Awkward is the best you can say

John Roughan’s column continues the Herald’s jihad against Len Brown.

People who have had dealings with Len Brown of late say it is awkward. The light has gone from his eyes. He can see what they are thinking. If they are meeting in the mayoral office and he invites them to take a seat, he probably notices their hesitation. We have all had too much information.

Two months ago when the scandal broke, many of us paid to comment on these things seemed to think that if the mayor kept his head down and nothing worse emerged, it would all blow over in time. How wrong that is turning out to be.

I had a call from someone the other day from the Ngati Whatua room saying no one was sitting down. Just awkward people standing around…sniggering. What I can’t believe is that Len Brown claims there is nothing more. Plenty of commenters have alluded to it, I have alluded to it…yet Len Brown maintains there is nothing more. He knows what I know, he knows what others know and yet he maintains the lie. Oh well. 

The subject returned with a vengeance for the festive season. We’re hearing it everywhere, so are members of the Auckland Council who realised they finally had to take a position on him this week.

It is as though people are only now getting together to discover what almost all of them think. At some point in every barbecue somebody will say, “What do you think of Len Brown?” Eyebrows rise, heads shake in disbelief.

When it is quickly clear that nobody has anything to say in his favour, the question becomes, “do you think he can survive?”

The council’s answer: Yes, he can if he will not go of his own accord. They voted 15-5 to continue working with him. But most of the 15, including loyal Mike Lee, made it clear during the debate that the only reason they were doing so was they had to work with him, they could not force him out.

If anything this whole episode shows the need to add recall provisions into our law. Is there a brave MP willing to make a stand for ratepayers.

What kind of man would stay when he has clearly lost the respect of even his closest allies? Lee said Auckland would be “officially dysfunctional” if they voted no confidence in the mayor. Lee had no illusions that Brown might do the decent thing.

So they settled for a “censure”, accepting the extraordinary advice that the council’s standing orders give them no right to vote no confidence in the mayor. The National Party should put that one through Parliament. It might save itself a search for partners next year.

When the council members go to the barbecues they can say they have censured him. I don’t think they will find anybody impressed.

The mayor is a ratbag and everyone knows it. But they also know the council are generally a bunch of weak-kneed eunuchs beholden to the ratbag mayor.

The council looks weak but the mayor’s image has gone from bad to worse if that was possible. Despite everything that emerged after the election, he seemed a good and decent man at heart. A decent man would not soldier on when his colleagues tell him people are not getting over this.

He doesn’t need to be told, he can see in the eyes of everyone he meets that he can no longer effectively do his job. A mayor is not a public official with a mundane job that he can simply hunker down and do. A mayor is a city’s face, voice and, ideally, its inspiration.

Noe there is just derision.

It’s hard to imagine what sort of mayor he can be now. Someone who heard him the other day came away disappointed at the way he was speaking about the Government. Apparently there was a sour arrogance that wasn’t there before.

Maybe that will be his response, a “no more Mr Niceguy” attitude, since nobody seems to think he is very nice anymore. That would be a pity, and give him no leverage with the Government.

But it would be natural in his predicament to adopt a hard partisan shell, looking for the only applause he might still find – from Labour activists who desperately want to preserve the legitimacy of his election.

Even they know in their hearts he has lost the legitimacy. He is not the man voters knew. That’s all there is to it. Everything else – the hotel rooms, the incidental expenses, are just pretexts for disapproval.

The EY inquiry had expensive business consultants trawling through hotel bookings at our expense to unearth nothing worse that nine free nights over three years and countless room upgrades.

A mayor of Auckland probably cannot avoid upgrades when he books into a city hotel. It would want him in rooms it can call the mayoral suite – or at least would have called it so until two months ago. That is the problem. The mayor is no longer respectable, he has become a joke and not a particularly funny one.

Go Len Brown, begone ratbag.


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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.

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