Kids grill the politicians
Shaun Bamber talks to the 12-year-old interviewers who found Winston Peters defensive and David Seymour ‘‘a bit mean’’ - but liked Bill English’s bodyguards.
Forget Mike Hosking or Paddy Gower – I’ve seen the future of political interviewing and it is glorious.
Molly Cavanagh and Denzel Nightingale – remember those names, folks – are students at Auckland’s Kowhai Intermediate School, and a few weeks ago, in late August, they and 26 other schoolchildren aged 8 to 12 grilled our political party leaders on everything from best policies to best mates.
Bill English, Jacinda Ardern, Winston Peters, James Shaw, Marama Fox, Gareth Morgan and David Seymour all fronted up for the two-part TVNZ election special Face The Classroom – although by the sounds of it a few of them might just regret facing such tenacious opponents.
So let’s get to know your interviewers, shall we?
Molly recently turned 13 and has just come from her ballet exam when I meet her. Jazz and football are her other two passions – her football team’s playing in a tournament on Australia’s Gold Coast this weekend. She also has a 16-yearold brother who ‘‘can be kind of annoying, but also very helpful at times’’.
Denzel is 12 and also enjoys football – and video games. He lives with his two brothers and a cousin who’s staying with them at the moment. And yes, he actually is named after Denzel Washington.
Upon learning this I was foolishly compelled to share the fact that Washington was my grandmother’s favourite actor, only to be met with silence and a blank stare – clearly this guy has no time for my old-man ramblings.
And just like that I found myself experiencing something possibly no other human being has felt before – pity for Winston Peters.
Turns out, though, it was Molly, not Denzel, who had it in for Winston.
‘‘I didn’t like Winston Peters,’’ she tells me, ‘‘because when you asked him questions about what has been happening in the media about him he got really defensive.
‘‘He was like, ‘Are you trying to set me up or something?’ So he was a little bit prickly if you know what I mean.’’
Act leader David Seymour – aka ‘‘the guy with the sports car’’ (his actual name eluded them for a while) – was another who failed to make the right impression on these no-nonsense youngsters.
‘‘The one that I really disliked was David Seymour, because he said that Jacinda had really bad ideas and she hadn’t come up with anything herself and he had much better ideas than her,’’ says Denzel. ‘‘I thought, ‘You’re a bit mean – what have you come up with?’’’
‘‘He said that Jacinda was too young to be prime minister – even though he’s younger than her,’’ adds Molly. ‘‘But then he was like, ‘Well, I don’t plan on being prime minister’. And we were like, ‘What do you plan on being then?’’’
At this point it’s worth noting that both Molly and Denzel almost always refer to the Labour Party leader by first name only, in glaring contrast to her fellow leaders, who are on a strict firstname, last-name basis.
I’m not sure what this signifies exactly, but should Labour fail to make it past the post this year they may well have a landslide victory in the offing if Ardern is still around come the 2023 election.
As for our current prime minister, he doesn’t appear to have made that big an impact on Molly and Denzel himself – but his bodyguards and assorted hangers-on sure did.
‘‘Bill English came in a helicopter,’’ says Molly. ‘‘He had two bodyguards who searched the whole room – looking round with really serious business suits – and then they got Bill English to come in and they were surrounding him.’’
‘‘And Bill English had this other bodyguard,’’ says Denzel. ‘‘Well, he wasn’t really a bodyguard but he was teaching Bill English things and helping him with normal life things like cooking and stuff.
‘‘He’s been trying to teach Bill English how to take photos – apparently Bill English has been holding it down low and too close to things and he needs to hold it up high and away from them.’’ ● Face The Classroom, TVNZ1, September 18 and 19, 8pm.