Party supporters hijack Epsom debate

By Derek Cheng

From left, Labour's David Parker, Act's John Banks, and National's Paul Goldsmith. Photos / File
From left, Labour's David Parker, Act's John Banks, and National's Paul Goldsmith. Photos / File

It's a shame that genuine debate in Epsom has been hijacked.

Most candidates' meetings are packed with party supporters, but when it's the highest profile electorate in the land, the incentive to have media coverage full of wild cheering for your candidate is much greater.

And so it was in the circus show that was the final Epsom candidates' meeting this evening. The Act on Campus crew cheered. They hooted. They screamed. John Banks is God to them.

As he should be, as he is the only way the party can survive the election.

Similarly, National's Paul Goldsmith - introduced as the man who is probably yet to introduce himself to you - was constantly cheered.

But it is a waste for undecided voters who genuinely wanted to see the candidates in action when Labour's David Parker was repeatedly drowned out by boos while explaining the capital gains tax, or compulsory KiwiSaver.

The debate got fiery at times as questions from the audience included the minimum wage and its effects on small businesses, the exodus to Australia, and alcohol law reform.

On the latter Banks gave a passionate speech about how he supported every recommendation in the Law Commission report, only to be dismantled in a second when Conservative leader Colin Craig said it wasn't party policy, and most of the Act Party would be against it on social liberal principles.

Goldsmith stuck to his apparent tactic of saying very little outside of "strong economy" and "stable leadership" slogans - the luxury of being assured a seat, no matter what happens.

The Green's David Hay impressed with his innovative way of answering policy questions he was ignorant of: download the webpage on your phone and read it verbatim.

He also earned a few laughs with hysteria: "This is the stupidest time in the history of human civilisation to be investing in motorways."

Craig, who is not standing in Epsom but somehow gatecrashed the party, impressed with a sincere address to the dozen or so undecided voters in the room.

He pointed at that the Conservative Party was the only centre-right one against asset sales.

But in the end, it was up to the colour of the room. A rose bush was awarded to the best candidate, based on crowd noise.

The rabid Act on Campus crew would not be denied. They were upstanding, chanting.

Just to show how meaningless the whole thing was, Banks immediately gave the rose bush away.

- NZ Herald

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