Hosking to be replaced in leaders debates by Jim Hickey, who will ask questions exclusively about the weather

Tonight’s debate, which was set to see Jacinda Ardern go head-to-head with Mike Hosking, will now see her take on Bill English over the issue of today’s high in Dargaville.

Tonight’s debate, which was set to see Jacinda Ardern go head-to-head with Mike Hosking, will now see her take on Bill English over the issue of today’s high in Dargaville.

In an eleventh-hour turnaround, TVNZ has reneged on its promise to keep Mike Hosking on as the host of its leadership debates, caving to public pressure with less than two hours to go until the first one.

Head of News John Gillespie said he simply “couldn’t go through” with letting Hosking host the debates, after discovering his prepared cue cards were just “lists of different labels of red wine.”

“That was the last straw, really,” he said. “Only 40% of the debate is supposed to be about red wine.”

Gillespie said that with a change of host, tonight’s debate would take a change of tone, and of substance, as well.

It is now to be hosted by veteran weather presenter Jim Hickey, who is coming out of retirement just for tonight.

Hickey will moderate an hour-long discussion between Prime Minister Bill English and Labour leader Jacinda Ardern, featuring questions exclusively about the weather.

“One of the reasons we know people watch the 6pm news in the evening is the weather,” said Gillespie. “That’s why we tease it at the start, and continue doing so throughout, right up until the end. The news is really just one big build-up to the weather. People can’t keep get enough of it. They really just want to know what the weather is like where they are now.

“If we put it on at the start, people would just switch off afterwards. There’d be no point.

“So when we asked ourselves, do we want this debate to be about the issues that really matter to New Zealanders, and if we do, what are those issues, we came back with only one answer: the weather.”

Hickey’s debate questions are said to include inquiries about the levels of dew that accumulate on English and Ardern’s berms in the morning, and “what does this cloud look like to you?”

English is expected to play to his strengths, talking about how he likes to feel a light cool breeze on his upper shins, while Ardern will likely express her vision for applying sunscreen, even on a cloudy day.

Tonight’s debate will be followed up by a debate hosted by Jeff Wilson exclusively about rugby, and another hosted by Nigel Latta, featuring questions exclusively about how the leaders would violently murder their partners.