How pundits called the final debate

The fourth and final debate between National leader Bill English and Labour leader Jacinda Ardern took place on TV1 last night (watch on-demand video here).

It took place against the backdrop of a Colmar Brunton poll that showed National regaining the lead, and heavy early voting that means at least 647,000 (or roughly 25% of potential voters) have already cast a ballot.

Here’s how a selection of pundits called it:

Rob Hosking (NBR): ENGLISH
“By default. Neither was on top of their game. It was a crap debate.”

Liam Dann (NZ Herald): ENGLISH
“Ardern never got a roll on. English smiled and talked his way through the tricky issues like a prime ministerial robot.”

Heather du Plessis-Allan (NZ Herald): ENGLISH
“It's the first time Ardern has looked rattled. She struggled to maintain her usually ever-present smile. It might've been the 1News poll putting National nine points ahead with only three days to go.”

Toby Mahire (NZ Herald) DRAW
“It fell a bit flat. It’s hard to imagine anyone having had their mind changed”

Tracy Watkins (Stuff) ARDERN
“The two leaders were only rarely let loose on each other – moderator Mike Hosking ran it more like an interview than a debate, albeit a hard-hitting one. It was Ardern's debate – but like all the others between her and English, it was close.”

Tim Murphy (Newsroom) DRAW/ENGLISH*
“Ardern, more earnest than previous debates, argued hard against both men [Hosking and English] but on this night and in this format did not find the button for the ejector seat to remove English from contention. It was all very anti-climactic. Election night could yet be the same.”

Duncan Grieve (The Spinoff) DRAW
Neither could claim it as a win, though in the aftermath of a freaky poll Ardern had a greater need to dominate.

Simon Wilson (The Spinoff): ARDERN
“Blow for blow, I thought Jacinda won easily. He had nothing. Really, nothing at all. But he still sat there, projecting himself as the dependable adult. She didn’t knock him out. Jacinda needed to crush Bill tonight.”

Annabelle Lee (The Spinoff): DRAW

“Both Ardern and English gave as good as they got and played well to their respective strengths (him: It’s the economy stupid. Her: Kids are living in cars stupid) so no clear winner other than the desk, which could double as the iceberg in the remake of The Titanic.”

Dene Mackenzie (Otago Daily Times) DRAW
“After a promising start, the final leaders' debate descended into a pointless shouting match over policy details. Once it got to a discussion on the rural/urban divide, each leader tried to out-talk the other and Mr Hosking was part of the problem. It is unlikely uncommitted voters got anything new from the debate as both leaders, at times, looked tired and ready to snap.”

Ben Thomas (The Spinoff): PLODDING DRAW
“It was a harder English that emerged. Rightly challenged on his characterisation of Labour scrapping planned tax cuts as a “tax rise”, he doubled down. Asked about the now-notorious $11 billion, he nakedly misrepresented the argument and its outcome saying economists agreed there was a “hole” (no economists agreed, either on the accounting or the metaphor). Hosking slumped in his seat exasperated but Ardern’s response of surprise rather than fury failed to settle the matter for anyone unfamiliar with the facts.”

Watch Simon Dallow's one-on-one interviews with Bill English and Jacinda Ardern for NBR View here.

* Murphy told NBR: "All I could find myself concluding was it wasn't a win for Ardern. So either a draw or win for English."

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