Friday, January 10, 2014

Brewer on the Brown fallout

Len Brown made himself scarce after being censured by the Auckland Council, and has barely been sighted since. But putting aside all the mirth and mayhem that Brown's fall from grace has created, there is a serious side. And that's what Brown's critic Cameron Brewer has written about this morning; check this out:

With all political parties and leaders set to keep their distance from Auckland Mayor Len Brown this election year, Auckland will sadly lose some real bargaining power and influence via party policies and manifestos at a critical time for the region and the economic growth cycle.
Six months ago a big part of the 2014 election looked set to be about which party could keep the Auckland Mayor the happiest. Now, political parties will be very circumspect about promoting any close association with Mr Brown or shared policy platforms for fear of it having a negative impact on their party vote nationwide. Simply put, it’s no longer a good look to be seen pandering to Len Brown.
Auckland should be calling many of the shots this election year, but unfortunately gaining political accommodations for Auckland Council will be harder.
It is clear that the Labour Party has abandoned its highest-profile member and in election year looks set to keep its distance.
Only in June Labour’s Auckland Issues spokesperson Phil Twyford was talking up Len Brown in the House and in press releases as “the popular Labour Mayor.” However Labour seems to have been the ultimate fair weather friend with leader David Cunliffe cutting him completely loose since. 

Cameron Brewer is dead right. Right up until Brown was re-elected as Mayor of Auckland (until the story of his infidelity was broken by Cameron Slater) Labour was only too happy to hang its hat on Brown's hook. Len Brown wasn't just the Mayor of Auckland; he was the Labour Mayor of Auckland. And the parliamentary Labour Party was bouyed by that, and was leveraging it for all it was worth. Now Labour has dropped Len Brown like a hot potato.

Brewer continues, suggesting that this could have very negative connotations for Auckland, especially in election year:

One thing the Mayor had going for him was that come the hard-fought 2014 General Election he would at least have the opposition parties on his side and hence put pressure on the Government. We’ll he hasn’t even got the Opposition now, so where does that leave Auckland?
The Mayor’s Office should be heavily influencing and advocating for different Auckland policy promotion and wins from the varied political parties this election. However, the Mayoral Office is in sheer survival mode with the Mayor’s ability to now credibly influence any new and significant policy gains rendered almost useless.
Thank goodness the National-led Government last year announced its $10 billion acceleration package for regional transport projects. 

Cameron Brewer is right on the money here; would John Key and Gerry Brownlee be so generous to Auckland as they were last year when funding for Auckland transport projects, including the City Rail Loop were announced? Right at the moment, we reckon that's highly debatable.

Cr Brewer concludes:

But what about the Mayor’s faltering promise of working with any government to deliver significant alternative transport funding streams such as tolling existing motorways or introducing a regional fuel tax? He no longer has the authority to convince Auckland’s motoring public to pay extra, let alone convince any politician in Wellington to legislate the extra costs.
In his first term the Mayor’s advocacy delivered some good results. However  the ability for Auckland Council to secure many big wins in 2014 is going to be near impossible, given how politically toxic Len Brown has become and how risk adverse political parties are in election year. 

This is a really interesting piece by Cr Cameron Brewer, and it should be treated seriously by all those involved in Auckland governance issues, including the Mayor himself. 

If Len Brown's conduct, and the furore since it was made public has eroded his ability to do his job in the best interests of every Aucklander, he should seriously consider whether it is in fact in Auckland's best interests for him to remain in the job. 

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