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.

Sunday News - - FEATURE -

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.

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