Helen Clark, desperate for some sympathy, has suddenly (a week later) said that the National supporters at the last debate were a “a screaming abusive foul-mouthed crowd” while the Labour supporters were “polite”.
This is part of the Labour campaign to be get rid of its image as having done most of the mud slinging of the campaign. I know they are worried about this because many people who have been polled by their polling company have told me that they get asked a question about which party they think has done the most mud slinging. You only ask this when you know you are getting pinged for it.
Now this complaint by Clark is a pattern of behaviour from here when faced with a non-sycophantic audience. She complained also in 2002 – something I will touch on later. If anyone did yell out the first couple of comments she claims was said, I agree it is well beyond the bounds of acceptability, but I note that no-one else claims to have heard this. I suspect it was singing the thank you very much for your high taxation song which really annoyed her 🙂
Now many were annoyed by having a partisan audience at the leader’s debate, but the decision lies with TVNZ. They decide to have one, and from all accounts encourage interjections and heckling. I agree that it would be better without one for the potential PMs debate, but when they do decide to have one, you have to expect some rowdiness.
For the three elections 1996 to 2002 I was sort of unofficially in charge of training people up to heckle well at these things (the normal National supporter is genetically programmed to be polite so takes training to break this), and it was always focused on short and humourous rather than just yelling abuse. Mostly too the heckles would be during the ad breaks. Examples were:
“You should have burnt the corn, not the painting”
And as Clark made notes during an ad break “Look, she’s signing things again”
Labour supporters always heckled just as much, if not more (witness the recent WC debate when Blumsky almost got drowned out at times by heckling, but rather than whine about it, he enjoyed it) in the leaders debate. In the first 2002 debate both sides gave English and Clark grief. Imagine our surprise when at the second debate we heard that Clark had complained about the heckling and we were told no less than 11 times (I am not exaggerating) that we had to be respectful to the Prime Minister. Not respectful to any other leader, just the PM.
Well we do not fly for Air New Zealand and the more producers and Holmes himself kept saying you must be polite to the PM, the more it enraged people so that in the end the audience were fired up even more than normal. In fact I recall one of my goes at Clark being so effective she turned around (this was during an ad break) and starting hurling insults back at me. Holmes finally broke it up by threatening to evict me 🙂
One also had strange alliances during the debates. We were next to the Alliance, and they cheered us on when we had goes at Jim Anderton whom they truly despised. Sometimes Labour and National ganged up to mock the Greens.
Anyway this complaint by Clark is just a bid for sympathy. Locally we have the Te Aro meet the candidates meeting on Tuesday – now if you want rowdy and abusive she should try fronting up there. I’m just hoping we get out of there with body limbs attached 🙂