A surprisingly genial, occasionally informative and generally constructive affair, although having so many leaders meant too little time to answer questions. Winston Peters was the non-parliamentary cuckoo in this nest of six.

It was as if he had never been away. He was at his most genial. He played to his experience. He did himself plenty of good. The Greens' Russel Norman put in a solid, if not very inspiring, performance. Ditto Peter Dunne.

The stand-out showing was a surprise: Hone Harawira, who was variously serious and funny in the right proportions. He was also the one leader who sounded both invigorated and passionate - rather than mouthing safe answers by rote.

Don Brash needed to put in a stellar performance. He needed to win the debate. He didn't. Likewise Tariana Turia. She was sensible and considered. But her party is fighting this election from a long way behind.