Opinion: New Zealand election's biggest campaign mistakes

Opinion: Election Day has come and gone, leaving us to pick up the pieces. As the dust settles, we look at what could have been.

Lies, insults, and self-inflicted wounds - these were the errors that changed the race.

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei admits benefit fraud

Ms Turei admitted lying to Work and Income.
Ms Turei admitted lying to Work and Income. Photo credit: Newshub

Former Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei's benefit fraud admission was the Green Party's meltdown moment.

Ms Turei admitted lying to Work and Income (WINZ) to get an increased accommodation benefit when she was a solo mother studying for a law degree in the mid-1990s.

Her admission gave the Greens a short-term boost in the polls, and turned the political conversation to the state of poverty in New Zealand.

However her story fell apart after Newshub presented her with evidence that she had also lied to election officials about where she was living.

The aftermath was disastrous for the Green Party.

A Newshub Reid Research poll showed 74 percent of Kiwis thought it was wrong for Ms Turei to lie to get a bigger benefit.

It lead to the resignations of MPs David Clendon and Kennedy Graham, and exposed the Greens' internal divisions after Young Greens co-convener Meg Williams tweeted: "f**k Kennedy and David tbh".

Soft voters abandoned the party for Labour, leading to a dramatic drop in support.

At one point the party was in danger of missing out on the five percent threshold to stay in Parliament.

The party ended up with 5.9 percent of the vote on Election Day - which gave them seven seats in Parliament, well down on the 14 seats they secured in 2014.

Ms Turei lost to Labour's Rino Tirikatene in the Te Tai Tonga electorate, dumping her from Parliament.

Jacinda Ardern's disastrous Tax Working Group 'captain's call'

Ms Ardern wouldn't give Kiwis details before the election on the level of the tax.
Ms Ardern wouldn't give Kiwis details before the election on the level of the tax. Photo credit: Newshub

If Labour has a perception problem, it's of being the party of tax and spend.

It did nothing to stop this perception when new leader Jacinda Ardern made a captain's call to introduce new capital gains taxes in her first term as soon as possible - if her tax working group suggested one.

However she wouldn't give Kiwis details before the election on the level of the tax, and what exactly it would apply to.

Even deputy leader Kelvin Davis was unable to explain how the system would work. National used that uncertainty to launch a series of attack ads on Labour's tax policies - driving Labour down in the polls, and forcing Labour into a humiliating backdown.

Labour's policy is now to not have any changes come into effect until April 2021, after the next election.

"We have heard the call for New Zealanders' voices to be heard. We will involve the public at every stage of the working group, as well as Cabinet and Parliament's consideration of any changes that arise from it," finance spokesman Grant Robertson said.

Gareth Morgan calls Jacinda Ardern 'lipstick on a pig'

Dr Morgan had previously said TOP would steer clear of attack politics and focus solely on policy.
Dr Morgan had previously said TOP would steer clear of attack politics and focus solely on policy. Photo credit: Jono Cooper / Twitter

The Opportunities Party (TOP) leader Gareth Morgan came under fire for referring to Labour leader Jacinda Ardern as "lipstick on a pig."

"Jacinda should be required to show she's more than lipstick on a pig. Will she be?" Dr Morgan asked on Twitter.

Dr Morgan had previously said TOP would steer clear of attack politics and focus solely on policy.

Twitter users reacted largely negatively, accusing Dr Morgan of sexism.

"Gareth Morgan would like us to all focus on policy. We should leave the personal attacks to him, apparently," wrote @HORansome.

"Ughr that's super gross "mate". Lipstick on a pig? Really? Legit just gonna show friends this tweet who were thinking of voting for you," wrote @AychMcArdle.

An unrepentant Dr Morgan took to the safe ground of the TOP website to defend his views, complete with a list of other pig-like euphemisms he could have used, including "you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear" and "a hog in armor is still a hog".

TOP and its policies failed to make it into Parliament.

Labour fails to counter National's 'post truth politics'

Polling showed the attacks worked.
Polling showed the attacks worked. Photo credit: Getty

National finance spokesperson Steven Joyce claimed Labour had made an error in its costings, leaving a gaping $11.7b hole in its planned spending.

"Everybody's agreed there's a hole - the only debate is about how big it is and Labour are trying to fill it with their seven taxes," he told Three's The Project.

His figures were criticised by economists, but polling showed the attacks worked, with a Newshub-Reid research poll revealed 51 percent of New Zealanders either believed Mr Joyce or weren't sure. A Newshub poll showed National rising to 47.3 percent.

"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," wrote Newshub political reporter Lloyd Burr.

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

National also spread misinformation by saying Labour will increase income taxes by repealing National's Budget 2017 Families Package, which includes tax threshold adjustments that haven't come into force yet.

"It has been certainly been extraordinarily frustrating to see National run politics as usual, saying things that simply aren't true," Ms Ardern said.

Newshub Political Editor Patrick Gower said it was "'post truth politics', where deliberate lies and falsehoods reign supreme".

Labour decided to focus on "relentless positivity" instead of calling out the lies.

It wasn't until the election's final week Ms Ardern cut loose and called it a "complete fabrication", but by then it was too late.

This mistake - to go after National's dirty politics from the beginning - may have cost Labour the election.

Winston Peters drops ball on super overpayment

His story was plagued by evasions and inconsistency.
His story was plagued by evasions and inconsistency. Photo credit: Newshub

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters mishandled his pension overpayment saga, leaving him looking shifty and dishonest.

It was revealed he had been overpaid for up to seven years by receiving a single-person rate while in a relationship.

He admitted having to pay back his pension overpayment, after being contacted by Newshub.

But his story was plagued by evasions and inconsistency.

Mr Peters initially refused to confirm he had been overpaid, going as far as to tell Newshub someone was "seriously misleading you, mate".

When asked whether he would deny or rule out questions of overpayment, Mr Peters said he did not "have any comment to make about people running around making malicious statements about Winston Peters."

But 15 hours after this phone call, Mr Peters put out a press release admitting he'd been overpaid his superannuation, which he started receiving in 2010 when he turned 65.

Newsroom reported the overpayment figure was $18,000.

Mr Peters told The AM Show his superannuation overpayment might have begun "with an IRD matter which was not picked up".

He is adamant he never lied about his living situation, and says the $18,000 figure is wrong.

The scandal made Mr Peters look hypocritical, with his constant calls for openness and transparency for other politicians.

Mr Peters failed to retain his Northland seat, losing to National candidate Matt King.

Scott Palmer is a Digital News Producer at Newshub.

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