Lloyd Burr: Labour's frustration over lies comes too late

OPINION: Labour's reluctance to call out National's lies might have cost it the election.

National still maintains there's an $11.7b hole in Labour's fiscal policy. That's a lie. No economist agrees. Even Bill English won't say the $11.7b figure.

National still maintains Labour will increase income taxes. That's a lie. Labour plans to repeal National's Budget 2017 Families Package, which includes tax threshold adjustments that haven't come into force yet and won't for another six months.

These lies have been circulating in voters' minds for weeks. There's no doubt the lies would have stopped some swing voters from changing to Labour.

The lies have been a successful and carefully planned smear by National to hit Labour in what's perceived as its weakest spot: economic and fiscal management.

The lies planted the seeds of doubt in voters, and that's a huge win for National.

It begs the question - why didn't Jacinda Ardern nip it in the bud from the start and call it out?

She initially used words like "wrong" and "false". Then it was "misleading". Then "scaremongering".

Labour then called for an apology. Seriously, you think National will apologise? You're dreaming.

Ardern has only called them "lies" a few times, when it should have been her message from the start.

Instead, her "relentless positivity" held her back.

Her frustration about it came to a head in last night's leaders debate. The frustration in her voice and her eyes was impossible to miss.

"Bill, it was a complete fabrication, no-one has agreed with you, but what it did do is it confused voters. It was politics as usual. All they heard was someone making up numbers, then having been showed to have been lying about it," she said.

That frustration was even more evident on The AM Show this morning, when Labour's campaign chairman Phil Twyford vented at Paula Bennett.

He let loose. The relentless positivity was replaced with relentless frustration:

"You're lying, flat out lying," he said.

"They lied about the fiscal hole," he said again.

"You've lied and lied and lied throughout this campaign.

"You're lying like flatfish," he said.

"It's called lying.

"Your whole campaign has been based on lies."

National played dirty, and it looks like it has worked.

That leaves the question, why did Labour wait until the election's final week to finally fire back?

Lloyd Burr is a political reporter for Newshub.