Patrick Gower: I lost control of an insane debate

OPINION: When Hone Harawira threatens a National MP to "sit down... or you could end up in a place you don't want to be", you know that a political debate has gotten totally out of control.

Thursday night's debate at Auckland University was insane at times. It was two hours of non-stop, bare-knuckle politics from seven MPs or party leaders in front of 600 students.

You had to wonder what the debate moderator was doing.

Well, I was the moderator. And I'll admit, I lost control.

National's Chris Bishop steered the whole thing off-course by attacking Harawira about his work ethic at Parliament, and the "walkabout" he did while on a taxpayer-funded trip to Europe in 2009.

Harawira's wife Hilda was in the front row and called Bishop either a punk or a four-lettered word that starts with "c".

The student audience went dead silent as Harawira and Bishop stood.

"Get the hell out of Parliament," Harawira raged.

"This is why you got voted out of Te Tai Tokerau," Bishop ranted back.

This was way too messy. But I had totally zoned out and was just a spectator at this point.

It was Harawira who called me out actually, saying: "Paddy! If this is a housing question you should have f**king slapped him down the minute he started making a personal attack. He's turned it into a personal attack and if he wants to go down that track, let's do it."

Harawira was so pumped that I thought it best to get Bishop to sit down, which thankfully he did. The audience had started making a lot of noise now and there a fair bit of abuse flying from both sides.

Thankfully, the Greens' James Shaw was on hand with a boring answer on housing to cool the place.

What people haven't picked up is that Harawira later apologised to the audience for his outburst - and I did too for not stopping the personal attacks.

Otherwise the free-wheeling debate was a success, and covered the big issues: Donald Trump, cannabis, superannuation.

Watch the full debate here, or below.

Patrick Gower is Newshub's political editor.