WELL, that was interesting ...

Bill English and Jacinda Ardern in a party leaders debate of clear contrasts with the prime minister's job on the line.

The televised debate on TV1 on Thursday night may have lacked the drama, hyperbole, mud-slinging and name-calling that often passes for entertainment at these affairs but I, for one, am grateful.

Despite attempts by some in the media to rark up the contest and conjure up scandal, politics is New Zealand is quite polite and civilised compared to most countries - Britain being one obvious example.

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And the presence of a 37-year-old female at the head of the Labour Party has added an extra layer of decorum to proceedings with no one wanting to look like a bully picking on the newbie.

So on Thursday we had a well-mannered battle of policies and ideas - and a fairly clear choice for the nation.

Bill English had his facts and figures, nuts and bolts, what worked and what didn't; Jacinda Ardern was more big-picture, more visionary, talking about values and the New Zealand brand.

It was the functional versus the aspirational; the practical versus the emotional; the head versus the heart.

Ardern was on the back foot over tax plans; English vulnerable on housing and polluted waterways (will National MPs come to rue Nick Smith's "wadeable" rivers abomination?).

A good debate, very well handled by Mike Hosking, whatever one might think of his right-of-centre sympathies and apparent contempt for the Maori Party.

With impeccable timing, it was held on the day Labour caught up with National in the polls, making the contest all the more intriguing.

Of course, the only poll that matters is on September 23.

That said, the Chronicle is running another online poll covering the five candidates pitching to be Whanganui's next MP. It may give an indication of how the parties are faring - go to wanganuichronicle.co.nz