National may not recover in time from its own goal
EDITORIAL: The National Party's identification of an $11.7 billion "hole" in Labour's budgeting looks like a spectacular failure.
Steven Joyce scores a sensational goal and is celebrating with Bill English, but the finance minister and prime minister are the only people in the stadium who don't realise the ball is in the back of their own net.
Economists agree there is not a hole in Labour's accounts. Labour has also left room for increases in spending. It has not made an embarrassing mistake that leaves it in a position where it can't find the money to fund all the spending it wants to carry out.
National may dispute this interpretation, but the party is losing the perception war and time is running out to correct that.
In any football match, recovering from an own goal is hard to do.
To be fair, Labour's process is curious.
The party's commitment to an "odd" approach, as English put it, means Labour may be obliged to be hypocritical or unrealistic. It certainly has to exercise fiscal restraint. It will probably have to keep things tight to make it all work. Achieving this while keeping people happy will be difficult, but not impossible.
The party has lectured on the evils of under-funding. Should Labour win the election, much skill or luck will be needed to keep its vision on track. It looks like quite a burden to place on a rookie finance minister with little relevant experience in the field. Or so National wants voters to think.
It will, of course, be up to voters to decide if they're happy to have a learner driver behind the wheel of the economy. Grant Robertson is no idiot, however.
The timing of Joyce's revelations will also not have gone unnoticed by voters. National looked desperate and English got muddled when trying to explain what was so wrong with Labour's approach.
Joyce understands the reality: If there's no fiscal hole, Labour's approach to spending is at least unconventional and optimistic. The latter interpretation got lost while English insisted his finance minister was correct.
The prime minister tried to have it both ways and he can't. National should concede it was wrong.
Under Jacinda Ardern's leadership, Labour is successfully mining a mood for change.
A dramatic but disputed own goal from the other team could prove to be decisive.