Election 2014

15 Oct 2008

Clark, Key in first televised leaders' debate

8:02 pm on 15 October 2008

The two party leaders vying to be Prime Minister after the election have gone head-to-head in the first televised leaders' debate of the campaign.

During the TV One debate on Tuesday, the Labour Party's Helen Clark and National's John Key argued about the economy, education, climate change and leadership.

In front of a studio audience of about 40 people in Auckland, Miss Clark said now was not the time to change the Government.

Miss Clark said she and Labour - after nine years in office - have the experience and policies to get New Zealand through difficult economic times.

She said she believes voters are looking for a leader who shows consistency, resolution, principle and steadfastness.

But Mr Key accused Labour of economic mismanagement, and said that it was time for a fresh approach, as under Labour the economy had not improved.

Mr Key told viewers he would bring to the job proven experience and leadership in finance at the time when the country needs it.

He also took a different approach to his predecessor, Don Brash, who was criticised in 2005 for being too timid in the debate and explained then that he went easy on Helen Clark because she was a woman.

In contrast, Mr Key repeatedly talked over Miss Clark.

Both said afterwards they were happy with the debate.

Radio New Zealand's political editor says Labour had been on the front foot over the last few days, since Helen Clark announced the Government's bank deposit guarantee scheme on Sunday, and with Tuesday night's debate John Key got National's campaign back on track.