It’s become hard to believe that Labour’s fibs about National and Act were mistakes. It looks more like a planned campaign of misinformation executed so badly that Labour got busted.
The first fib looked like the “emotional junior staffer” striking again.
Someone in Labour put out an Instagram post warning that “A National/Act coalition will not only cut fees free for first-year students, but they will also add interest back on ALL current student loans.” It’s not true.
National had already said it would keep fees free more than a week earlier. When Labour was busted the party said it was an “outright mistake” and took the post down, and they got the benefit of the doubt.
The second fib also looked like a mistake because the perpetrator was the infamous blatherer Willie Jackson. In a debate, he said National and Act would scrap the minimum wage. It’s not true. When he was busted he corrected it.
Senior Labour MP Andrew Little was sprung on his Facebook page saying National and Act would “flog off the schools and sack all the teachers”.
Labour’s Northcote MP Shanan Halbert was busted saying on his Facebook page that National and Act planned to cut sick leave from 10 days back to five days. Labour’s Christchurch Central candidate Duncan Webb claimed on his FB page that Matariki would be scrapped and, again, that 10 days’ sick leave was in trouble.
And the Labour Party itself struck again, claiming National and Act would cut free public transport for disabled people. None of these claims are true. Disabled people don’t qualify for free public transport anyway.
Just to see if there was any more of this around, I did a quick search of the last debate in Parliament and in seconds found Jackson had also run out the fake Matariki story last Thursday saying, “our Matariki holiday — I fear we’ll lose that. It’s all at risk from the National Party.”
On the same day Labour’s Illam candidate Sarah Pallett said “if National and Act form a Government in October… they will stop the winter energy payment”, when National had pledged to keep the winter energy payment six days earlier. She went on to repeat the fib that the centre-right would “put interest back on student loans”.
There are too many repetitions for these fibs to be mistakes. The sick leave, Matariki and student loan interest lies were used by multiple people, suggesting something more co-ordinated by Labour.
Porkies aren’t a surprise in politics. Parties do this all the time. But generally they’re a bit smarter than this. They might warn that a minor coalition party will force the major coalition party to introduce something unpopular, like a tax. That’s much cleverer and harder to deny than just telling outright lies.
Clearly, Labour has got desperate. They’ve run out of every other strategy. Policy hasn’t worked. The big one was supposed to be GST off fruit and vegetables. They’re so embarrassed by it they barely talk about it anymore. Hipkins hasn’t worked. He’s now neck and neck with Christopher Luxon in polls. Going dirty is all Labour has. And it’s probably not to win the election, but just to keep the polling high enough to save the furniture. On current numbers, they stand to lose about half their MPs.
Going dirty is not a good strategy though. Telling fibs, calling Act racists, making excuses for their union buddies buying attack ads on Luxon can backfire.
Sure, some voters will hear the fibs and not hear the corrections and will be freaked out enough to flip away from the centre-right and back to Labour.
But there are plenty of other voters who will see the desperation and nastiness for what it is and find it sad and ugly. It’s especially bad for Labour because it’s so off-brand. They’ve just pushed the “Be Kind” schtick for five years. It’s whiplash-inducing to go from Jacinda hugging everyone to Chris’ troops spreading misinformation on Facebook with a brazenness that would make the anti-vaxxers blush.
If Labour’s going to lose, it’s probably better to lose with dignity than to lose dirty.