Debate analysis: Jacinda Ardern seemed to 'lack passion', but it didn't all go Judith Collins' way

Political expert Jennifer Lees-Marshment says Labour's Jacinda Ardern seemed to "lack passion" during today's TVNZ leaders' debate.

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1 NEWS’ political editor Jessica Mutch McKay and academic Jennifer Lees-Marshment analyse the first leaders’ debate. Source: 1 NEWS

Ardern squared off with National Party leader Judith Collins, less than a month out from the election, with tax, housing, the Covid-19 response and farming among the issues the pair went head-to-head on.

Lees-Marshment said to her surprise, she found Collins got her message across more effectively.

"Ardern, who is normally the really effective communicator, was speaking like a typical Prime Minister at the end of their third term, not first, lots of big numbers, lots of big words, lots of complex communication, whereas Collins was much more effective at communication, more relateable and more empathetic.

"And Ardern seemed to lack passion, it came out right at the end, but for most of the debate we kept discussing, where's the passion where's the heart?" 

1 NEWS political editor Jessica Mutch McKay agreed, saying it was captured in a question from Auckland schoolgirl Aigagalefili Fepulea'i Tapua'i, who spoke about kids in South Auckland having to leave school to support their families.

"Judith Collins came in with the answer relating to her husband and really spoke from the heart and quite naturally and quite passionately. 

"When Jacinda Ardern came in second, it almost felt like an echo of what happened before."  

Lees-Marshment said it didn't all go Collins' way, saying she spoke too much about what was wrong with Labour, which meant she didn't spend enough time speaking about what National was offering.

Mutch McKay said Collins slipped when talking about her trust owning a house, and it may "ring a few alarm bells", but wondered if viewers may see her in a new light.