AUCKLAND'S CHAOTIC MAYORAL CAMPAIGN
By Richard Harman (author)
The National Party may be beginning to regret that it has not endorsed a candidate for the Auckland Mayoralty.
As of yesterday there were four confirmed centre right candidates for the job with one big name apparently waiting in the wings.
However the party will probably not lose too much sleep over the announcement yesterday by café proprietor and 2013 candidate John Palino that he was standing again.
There are still unanswered questions about his 2013 campaign.
That was when his campaign worker Luigi Wewege persuaded his then girlfriend Bevan Chuang to reveal details of her previous affair with the Mayor, Len Brown.
Mr Palino left the country when news of the affair broke and yesterday at his campaign launch was the first real chance journalists have had to question him about his involvement in the revelations.
It didn’t go well.
First he tried to say that Auckland city wasn’t interested in the past.
Then he tried to focus on Len Brown.
"I wasn't the one found with his pants down in the Ngati Whatua room," he said.
"The issues here are that we need to look forward guys.
"Auckland city isn't interested in the past.
'"Look through your front view mirror not your rear view mirror.
"Auckland is upset with what is happening - the rates are going up; people are going to move out of the city.
"They're really sick and tired of it. Somebody needs to do something about it."
So the media turned to the present and began to question him about his campaign manager, Simon Lusk, who featured prominently in Nicky Hagar's book, "Dirty Politics" and who three years ago was revealed as the author of a set of papers setting out how the right could take over the National Party.
Mr Palino claimed he had hired Lusk because Phil Goff had hired the same team of dirty tricks experts who had worked for Len Brown.
"We're going to have dirty politics," he said.
"So I am going to arm myself with best team possible."
As the press conference went on with raised voices (mostly Mr Palino) jabbing fingers (Mr Palino) and even a question to TVOne News reporter Rebecca Wright in which he asked “Whatyya looking at me like that for Rebecca?”, it became clear that what was happening was a campaign meltdown before the campaign had even begun.
Even when he tried to promote policy things went off the rails.
First he claimed that Larry Mitchell (accountant and local body analyst) was not providing his policy.
Then he quoted Mr Mitchell’s proposal to cut 10% off Auckland rates; a move which Mr Mitchell has told POLITIK can be largely achieved by cutting payroll costs.
But asked about this Mr Palino said Mr Mitchell’s plan was not about cutting payroll costs.
“It’s about being efficient,” he said.
Beyond that there was no policy detail though Mr Palino is promising a book which has been inspired by his ideas which will be published shortly.
Meanwhile speculation is mounting among National Party insiders in Auckland that Chamber of Commerce, CEO, Michael Barnett, may also add his name to the list of Mayoral hopefuls.
All these candidates suggest that the National Party in Auckland is deeply divided over the Mayoralty.
And it is divided, as much by personality disputes as ideological differences.
It appears more united over trying to win control of the Council where Auckland Future, being co-ordinated by former pArty president, Sue Wood, is trying to build a slate of centre right candidates.
The question now is what it wil ltake to reduce the field of centre right candidates.
With Mr Lusk running his camopaign, and "Whaleoil" Cameron Slater in the background, Mr Palino looks unlikely to pull out.
Ms Crone has the backing of two Cabinet Ministers so she won't pull out.
Mark Thomas, who stood aside once before in the 1996 election campaign in Wellington Central to allow Richard Prebble through, will undoubtedly come under immense pressure to stand down.
And Mr Barnett can expect little enthusiasm for any candidacy he may want to mount.
But what may be significant is that the Prime Minister, has kept out of the whole business. That may suggest that he is relatively indifferent to the outcome and could easily work with Mr Goff.