Joyce took the first call in Wednesday afternoon’s general debate — long a platform for Parliament’s better orators — to parody Labour’s under-the-weather David Cunliffe in a fashion that was as clever as it was cruel as it was funny.
Within the space of a five-minute speech, Joyce had revealed another weapon in his armoury — the ability to cut an opponent down by sheer wit — and thereby further enhanced his credentials as the frontrunner for National’s leadership when Key finally moves on.
There was, however, another interesting outcome from his contribution — its impact on those sitting opposite him.
Cunliffe was not in the chamber. But those Labour MPs who were initially tried to ignore what was a virtuoso performance. But their barely suppressed smiles gave the game away.
When the cat is away, the mice will play!
Fortunately for Cunliffe, Labour is also now closer to election day than it was in 1990 when Mike Moore deposed Sir Geoffrey Palmer in a questionable coup which had the sole purpose of saving the party from being completely routed by National.
56 days to go.
Cunliffe’s cause has not been helped by Labour whingeing over TVNZ choosing Mike Hosking — someone Labour sees as biased in National’s favour — to be the moderator for the channel’s debates.
Hosking is a professional. He hardly needs reminding that his performance will be scrutinised intently. Any bias will be blatantly obvious. Which is why there will not be any bias. Labour has every right to object. In doing so, however, the party projects the image of a loser.
If anything I suspect Hosking will go harder on Key, because he has said favourable things about him in the past.