There is more heat and light generated in getting to a leaders debate these days than there is from the damn debates themselves.
We can all remember last election how Jim Neanderton and Peter Dunne-Nothing stamped their feet like spoiled children when TV3 took away their rattle -- in the end TV3 were unable to rule the Tantrum Twins out of the leaders' debate only because the twins used the power of the state to force a private broadcaster to act in a way they, the politicians, wished them too.
So much for their respect for the freedom of the Fourth Estate.
This year they're throwing the same tantrum again, joined this time by Rodney Hide and Jeanette Fitzsimons who've also been excluded from the
playground main leaders' debate this time. It looks at this stage as if TV3 have shrugged rather than capitulate again, but TVNZ resolutely continues with plans to hold "two head to head debates between Miss Clark and Mr Key and a separate debate for minor party leaders."
Despite the wishes of all the minor party leaders, the best evidence suggests that either Clark or Key will hold the office of Prime Minister after the election, and a thorough examination of both, without the distractions of bevy of other buffoons, is essential. What's needed is less of a gameshow, and more of a grilling.
And a thorough examination of the
buffoons minor leaders is also necessary, but with the emphasis here mostly on what they consider crucial to coalition, without the distraction of hearing them comment on issues on which their views are almost wholly irrelevant. And on this former Alliance leader Laila Harre has a plan.
Since the needs of both debates are different, so too should the debates themselves be separate. And since the need for a thorough examination is paramount, what's needed is interviewers able to give a thorough examination of their interviewees -- something of which NZ's two main broadcasters are sadly lacking -- instead of becoming the main event themselves (something of which NZ's usual stock of interviewers are all too adept).
UPDATE: Jim Mora has invited me on Radio NZ's Panel this afternoon to debate the debate about the debates with Chris Trotter and Jeremy Wells. Should be a good ... discussion.