A Strange Article about Victoria Crone’s Campaign

Political backroom operators from across the political spectrum get on pretty well. Good professionals keep the back-channels open, partly out of mutual respect for their backroom opponents, partly because there are so few good people who are any good at campaigning and they like to talk to others even if they are opponents, and partly because it is important to be able to exchange information and stop stupid stuff from happening on the campaign trail.

So I wasn’t surprised when I got a call from a Labour person close to Phil Goff asking me about the NBR article on Victoria Crone’s campaign. Part of it was a fishing expedition for information, and part of it was because Goff’s team have been laughing themselves silly at every move Crone makes and wanted to make sure they weren’t underestimating their opponents.

The article itself was strange because experienced campaigners know that they should never be in the media. Their job is to get the candidate in the media, not get attention themselves. Yet the article is all about Joe Davis, who has given himself the title “Campaign Director”. There is a rule in politics, adhered to by all the backroom operators worth paying, that campaigners who want profile should be running themselves, not running other people’s campaigns.

Although it appears Auckland Future is still pondering this question – its website is entirely silent on the issue – Mr Davis tells NBR he made up his mind a month ago to throw in with Ms Crone.

“During the Christmas holidays Vic approached me and asked if I’d consider leading the campaign for her, which I was obviously thrilled to be able to do,” he says.  

Mr Davis taking up the role of Ms Crone’s campaign director shouldn’t be taken as a signal that Auckland Future is about to get in behind Ms Crone as well, however, although he says “there’s a close working relationship there.”

“Vic is an independent but an independent centre-right mayoral and, obviously, it’s important that there’s good communication with all the people involved in Auckland Future and any other centre-right organisation – and there is.

“But there’s no sort of formal relationship there at all – we’re very much running our own campaign.”

Labour and Len Brown have had some very capable campaigners in the past, but the public scarcely know them, and there are very few profiles of them anywhere. Conor Roberts, David Lewis, Phil Quin, James Bews-Hair, Mike Munro, and John Pagani are all extremely capable campaign managers on the left whom the public know little about yet they have plenty of significant wins between them. They keep a low profile and chalk up the wins.

The fishing expedition was to find out if the, until now, unknown Joe Davis had any campaign experience that the left didn’t know about. Maybe he had run campaigns in the UK. Maybe he’d had a high-level position campaigning in the US. Had he played a major role in National campaigns that they did not know about? Or was he really just a friend of the newbie candidate Crone who was making the newbie error of selecting someone to manage her campaign who was a complete campaign novice?

Maybe Joe Davis is one of those rare people who is so talented they can turn their hands to anything, rather than needing to do what the rest of us do and learn over a period of time, get our hands dirty and working our way through many, many campaigns before we become “Campaign Directors”. Or maybe not. Campaigners do not seek publicity and that was the point my Labour mate was making.

You’d think that after the hiatus of the Christmas/New Year break, a new candidate would be seeking media attention, not the campaign director himself. From where I am sitting this is all looking rather amateurish and it is little wonder that Goff’s team are feeling bullish.


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