National and Labour refuse to debate the minor parties. It's a disgrace

I'm wondering whether you were all as disappointed as we were to see that Helen Clark and John Key have both refused to appear in an election debate with the leaders of the minor parties. It seems the only thing the pair can agree upon is to disrespect our MMP political system and the democratic importance of a stern contest between all those who seek power in this country. As our Pundit Dr Jon Johansson, of Victoria University, has been quoted as saying, this is a terribly arrogant move by our two potential prime ministers.

A head to head debate is vital, as the leaders state, but so is the chance for voters to see both Clark and Key handling debate with their potential coalition partners. What are the pair scared of? The arguments for an eight person debate include:

  • The relationships between Labour and National and the smaller parties will play a major part in determining who will govern after the election. Voters deserve the right to see the dynamics the main parties' leaders have with these other leading politicians.
  • Each party in parliament has the right to get their message out on what will be the campaign's biggest stage. Remember when Peter Dunne and the worm stole the debate?
  • We should see Clark and Key critiqued from all sides of the spectrum, not just Clark from the right and Key from the left. The Greens and Act on Labour ansd National respectively are important perspectives to have aired.
  • A diversity of views that represent the entire nation, not just those with the most power, is what MMP is all about.

I could go on. But I'm also disappointed that the TV networks caved so easily. They have significant power here too, and should be more demanding on behalf of their viewers and democracy. TVNZ especially, as the state broadcaster, would be in a strong position to call their bluff and so no, it's all or nothing. I'd argue that it's their duty.

Comments (4)

by Ian MacKay on September 28, 2008
Ian MacKay

Pity there was not a bit of room for both the "Super 8" and "The Truo Duo." I do think that the Super 8 does water down the effectiveness and given the intense focus from media/politicians on Leadership/Trust perhaps there should be a Forum for the Leaders Debate, or even the Deputy Leaders Debate perhaps. Your example of the "Worm Turn" is not a very good example of clarity is it Tim?

by Eleanor Black on September 29, 2008
Eleanor Black

I don't think anyone looks back on the worm with any great fondness, in terms of political insight. It represented the victory of gut-reaction over considered analysis. But the point is that those debates gave the smaller parties an equal footing with the big two and Dunne showed how a smaller party, often starved of media oxygen, could capture the public mood. At election time especially, every party should have every chance to grab the voters' attention.

by Aaron Kirk on September 30, 2008
Aaron Kirk

Eleanor: "those debates gave the smaller parties an equal footing" and 3 hours (or how ever long it was) of non-stop ranting, raving and pick-me! pick-me! arguments.

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