Easily the strongest. Cunliffe was the most relaxed, concise and prepared. He also varied his tone and expression well. Cunliffe wisely played to his strengths intelligently identifying one of his weaknesses as a tendency to call “a spade a spade”. Of course this isn’t a weakness in the eyes of 90% of New Zealanders – it’s only a weakness in the eyes of Labour’s, and I hate using this term, PC brigade. However, Cunliffe could be perceived as smug, but hell he’s nowhere near as smug as Simon Bridges and the high priest of smug Steven Joyce.
Parker stumbled early. A little stiff, which is to be expected, but unlike most he didn’t seem to loosen up as the night progressed. Strangely Parker kept claiming he can “touch people”. I thought that was a strange way to say he can connect with New Zealanders. Surprisingly, according to Parker he has no weaknesses as a leader. Wow. In the face of Labour’s massive defeat humility will go a long way. Someone should tell Parker.
I love Shearer’s story, but he didn’t look ready tonight. Under prepared and not very good off the cuff. That can be fixed though. Easy. Ultimately, he didn’t seem to ooze, for want to a better description, gravitas. Cunliffe and Parker looked and sounded more like leaders in waiting. Shearer, rightly in my opinion, focussed on the fact he’ll be different from the Clark government and he brings a fresh face. But I don't think that was enough in the face of his constantly stumbling. He was always searching for answers rather than firing them out.
He conducted a very blunt interview.
Finally, the txt poll had Shearer on top with 50%. Understandable. Cunliffe polled second and Parker third. On tonight's performance I'm backing Cunliffe. Shearer a close second and Parker a distant third. For me, the ideal ticket is Cunliffe as leader, Shane Jones as deputy, Parker at finance with Robertson, Ardern, Mahuta, Shearer, Twyford, Hipkins and Dalziel rounding out the top 10.