowing he had held his own with a Prime Minister skilled in that form of debate.

On Monday, Mr Goff let Mr Key rile him, but last night Mr Goff kept his familiar smile constantly on his face as he forced Mr Key to defend the Government's actions in Christchurch following the earthquakes.

To be fair, Mr Key had a complete grasp of the policies and the actions taken by the Government and Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee, but it was Mr Goff who took the early initiative in the two-hour debate.

In contrast with the Monday debate, both leaders were polite and respectful to each other, at least for the first 50 minutes.

Mr Goff questioned Mr Key about the deficit and Mr Key reacted quickly and forcefully, pointing out that half of the $18 billion current account deficit was because of the money being poured into the Christchurch recovery. The other half had gone on supporting New Zealanders through the back end of the recession.

Mr Key should have had an advantage in the debate about the Christchurch recovery as he said he visited the city most weeks since the September 4, 2010, earthquake.

However, Mr Goff had been well briefed and was well prepared. He dragged out statistics and the names of people he had talked to in the city about the problems they were facing.

The two leaders were the most animated during a debate around the sale of state-owned assets and tax but even then, neither got nasty.

The standard of the debate was well above that of Monday when the two were left to mainly shout over each other in an attempt to get the upper hand.

No-one called the other a liar, which got Mr Goff into trouble on Monday. This time they were being "intellectually dishonest" with the answers.

Likewise, Mr Key did not resort to name-calling.

The difference was the manner in which The Press editor Andrew Holden kept the two men in check.


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