Metro Editor on Len Brown, dead man walking

Simon Wilson is a hard left whinger from way back.  He is the editor of Metro magazine.

Even he has abandoned Len Brown.

Len Brown will soon resign. The governing body of the Auckland Council has been meeting since 10am, and it’s still not over, and it’s clear in the debate that the mayor has lost the support of most councillors. That will make it extremely difficult for him to do his job.

When he understands that – and how longer could that possibly take? – he will step down.

The council has two options in front of it. One is the much publicised proposal to pass a vote of no confidence in the mayor. That is destined to fail.

The other is a motion jointly proposed by deputy mayor Penny Hulse, formerly a Brown loyalist, and leading centre-right councillor Christine Fletcher. Their motion is the outcome of a five-hour informal meeting yesterday. It uses words like “profound disappointment and disapproval”, it censures the mayor, it calls on him to reimburse all personal costs and make an “appropriate contribution” to council’s other costs in relation to the affair. It also requires a “stronger working relationship and level of accountability”. Finally, it accepts Brown’s apology and “signals its willingness to work with the mayor in the best interests of the people of Auckland”.

That motion will be carried.  So why will Len Brown stand down?

In the current issue of the magazine, I have suggested that Brown’s misdemeanours are not sufficiently serious to require resignation, but if he loses his ability to do his job, that changes. If he cannot lead the council, he needs to find the courage and grace to step aside.

He’s reached that stage.  

The no confidence motion did fail, on procedure, helped with interference by Penny Hulse. The censure however was unanimous.

Len Brown knows what else there is out there, it is clear his advisors do not. They seem too squeamish to metaphorically water-board the mayor to get the truth. If they knew that truth there is no way they’d be advocating staying as a lame duck mayor.

If nothing else, this affair will mean that Brown, if he stays, will no longer lead the council by consensus. That wounds him but doesn’t break him.

His bigger problem is that most of the other councillors have also been alienated. They are pissed off, and they continue to carry Brown only because they do not believe it is in the best interests of the city to express no confidence in the mayor. Christine Fletcher has spoken critically of the divisive political motivation of Cr Cameron Brewer, who has been a leading advocate of no confidence. Cr Calum Penrose said they will be in an impossible position if they try to govern with the mayor, having expressed no confidence in him. Cr Mike Lee said they had to “try and put the fire out” but no confidence would not do it, because it would signal to Wellington that “Auckland is now officially dysfunctional”. Cr Bill Cashmore said quite openly, “only the mayor can decide to stand down”. The subtext is clear: they no longer have confidence in him.

Can Brown still do his job? Widely viewed as a disgrace and/or a laughing stock, his only salvation lies in his potential to harness council support to lay that reputation to rest. He needs their goodwill and support if he is to have any chance of re-establishing his claim to leadership. But councillors have made it plain that cannot happen.

Chris Trotter can see it, Simon Wilson can see it, now Len needs to remove the scales from his eyes.

Brown should not be confused about this. Most councillors will not support the explicit right-wing attack on him, at least partly because they do not want this to be seen as a right-wing victory.

But he should recognise that they want him to resign anyway. They are waiting for him to do the decent thing.

Len Brown will soon be gone. It’s hard to see him lasting past Christmas.

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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.  And 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 that takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

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