Reader, it happened again. Last week I was the man who fell asleep on live television in the studio of the leaders’ debate filmed at TVNZ; and during Wednesday night’s debate, another man dozed off in front of a watching nation. His name was Christopher Luxon.
I fell asleep last week because the debate was boring. Luxon bored himself to sleep at tonight’s Newshub debate. The body, dressed in a really badly tailored pair of suit pants, was upright. But the mind had switched off. He was a political leader as a somnambulist, gabbling nonsense like a man talking in his sleep, saying random and senseless things.
In short, he had a nightmare. He could not answer a direct question. He was even worse at an indirect question. He came up against the worst thing in public life: mockery. Labour’s Chris Hipkins mocked him all night. Host Paddy Gower mocked him with the best zinger of the night. And the studio audience of 200 mocked him with their laughter that only seemed to deepen his sleep.
Gower asked: “Is Winston Peters good or bad for New Zealand?”
Luxon gabbled. Gower asked him again. Luxon gabbled some more. Gower put the question to him once more, and Luxon replied: “I don’t know him.”
Gower shouted: “Everybody knows him!”
The zinger rocked the debate venue, the Q Theatre on Queen St, Auckland. Hipkins laughed and laughed; he was the happiest he has ever looked since becoming Prime Minister. He performed little delighted dance steps in his really badly tailored suit jacket, and was energetically, explicitly, wide awake, and enjoying every minute.
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Gower asked if either leader had ever stolen a road cone. Luxon made some boring noises until Gower had a gutsful and put the question to Hipkins who made the audience roar with laughter when he said there was a road cone in his student flat.
Luxon said people who took MDMA weren’t criminals. Gower reminded him of the Crimes Act. Just like that, Luxon said that people who took MDMA were criminals. A complete about-face in five seconds. He had that kind of night, twisting himself in knots, making a goose of himself, an amateur, tossing and turning in his bizarre sleep.
It has become a common saw in this election campaign that it’s Luxon’s to lose. He made a very determined effort to lose it at the leaders’ debate; nightmare on Queen St.