I don’t have too much to say about the Tai Tokerau debate on Native Affairs. The three candidates, Hone, Kelvin and Waihoroi Shortland, were pretty even. If forced to pick a winner I’d go with Kelvin. Yes, Kelvin not Hone. Hone was certainly the most authorative, but Kelvin was the most articulate. He focussed firmly on Labour policy without peppering his answers with useless rhetoric. Yes, Hone and Waihoroi were guilty of providing meaningless, read useless, answers. However, I think the criticism that Kelvin is too “wooden” is well placed. This may have something to do with Kelvin remembering his lines too well and he comes across as scripted. I tend to think, or I know from personal experience, that that’s just how Kelvin is. To me it makes no difference.
Having said the above, on a strict points decision the night probably belongs to Hone. Hone speaks well off the cuff and he knows better than anyone how to connect with Maori on a personal level. One thing Hone does well is use colloquialism without taking away from the authority of his message. Maori, well New Zealanders actually, like their politicians to speak like them. That’s part of the appeal of John Key. Where Americans appreciate soaring rhetoric New Zealanders enjoy understated and familiar language. Hone understands this. Many New Zealand politicians are guilty of trying to be like Obama.
Waihoroi was strong in parts and weak in others. He did well to highlight the Maori Party’s role in securing funding for treating rheumatic fever in the north. Waihoroi is much better in te reo than English. He suffers from the problem many fluent Maori speakers suffer from – they speak English like they speak te reo. English is not meant to be spoken in the same manner as te reo. I’m nitpicking here, but one of the problems fluent Maori speakers have is that they can be too verbose. English is about simplicity whereas Maori is often about heavy metaphors, animation and so on. When someone speaks English like they speak te reo the message can be bogged down and lost. This isn’t an attack on Waihoroi, he did well, this is just a general observation.
In fairness, the night was probably too close to call. But I’ll give it Kelvin for focussing on policy. Kelvin provided a template for how political discourse in this country should be run.