38 sleeps. A win for democracy

So who won the one and only planned leaders’ debate of the ACT election?
In a room full of political candidates, staffers and lobbyists it’s almost impossible to find someone to give an unbiased perspective. But there did seen to be a general consensus. More on that shortly.
I found myself on the same table as both leaders before the debate. And they were nervous. Not about sharing a table with me (well at least I hope not) but what was about to unfold.
And I don’t know if it was nerves or an underlying animosity, but Katy Gallagher and Zed Seselja did not say a single word to each other. They hardly made eye contact. And the handshake ahead of the debate was awkward in the extreme.
So to the debate. Seselja dealt with his nerves relatively quickly. Gallagher, however, took some time to settle. Neither seemed to capture the room’s imagination with their eight minute opening address, but I thought both tackled the Q and A session with confidence and, even, refreshing honesty.
What the debate did underline is that Labor hates the Liberal claim Gallagher is tripling rates. True or not, it’s cutting through, and it’s going to be repeated ad nauseum for the rest of the campaign.
But the Liberal Party needs to be careful. While a promise to reduce rates for a section of the community might be popular with ratepayers, a conversation I had with a community leader post-debate was interesting.
This leader could be considered a supporter of the conservatives, but told me Seselja’s promise to reverse Andrew Barr’s tax reforms was making many nervous. This supporter told me the reforms had been welcomed, and talk of reversing the changes was not.
So who won today? There was a much greater spring in the step of Seselja and his followers. By contrast, some in the Labor Party were looking quite glum.
And I think the body language said it all. Not by much, but Zed Seselja can lay claim to winning the debate. Winning an election is a whole different ball game.


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