It was a clumsy debate for National leader John Key, who appeared oddly out of sorts from the beginning.

He wasn't helped by the focus on issues that were tricky for him such as asset sales, the "underclass", Epsom and Act.

By contrast, Labour leader Phil Goff's tricky issues such as the capital gains tax, the rise in the retirement age and Labour's own poll problems were barely mentioned.

Key did get in some shots at Labour's economic policies and retaliated to criticism of his deal with Act by pointing out that Labour would have to rely on NZ First at a time when a stable Government was critical. He was brutally realistic about the economy - perhaps to his detriment, while Goff was carefully using softer, more "human" language on the underclass.


The winner was Goff, for whom the media training has finally paid off. He sounded convincing and measured against Key's interruptions. Despite his difficulties remembering numbers in his own economic policy, Goff showed a remarkable recall of job numbers, benefit numbers and statistics on wages and living costs.