It’s not easy finding positive things to say about TVNZ, but I think political editor Guyon Espiner has earned a big tick.
Espiner is steadily growing into his role as an interviewer on the Sunday morning political programme Q+A. He kicked off the year on an impressive note yesterday with an interrogation of Labour leader Phil Goff that was searching and incisive but never hectoring – not always an easy balance to strike.
As an interviewer, Espiner prepares well, is quick on his feet and has a pleasant manner. He has a slight tendency to interrupt too often, but there’s a fine line between giving interview subjects a fair suck of the sav and letting them control the show (as any politician will do, given half a chance). And he doesn’t shrink from the tough questions, to wit: “Are you a failure as leader?” – a question Goff answered with the same imperturbable smile he displayed throughout the interview. (He has inherited Helen Clark’s practice of grinning even when he’s being serious, which I find slightly unnerving.)
In his pieces to camera on One News, Espiner resists the temptation to grandstand and generally respects the boundary between analysis and editorialising – a skill his blustering counterpart at TV3, Duncan Garner, has yet to master (assuming Garner wants to, which may not be the case). And Espiner passes the most important test of any political journalist, which is that he leaves us guessing as to what his own political views (if any) are.
Best line from yesterday’s Q+A: “You don’t create wealth by taxing people” (Mike Moore). This should be tattooed on left-wing politicians’ foreheads.
Funniest line from yesterday’s Q+A: Asked by Paul Holmes whether he liked being in bed with the Nats, Hone Harawira paused for a moment before answering: “I wake up a lot.” He might have an anger problem, but he’s got a sense of humour too.