Decision 17: Who won the first Leaders' Debate?

Decision 17: Who won the first Leaders' Debate?

It's the question on everyone's lips - who won the first leaders' debate?

Labour's Jacinda Ardern and National's Bill English went head-to-head on Thursday night for the first time.

Few knew what to expect, considering Ms Ardern took the leadership just as Parliament was closing down for the campaign, and Mr English taking National into the election for the first time in 15 years.

The general consensus appears to be a narrow win for Ms Ardern, according to both polls and the majority of pundits. But it appears she'll have to beef up her policy details if she's going to ride the momentum the party has in the polls to victory on September 23.

Here's a wrap of how New Zealand reacted.

Paula Bennett

National's deputy leader "obviously" thinks her boss had the better of his would-be replacement as Prime Minister, but had praise for Ms Ardern's debut performance.

"At the end of the day, I thought Jacinda Ardern did quite well last night. Obviously I think Bill won, but I did think she put in a strong performance," she told The AM Show.

Paula Bennett and Jacinda Ardern on The AM Show before Ms Ardern became leader.
Paula Bennett and Jacinda Ardern on The AM Show before Ms Ardern became leader. Photo credit: The AM Show

She echoed a criticism Mr English used against Ms Ardern during the debate.

"It's going to get down to... the policies that are coming out, who sees what this country's going to look like in the future. It's really stark - I think they go with, I'm gonna say the positivity and the momentum the country's got in its growth and everything else against a bit of vague, and we're not really sure, and a sort of vague values that don't really account for much."

Winston Peters

"I didn't think either of them won," the NZ First leader told TVNZ's Breakfast - thinking host Mike Hosking outshined them both.

"Mike Hosking put up a pretty good performance last night. I think he did a pretty competent job because he went to areas where people would like to know what the answers were, and I was quite staggered as to what the answers were."

He said the debate failed to fire because there was too much agreement between the two leaders.

"Jacinda Ardern admitted that she thought the economy was going fine. I thought that was a staggering admission."

The AM Show poll

More than 4000 people voted in a poll hosted by The AM Show - 54 percent said Ms Ardern won, while 46 percent opted for her opponent.

Barry Soper

Newstalk ZB's political editor didn't declare a winner as such, but suggested Ms Ardern could have stomped Mr English if she wasn't so polite.

"The trouble with Ardern and Bill English is that they seem to quite like each other and the handshake in the studio after it was all over seemed warm," he wrote.

"She said afterwards that she was happy with the way she managed her own decorum. And she did manage it, frequently off camera shaking her head, even if the smile was mainly ever present with the lips having to be lubricated with a mint to stop them from sticking to her teeth. She clearly disagreed with what her opponent was saying, but politely didn't interrupt."

Audrey Young

While the New Zealand Herald political editor said Mr English "made many more direct hits on Labour and its tax policies than she did on National", ultimately Ms Ardern was the winner.

"It was a highly credible debut as potential Prime Minister alongside a seasoned operator and she gets the win."

Liam Dann

The Herald's business editor said Mr English won, though was shaky on wage growth, housing and water.

"Overall though, he appeared largely unrattled by the big poll and put in a polished performance, enough to put him marginally ahead on points. But only just - which, considering his depth of experience, should have his strategists worried."

Tony Manhire

Mike Hosking had Mr English rattled from the get-go, wrote the Spinoff senior editor, asking him: "Why are you losing?"

Despite pulling out the best line of the night - 'People can't go shopping with your values' - he said Mr English couldn't recover from the brutal opening question around National's decline in the polls.

"It was Ardern's night."

Tim Murphy

Newsroom's Tim Murphy said Mr English "probably narrowly lost", but said the signs were there Ms Ardern is on the rise.

"You sense that next time she can get better. English possibly not."

Jenna Lynch

Newshub political reporter Jenna Lynch called it a draw, saying each "brought each other's traits to the debate".

Jenna Lynch on The AM Show.
Jenna Lynch on The AM Show. Photo credit: The AM Show.

"Everyone was worried Jacinda Ardern wouldn't have the substance to back herself up, everyone was worried that Bill English wouldn't have any charisma."

Best zinger went to Mr English, but the shocking Colmar-Brunton poll result, which came out just an hour earlier, set the whole tone.

Heather du Plessis-Allan

Another commentator calling it close, but in Ms Ardern's favour.

"Ardern was expected to shine. She did. English was expected to flounder. He didn't. Ardern won, but English didn't lose by much," wrote the Herald on Sunday columnist.

Herald poll

An online poll by the Herald had voters slightly in favour of Ms Ardern, 45-42. The rest said it was too close to call.

Rachel Smalley

The Newstalk ZB host admitted that when she said a month ago it was game, set and match to National, she was wrong.

"Ardern looked nervous at the start, but she settled. I don't think Bill English ever did. At times he looked rattled and uncomfortable. And Ardern grew in confidence," she wrote.

"Some of her one-liners, particularly around housing, stopped the Prime Minister in his tracks."

Matthew Hooton

"Hosking was really good," the right-leaning commentator said on Twitter.

"Both the candidates were ok too. Jacinda presented better. Bill probably had the edge on content."

Bill English and Paula Bennett.
Bill English and Paula Bennett. Photo credit: Lloyd Burr/Newshub.

TVNZ Breakfast poll

A Facebook poll had Jacinda on more than 5800 votes when Newshub looked, with Mr English trailing on 3700.

Kelvin Davis

The Labour deputy had a pretty good excuse for not having an opinion on the debate,when asked on The AM Show for his verdict.

"I was filling in for Jacinda at the Auckland Rugby League Awards, so I didn't get to see it."