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Len Old Friend: This Is Why You Must Stand Down

By   /  December 19, 2013  /  19 Comments

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Sometimes our strength is not measured by what we strive for, or hold onto, but by what we give up… If you go, you do so for the team, by forcing an election the voters of Auckland will get to choose who will lead the City’s council rather than that choice being made by those who currently occupy the Beehive.

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    LETTER TO LEN: Sometimes our strength is not measured by what we strive for, or hold onto, but by what we give up.

Len Brown - a roller coaster term

LEN, THERE’S A RUMOUR BOUNDING about Auckland’s civic circles that the National-led Government is moving to remove you from office, to replace you as Mayor with a commissioner. Some even suggest a word has been re-whispered into Maurice Williamson’s ear.

Such rumours abound when a political jurisdiction is void of leadership. And remember Len, New Zealand needs Auckland more than it needs any of us.

Perhaps the rumour is a strong possibility. A sizable proportion of councillors are ready to express no confidence in you, in your leadership, in your rehabilitation.

Len, as such, the situation is untenable. It is time to go.

If you stand down now you vacate the mayoralty having established a huge mandate for the vision you constructed during your first term. Aucklanders now want this vision implemented. But you cannot play for time. You played the game, and you lost. Now, you cannot deliver on that vision. Your part in the dream has finished.

But if you stay, the city will likely be taken from you. Your opponents will likely succeed in appointing a commissioner of their choice.

But if you go, you do so for the team, by forcing an election the voters of Auckland will get to choose who will lead the City’s council rather than that choice being made by those who currently occupy the Beehive.

And Auckland has fine sons and daughters, some have the cred to restore the City’s pride, to correct the power-imbalance that has occurred as a consequence of your own folly.

Go now, don’t allow this battle to become a Right V Left issue where the right will use their incumbency to win. No, salvage what’s left of Len Brown – the man who was once Manukau’s face of the future – for your family’s sake if not ours.

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LEN MAYBE YOU WILL REMEMBER THIS, even though it’s years ago now, sometime in the early to mid 1990s. Dorothy Jelicich was chair of the Counties Manukau Health Council and you were a member representative appointed by Manukau City Council. There was an energy about you, a wit, a bit of the larrikin, with an awareness of purpose.

You carved out a name not only for yourself but for the type of region many sort to create. Manukau The Face Of The Future. You were a big part of that movement.

You had a lot of your father’s attributes. I remembered him too from when he was principal of Greenmeadows Intermediate School in Manurewa East. From the age of 11 to 13 we loved your father’s leadership, the culture he and his teachers created at that wonderful school.

Observing you working the Health Council, I could see your father in you. And once Dorothy retired in 1995, you assumed your rightful place to champion the rights of the region’s peoples to free, equitable, and robust health care.

As media, we could see your merits, and the advocacy journalists amongst us used your brand to challenge the politically powerful, and to assist the needy to access the healthcare they deserved.

It was an honourable time. You may not have known it then, but there was a burgeoning movement forming around you.

We could see you were almost match fit to run for the mayoralty should Sir Barry Curtis step aside. And in time, you realised your ambition. You got there on your own merits. But remember how your path was made possible by many thousands of people who placed their confidence and hope in your abilities to deliver. Without them, you would not have acquired the power to achieve.

One day, sometime in the latter part of 2006, you asked me what I thought of you having a second go at the Manukau mayoralty. I thought it was a grand idea. I asked you what you thought of an amalgamated greater Auckland region. You replied that the idea was just a rightwing dream. I counter-replied that you would have to form an alternative view on it – that if you won the Manukau mayoralty in 2007 the issue would certainly gain a momentum during your tenure.

In 2009, you contacted me again and asked what kind of media relations support you would need should you pitch for the Auckland supercity mayoralty. I suggested you speak with David Lewis, a respected Labour Party media specialist and former prime ministerial press secretary for Helen Clark. You were introduced, the Labour Party endorsed your campaign, and you won.

Your brand was all about vision. You delivered, you established a mandate from Aucklanders for peoples politics, progressive policies. You were the first centre-left mayor of Auckland City, and you won the debate.

FaceTV interview between Selwyn Manning and Len Brown, August 21, 2012.

FaceTV interview between Selwyn Manning and Len Brown, August 21, 2012.

But there were times when you abandoned your brand. Your reticence to engage a leadership role during the Ports of Auckland lockout; and your support for the Skycity Casino convention centre proposal was incongruous to your background as a south Auckland politician. You know from experience the corrosive impact that casinos, habitual gambling and addictions have on people, on those from your home region. Yet you were in support of the National-led Government’s controversial Skycity deal. We asked why. You implied its the economy stupid.

You didn’t say: ‘The Casino began offering me free rooms at the Grand Hotel, upgrading me to the top rooms to the added value of $39,000 worth of upgrades…’

Did you realise that the casino brass would have authorised this? That there was a cost-benefit calculation in play? That you were in play?

Among the staff and management at Auckland’s hotels, it became a well known secret that you were having an affair. Did you think they kept their silence because of respect to you? Or did you realise a secret kept progresses a power of its own, especially for those who possess knowledge of the detail.

Is this why you supported the dodgy casino convention centre deal?

Len, there is no compromise when one is compromised.

And as Frank Macskasy sagely observed in his blog post today:

…to accept freebies from a corporation that is currently attempting to gain financial and legislative benefits from central government, in a dodgy deal involving promises of a “free” convention centre, suggests to me that Brown’s political acumen is badly lacking.

Len, you might be correct, that you are truly sorry for your part in this sad awful mess. And while the wonderful British lyricist Bernie Taupin is right, ‘sorry seems to be the hardest word’, sorry does not cut it in the court of public opinion. This is not akin to some Vatican-styled confessional. You don’t get to whisper to the Priest ‘I’m sorry, please forgive me’, receive a sentence of Hail Marys, thrash your bareback with a whip of nine wet shoelaces and go on your merry way. No, it isn’t that whatever you have done is unforgivable, but rather that your judgment was flawed and you exposed your frailties, your opponents seized their opportunity, you played the game and lost.

Len, you know, politics is a profession founded on vision and ambition – qualities you have always had in abundance.

Political achievement though is made possible due to a power of anointment bestowed upon a leader by a supportive public. The establishment recognises such power, it knows it is sustained by public mood. It is a currency of sorts, to be bought, sold, and lost.

But it should be remembered that political power is an exhaustible phenomenon. It is not locked in as a constant arching the timeline between elections. Rather it ebbs and flows, surges and dims. Most significantly, political weakness becomes the incumbent’s lot the moment the public begins to find cause to doubt.

You held up high this political power once the 2013 Local Government Election results were tallied. Two days later it ran through your fingers like dust, and you have been snatching at fog ever since.

Forgive the poetic, but like a prized skyrocket on Guy Fawkes night, you carried the hopes of many. The zenith of your political power was witnessed not on your inaugural election in 2010, but rather, in potential terms, on your reelection in 2013. But your potential to really deliver on your vision, your ambition, on policies that the people wanted and need, was exhausted like a fireworks fizzer the moment you began to be played by your opponents some two years earlier.

I’m pondering here not a moral issue, but one of cold, hard, reality politics.

When Bevan stood before you, instead of asking yourself why this opportunity was presenting itself, you just saw opportunity. This is an issue of judgement. You elected to play the personal after giving yourself to the public. You knew the cost, you knew the untenable incongruity. You chose an indifference to the political consequences over a commitment to maintaining your political brand – over yourself as a vessel able to carry and deliver the policies for your people.

Let’s confess, none of us could possibly reach this stage in our journey without letting our side down. None of us are Angels. But the strength of the character that was Len Brown – the great hope of south Auckland – would know when to step down, know when the game is up, would recognise when the blessings that had been bestowed on him by Ngati Whatua on top of Maungakiekie had been exorcised then repossessed.

You say now you are not a lame duck leader. You are wrong.

With policy, there’s a power to the cause-effect-solution-vision rhythm. But once scandal causes that vessel named public opinion to abandon the wharf and head out to sea, Len, you alone are left standing at Wynyard Quarter, a mayor in name only, wondering how to make right the wrong.

The Party is no longer with you. And when you seek to be greeted in public you are confronted with derision or estranged through silence.

Where to from here?

The implementation of our vision will remain elusive unless another picks it up and runs with it. The policies, the vision, the purpose is good. The public support these now. The policies got the mandate. And we the public need another to pick up the task of delivering them.

So who could get Auckland back on track?

Among your councillors there are some. Penny Hulse has an honourable support-base out west, and qualities that could garner support across the region.

But in my view Auckland now needs a mayor who has an established nationwide reputation. A person who has represented this region’s peoples at the highest levels of government, a person who connects to the many cultures who live and strive for prosperity in this grand supercity. It needs a person who connects people, connects business, connects opportunity to economics and trade. It needs a politician whose reputation is above scandal, who not only holds an honourable title but lives its values. A person Maori can trust, and in whom our Pasifika and ethnic communities can have a confidence in.

For Phil Goff, seeking the mayoralty would be a huge sacrifice. A new Labour-Green coalition government would need his experience. But New Zealand needs Auckland to be firing on all cylinders. And Auckland needs someone like Phil Goff to deliver the policies that the region’s peoples have demanded be more than just a vision.

Sometimes our strength is not measured by what we strive for, or hold onto, but by what we give up.

Len, it is time to go. Allow an election to occur and save this city from a National-led Government-controlled commissioner. There’s honour in that.

And Phil, how about that for an idea worth revisiting?

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19 Comments

  1. Chris says:

    biggest load of bollocks ever.

    The only people who have made Auckland look foolish are the witch-hunters.

    I am not sure why “political commentators” from the “left” are even giving this debacle oxygen.

  2. Jenny says:

    “Auckland needs someone like Phil Goff to deliver the policies that the region’s peoples have demanded be more than just a vision.”
    Selwyn Manning

    Phil Goff!! Phil Goff!! You mean the unredeemed Rogergnome, the TPPA fanatic, the unrepentant neo-liberal ABC sycophant, the same Phil Goff who lives in splendid luxury on his farm in the white, semi-rural, millionaire, Auckland suburb of Clevedon, of the gated communities and life style blocks?

    You must be joking Selwyn. If you are not, and you are serious then it is your political judgement that is way, way off.

    New Zealand’s political Right, are all calling for Len Brown’s resignation. From the most venal like Luigi Wewegi and John Polino, to, according to you Selwyn, it now seems, the Centre Right as well.

    All, are baying in chorus like hounds on a fox hunt. All have jumped on the band wagon to take part in the hunt.

    And what is the horse drawing this wagon?

    None other than that old war horse of Right Wing reaction, the New Zealand Herald, leading the charge with a Front page editorial carrying a thundering denunciation of Len Brown and demanding he stand down.

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11174623

    But those with their feet in the community and close to the people on the ground, and with their best interest at heart, know the people’s mood.

    “The self righteous greedy right wing are still trying to get rid of Len Brown. Why because they want to control Auckland, its income generating assets such as the people’s Airport Shareholding, they want to control billions of dollars in roading contracts, and expand development quickly into the rural areas and have ratepayers pay for their roads, waterpipes, internet to their mansions where only the few live…”
    The Honourable Sua William Sio “I prefer Len Brown”

    https://www.facebook.com/notes/sua-william-sio/i-prefer-len-brown-as-mayor-than-the-other-fella-thats-headed-to-courtor-the-one/10151850520076947

    To silence these baying hounds, to put his personal failings and problems into the politically insignificant perspective they are and become great Mayor he coud be Len Brown needs to go down to the waterfront and stand with the waterside workers against the corporate gangsters running the ports of Auckland.

    Then he needs to go to Mangere and stand with the residents and against the motorway which will destroy their community. Next after that, Mayor Brown needs to go to Glen Innes to tell the people there that he will do all in his power to stop Tamaki Transformation from evicting state house tenants to build unaffordable houses for the comfortably well off.

    He needs to declare that all employees, contractors and sub-contractors working for the Super City will be paid a living wage.

    If Mayor Brown can humble himself to do these four simple, and decent things, then his personal problems will shrink into insignificance.

    We are the people who have faith in Len Brown, we voted for him in two elections. If Len Brown doesn’t back us, then in that case he will become assuredly lost. Without the support of the people who put him where he is, he will be lost to the Right wing wolves baying at his heels. But with our support, he will be able to overcome any hurdles in his way, even those of his own making.

    • Geoff says:

      You are living in a fantasy land, surely his connections and undeclared gifts he receives from Sky City are sufficient to show you where his real loyalty’s lie.

      This is the same mayor who brought personal items on his Manukau council credit card and tried to get away with it, and then promised to turn over a new leaf back in 2009. Turns out this was a lie.

      The same mayor who claimed he had disclosed it all when the initial news of his affair came out. Turns out this was also a lie.

      And now you want to believe in him?

    • Jenny forgot to include Phil Goff twisting the knife further into Peter Ellis’s back after he had earlier lead all and sundry to expect that, as Minister of Justice, he would deliver real justice to those at fault in the case.
      He’s not to be trusted, even outside neoliberal issues.

      • Jenny says:

        ‘….also forgot to mention Phil Goff’s dishonest heading of the “Kill The Bill” campaign protesting against John Key putting up GST A tax that hurts poorer working people and beneficiaries. Despite saying he was against this bill Phil Goff admitted that on gaining office he would not be repealing John Key’s GST rise, leading up to the Labour Party’s biggest defeat since the days of Rogernomics.

        …also forgot to mention Phil Goff’s gutting of tertiary educution when he was the Minister during those years, leading up him losing the safe Labour seat of Mt Roskill.

        Phill Goff’s disastrous right wing track record speaks for itself.

  3. Jenny says:

    Come on Len here is your chance to put your personal problems behind you and call the Right Wing dogs to heel.

    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=436183183173810&set=gm.559186784173270&type=1&theater

  4. Crunchtime says:

    It’s true that Len Brown had an affair.

    It’s also true that he did so at his own expense – paying back any expense incurred.

    It’s true that a politicians private life, as long as it is lawful, should not reflect on that politician’s ability to do a good job.

    The real question is whether failing to declare a bunch of free Skycity room upgrades is an offence to lose his job over.

    The Herald is a nasty rag that is supposed to report the news, not have an opinion, and as such should be ignored on principle.

    The whole SkyCity thing is dodgy, and you could say this impacts on the trustworthyness of Brown.

    However, John Key tells porkies almost daily, his trustworthiness is far lower than Len Brown, yet he continues to be in the top job to the dismay of all and sundry. And no newspapers are calling for his head yet, although they should.

  5. Ovicula says:

    Phil Goff would be the right wing mayor you get when Banks has shit in his nest so much he can no longer stand. This post is a joke, just like Len Brown has become. Goff as mayor would be a Christmas present for ACT, and they are not, and never will be, on my Christmas list.

  6. Don Franks says:

    Gees so many wasted words.

    Enough.

    In summary, Len, your class has cut your painter.

    The Herald, Kiwi blog and Bowalley road all disown you and that is sign enough for much less astute players than you.

    Across the tracks, when all the gunk has been wiped off the burner, get this, we don’t need a ministering mayor to bless the festering boils of big business.

    We need a revolution, let’s spend more energy on that bright project and leave Len’s mouldering innards for Whales and jackals to slaver on.

  7. Aaron says:

    That was really good right up until; “Phil Goff” – I’m not going to dismiss outright but I’d want to hear why, what you know about Phil Goff that would reassure us that he’s not still a Rogernome

    • Hi Aaron. It’s strategic. Phil Goff fits the Auckland economic fraternity, and the move would herald a factional power shift within Labour’s Parliamentary caucus. I always knew my argument regarding Phil Goff as a potential candidate would draw a response such as those from Jenny and Ovicula (above), and am happy to suck up the venom. This blog was founded for the purpose of containing such debate and even division under its broadly pitched tent. Cheers to that.

      BTW, thanks for asking about my rationale.

      • Jenny says:

        Phil Goff fits the Auckland economic fraternity, and the move would herald a factional power shift within Labour’s Parliamentary caucus.

        As I said the Right Wing hounds sense and opening.

        What is undeniable is that Brown was put in his place by the Left. Whether he acted Left once in power is another matter.

        But do we want worse? No!

        But he has another chance. All his Right wing mates have deserted him. And proven themselves to be his open enemies.
        This sounds like another attempt by the Right Wing ABC group within Labour to grab power.

        And as for which faction

  8. Marc says:

    I read your post with great interest and was sharing a lot of your sentiment and views, dear Selwyn. But when I read the last bit, about Phil Goff perhaps needing to consider running for mayor, I kind of shirked. No, thanks, we do not need another friend of laissez faire corporate culture, who only talks about “social” policies, but delivers little of that sorts.

    Ok, local body politics is limited to local matters, so it restricts what can be done re housing and social policies, but hey, Phil Goff is not the one I could vote for.

    Penny Hulse I think could perhaps live up to the role of mayor though. And there must be others too. So why all this focus on selected personalities? That is why Len thinks he is indispensable. Surely, there must be others able to be mayor and carry on the mission.

    Apart from that, yes, Len is a goner now, he has too little credit, and only blinkered supporters stand by him. He will do a lot of damage if he stays on, as his party affiliation will be known, and it will give the right wingers just another opportunity to lash out at Labour. Go Len, get sensible and make the sacrifice, for the greater good, thanks, resign, please!

  9. Julz says:

    Penny Hulse has worked with dignity and humility – there is no contest between her and Goff…come on, get behind Penny and promote her for Mayor – Goff has had his time

  10. Tiger Mountain says:

    I would not mind if Len went after his appalling treatment of the wharfies and GI residents, or if he decides he has had enough. BUT he should stay right where he is if his departure does not guarantee a full new election with equal media time for all candidates so the actual policies can be re litigated.

    The alternative is a right wing coup via some dodgy commissioner that they have been angling for since the Pallino camp (proxy for National/ACT) tried to overturn the result with sleaze of their own making. Chuang was obviously a double agent all along. Aucklanders will find out about the reality of ECAN and Gerry’s special powers via their own similar little dictatorship just as “Hideolini” first envisaged.
    Is the threat of this enough reason to keep Len on? well yes, given the low participation rate of Aucklanders. And the Herald is hardly like to run “Democracy Under Attack” front pages if there is no new election.

    Minto for Mayor and Penny as deputy, that should stir up a few more voters!

  11. jenny says:

    Goff, 60, said he did not know who was behind the rumours but he was devoted to central government and was focussed on remaining the Mt Roskill MP at next year’s election.

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/9539075/Goff-No-mayoral-ambitions

    Well that was a short flight of fancy, Selwyn.

    As I said, “you must be joking”, and if you weren’t, then “your political judgement” in this matter was “way, way off.”

    Just goes to show you, never listen to the ABCs, they can be trusted for nothing, except to look to their own interests. Phil Goff being the savy politician he is, knows which side his bread is buttered on, and that he is much better sticking to his safe Labour seat of Mt Roskill, than leading a Mayoral campaign that, in all likelyhood, would follow a flaming Hindenberg like flightpath.

    • You know ‘Jenny’ I would be bothered to debate this issue with you if you emerged from your anonymity. There would then be an honesty in evidence rather than merely a whisper from behind the fog. In simple terms, who are you?

      You cite the ABCs above while your previous comments on this site indicate a loathing for the Labour Party’s current leadership. That is your prerogative. And at times I, and I’m sure a large percentage of TDB’s audience, have a sympathy for your arguments and policy priorities.

      But I get the impression you would retch from your shadow world, and take the privilege of expressing your distaste here, irrespective of whose name was suggested as a contender – perhaps with the exception of a choice of yours alone.

      Without debating the finer points (which in my opinion would be a waste of time for the reasons given here) re-read the piece with an attempt to understand it; come out with your true name; and put forward a solution to the Auckland Council mess. Then, we too can pick through the porridge of your own political thinking, and place your rationale within a context of the real world.

      Or, perhaps if you wish, try The Standard again, perhaps all is forgiven over there and they will allow your comments to be published, as we allow them to be on this broadly pitched site.

      BTW, Seasons Greetings.

  12. […] The Daily Blog: Len Old Friend: This Is Why You Must Stand Down […]

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