‘Rumours’ about Key

As soon as John Key announced his retirement ‘rumours’ (or deliberate fake news attempts) started to do the rounds.

There were claims that Key resigned just before a book that was ‘very critical’ of him was published, he’d had an affair, he was fleeing a huge earthquake that was about to happen, Key was leaving to take up a job at the head of the IMF. At one stage Key was asked about these claims and he denied them.

The Spinoff listed Theories on why John Key resigned, ranked in order of stupidity:

7. There is going to be a huge earthquake on December 13 and John Key is fleeing

6. John Key had an affair with *insert name of anyone he has ever met here*

5. “Hidden economic reasons” (that only Winston Peters had foreseen)

4. Key was scared of a book AKA The Bomber Theorem

3. John Key wanted to spend more time with family

2. He wanted to spend more time with anyone except the MPs of the National Party

1. He wanted to make way for Prime Minister Valerie Adams

He said he really did want to spend more time with his family. No evidence has supported the rest so appear to be bunkum.

I saw another rumour variation yesterday – that the issue of North and South due out had a damaging article about Key. That has been debunked (by a strong Key critic):

The ‘big, secret story’ in North and South tomorrow is about Scott Watson, not about John Key being a shady bitch

Even though he is stepping down now the Key clobbering machine keeps swinging – and missing, except perhaps where stupid jokes are believed and get social media traction.

A mistake calling it “a mistake”

Len Brown has called his affair “a mistake”, and is trying to keep it private. Some people support this approach. I have seen affairs excused as common and entirely private.

But there are others who see it differently, like these comments posted on Whale Oil.

Gordon Gibson:

It wasn’t just a brief, one off dalliance in the storeroom after the Christmas party, you know – everyone had too much to drink and all that…
It was two years-
TWO YEARS!!!
That is straight out wanton and willfully extended slapping, however you add it up.

Some have pointed out that an extended deceit is a worrying trait in someone in such an important political position.

And it makes it so much harder to repair any marital damage – trust can be tenuous even in good relationships, but once broken – especially this badly – it can never the same again.

hunk4hire:

Oh geez babe…..that Chinese chick looked smoking hot and she was making eyes at me and I was soooo tired and……ya know……………one thing led to another and I lost my mind temporarily……don’t know what came over me, then all of a sudden I looked at my watch and two years had gone by and I thought………….uh oh……I’m really going to be in for it now……..

Brown probably is really “in for it now”, but we don’t know what his marital relationship was like. Hillary Clinton was willing to accommodate Bill being ‘a hard dog to keep on the porch’.

And this joke could hint at something that may not be uncommon amongst the ruling elite and the very well paid.

A husband and wife were having dinner at a very fine restaurant when this absolutely
stunning young woman comes over to their table, gives the husband a big open-mouthed kiss, then
says she’ll see him later and walks away.

The wife glares at her husband and says, “Who was that?”

“Oh,” replies the husband, “she’s my mistress.”

“Well, that’s the last straw,” says the wife. “I’ve had enough, I want a divorce!”

“I can understand that,” replies her husband, “but remember, if we get a divorce
it will mean no more shopping trips to Paris, no more wintering in Barbados, no
more summers in Tuscany , no more Jaguar in the garage and no more yacht club.
No more credit card and large Bank accounts. But…. The decision is all yours.”

Just then, a mutual friend enters the restaurant with a gorgeous babe on his arm.

“Who’s that woman with Tony?” asks the wife.

“That’s his mistress,” says her husband.
“ours is prettier” says the wife

That doesn’t take into account the default 50/50 sharing of assets in relationship splits in New Zealand, but it’s likely that some partners of people with very good salaries and in power may be willing to make marital compromises many of us wouldn’t contemplate.

Len Brown on Firstline

Len Brown was interviewed on Firstline this morning. He doggedly stayed ‘on message’ – move on and do what needs to be done for Auckland – but he looked tired, hesitant in his speech and lacking in confidence. It could be a long hard term for Brown if he lasts the distance.

He refused to answer any questions about his affair or any possible conspiracies.

When Brown was asked if there could be any further revelations he insisted his private life was just between him and his family and he refused to give any direct or indirect indication about any of the rumours floating around blogs. Brown’s aim is obviously to tough this out and hope nothing more makes the media.

It will certainly be tough at the office and tough at home for Brown for some time, regardless of whether his private affairs get more publicity.

A Firstline report is now online: New council, fresh focus for Mayor Brown

This morning on Firstline however, he said the missed engagements had nothing to do with avoiding the spotlight in the wake of the revelations, first broken on right-wing blog Whale Oil.

“Shan and I and the family had no breaks at all this year, so it was really important for us at the end of another torrid election campaign to actually spend some time together, and we’ve done that,” says Mr Brown.

“It was time for a break, and that we needed to have a little bit of a chill out. And also look, in amongst that I have continued to do the work that I needed to do.”

That was odd. When the affair story broke Brown said it was a very busy and important time as mayor, but now he says it was an important time to take a family break.

Could there be more damaging revelations concerning his private life yet to be revealed? When asked this morning, Mr Brown didn’t flatly deny it.

“I’m not going to get into any of that… It’s a question that is between myself and my wife, and we are working on our relationship, getting over a difficult situation as you might imagine with my family. And that’s what my answer to that will be – that is a family matter between myself and my wife.”

But not everyone agrees that it is just a family matter. The affair was conducted at least in part at the council offices with someone Brown met through the council and who he used for council related meetings. There is also an outstanding accusation Brown helped Bevan Chuang get a council job.

Family affairs may be a major distraction to Brown, and he can’t separate family from work entirely on this.

Brown roundup

The Len Brown story continues to get a lot of coverage as the clusterfuck continues, it’s hard to see anyone involved coming out of this with reputation’s intact. And to accentuate the Auckland falls from grace ex-mayor and now Act MP John Banks adds to the super city malaise.

NZ Herald leads this morning with a ‘revelation’ of what is unsurprising.

Palino met with Brown’s lover

John Palino met Len Brown’s former mistress for a late-night discussion in a Mission Bay car park the night after the mayoral election and just two days before the affair was made public.

Bevan Chuang claims Mr Palino’s camp raised the possibility that Mr Brown could be shamed into resigning the mayoralty.

When news of the scandal broke on Tuesday, Mr Palino denied any knowledge of the affair. But he met Ms Chuang on Sunday, October 13 – the day after the election.

Also unsurprising:

Last night, Mr Palino’s campaign manager, John Slater, confirmed a meeting had taken place, but said it was just a “general chit-chat”.

It would have been unusual if Palino had not been had some involvement and Slater (senior) did not know something about what was going on.

Herald opinion writers wade in as well.

John Armstrong:

Brown’s mea culpa absolutely woeful

For his part, Brown is surely now ensconced in Last Chance Saloon and just one step removed from being forced to resign.

Should one further Brown-instigated or approved favour to former paramour Bevan Chuang, which has an Auckland Council connection, emerge from the woodwork then he has to go.

Brian Edwards:

That mayor culpa had better be all, Len

Len Brown is in something more than a bit of trouble, and I’d give him the same advice Mike gave to me.

Faced with this immediate crisis, however, the Auckland mayor’s only option was to be straightforward, tell the truth and admit the error of his ways.

It seems to me that’s more or less what he’s done. But the “more or less” may be the sticking point.

In a crisis like this, involving personal morality, “more or less the truth” wasn’t enough; it had to be the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Further revelations will pile pressure upon pressure for Brown. He may cling to his coveted mayoralty but diminishing credibility will make it very difficult to do a decent job.

Fran O’Sullivan:

Two men with their backs against wall

Brown’s instinct is to hunker down and try to ride out the media storm.

He is being helped by the drip-feed of revelations about the role his former lover’s buddies in the Palino camp played in his outing.

These revelations have made Brown a figure of fun. But there is also a sinister element to them. Particularly the pressure which Bevan Chuang claims was put on her by Palino’s PR man (one of her other lovers) to try and get her to entrap Brown in making “dirty talk” on the phone.

There should be a proper wide-ranging council inquiry into whether Brown abused rules by creating favours for Chuang.

Not simply an inquiry put in place by the chief executive.

Once the inquiry reports, Brown should stand down and call for another election where voters can either accept him or reject him in the knowledge they have all facts on the table.

Tracy Watkins (Stuff):

Brown-Chuang affair has MPs wary

Like a nuclear mushroom cloud, the toxic fallout from the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang affair is enveloping everyone within its radius.

No-one will come out of this kiss-and-tell well – not the mayor, his former mistress, those who broke the story on the Whale Oil blog or the mayoral rival who has now also been damaged by the actions of an over-ambitious supporter.

Blogs continue very active comments. There will no doubt be more on Whale Oil today (access can be patchy).

Also with ongoing discussions:

Public Address: Hard News: Everybody’s Machiavelli

Kiwiblog: Nasty Rudman

The Standard:

Whale Oil responds including major but vague allegations and a promise of more to come – Rapid Fire Q+A on Len Brown story

Rob Hosking at NBR: Len Brown and the value proposition theory of political scandal

Questions for Len Brown

There are a number of questions that deserve answers from Len Brown. NZ Herald listed some in Top council pair stonewall on key questions arising from affair:

The questions

Len Brown and council chief executive Doug McKay have yet to answer the following:

• Did [Mr Brown’s actions providing a reference for Bevan Chuang] comply with the Council Code of Conduct, including the Conflicts of Interest Policy and the guidelines of the Office of the Auditor-General?

• Did the mayor seek advice from the chief executive or the Office of the Auditor-General before deciding to provide a reference or act as a referee?

• Did the mayor provide any other references/act as a referee for Ms Chuang on other occasions?

• Has Ms Chuang been contracted by the council in any other capacity, including the New Lynn market?

• What are the rules around council staff having sex in the workplace?

In an online post the Herald asks another question: Len Brown affair: Who sent the text?

In all the questions surrounding the Len Brown affair, one of the unsolved ones is who sent the text to his former mistress telling her not to speak out.

We have journalists working on it right now but have you got any tips how we can find out the owner or track down information?

If you’ve got any information or you can help please get in touch.

Some more questions:

  • Are there other women?

Whale Oil claims there are other women. When John Campbell asked Brown if any more was to come out he said:

We’ll you’ve got a fairly damning allegation there and it can’t get any worse than that.

That’s a fairly evasive answer.

  • How many hours have salaried council staff spent managing the PR on behalf of the mayor on just the specific issue of the Cheung affair in what the mayor claims is a private matter?
  • What did council staff know about what was going on?
  • How many staff aided and abetted Brown’s affair/s?
  • How many of Brown’s campaign team knew and kept it from voters?

UPDATE: Duncan Garner also asks questions in a blog post, some are repeats:

The story is shabby for so many reasons. These are my questions:

  • Is it acceptable for the Mayor to have sex on council property?
  • Is it acceptable for him to masturbate on council property?
  • Did he get free hotel rooms around the city so he could conduct this affair?
  • Did SkyCity give him free hotel rooms?
  • Does that compromise him given they are putting in more pokies and want his support for the International Convention Centre deal? Which he supports.
  • Who sent Bevan Chuang threatening texts from within Len Brown’s campaign team?
  • Did Brown know?
  • Did Brown act according to the Council’s Code of Conduct? 

“The old Brown mayor he ain’t what he used to be”

Len Brown’s personal reputation has been severely damaged and his mayoralty is also at serious risk.

He claims that his affair was a personal matter, but if allegations are true his dalliances were very closely associated with his mayoralty, his time on the job and in his office.

Brown highlighted this association inadvertently in his Campbell Live interview “I’ve loved that job with a passion and I love this city and I want to stay in that job” – love and passion in his mayoral office in more than one way.

Apart from that, so far Brown’s public handling of the scandal has been pretty much by the political playbook, as detailed by ‘kiwi in america’ on Kiwiblog:

This is playing out pretty much in line with the left’s ‘how to manage a major sexual scandal’ play book with the exception of the initial denials – Brown knew this was coming hence the hurried confession to wifie.
* Admit allegation but minimize it (“only a coupe of times”) – check
* Find sympathetic media outlet to do a soft interview – check. Campbell played out the agony of the leftist activist coping with the shock of their hero falling from grace. Imagine if a National Cabinet Minister was outed rooting a one time staffer – assuming of course that he had brazened it out far enough to be still in office – just picture the demeanour, body language and questioning from John Campbell and you’ll get some sense of the sycophantic stance he took with Brown.
* Resolve to stay in office boasting of accomplishments and the need to stay on “for the people of Auckland” – check
* Impune the motives of the victim of his grooming – check
* Lash out at the source of the story – check
* Fail to answer questions on inappropriate use of Council property (Len refused to answer whether he’d shagged her in the Ngati Whatua Room) – check
* Cite family privacy as to why he won’t answer any more detailed questions – check

I generally agree with “How to deal with a scandal” playbook, so far. But there are problems with what KIA lists “To follow”.

* Time off on gardening leave to ‘spend time with my family’ again citing intrusion on his family’s privacy as to why he will not front the media any more.

With all the work involved in organising an incoming mayoralty and council it’s probably the worst possible time to take time off. There are things that have to be done.

* After 6 weeks another soft interview this time with wifie at his side squeezing his hand and more strategic blubbing for the camera. Talk of forgiveness, what I’ve learned and moving on will predominate.

In most marriages this sort of betrayal can’t be forgiven. The broken relationship can’t be fully repaired. If the forgiveness and moving on is attempted I think most people will question how genuine it is.

Brown may get forgiveness and acceptance of what he’s done as just one of those common things that happen from some of the public but his family situation will never be the same.

In the Campbell interview last night there was a major contrast between Brown’s family situation:

And it is now there where I need to go and do some extraordinary repair work, and show my family that I am worthy of their trust and love.

Once broken trust on something like this can never be fully repaired in a marriage relationship, and more often than not it is irreparably broken (although I don’t know what sort of relationship Mr and Mrs Brown had).

Brown also has a major problem due to the allegations of where some of his dalliances occurred. If it had all happened in private, in hotels, then it would be easier to pass of as simply personal.

I’ve loved that job with a passion and I love this city and I want to stay in that job, so yes, it is my intention to stay as the mayor.

A pity that attitude didn’t apply to his marriage and family.

But his passion and love was not just for his job and his city. It was for another woman as well. Brown did not keep it a private affair. His mayoralty seems to have been an integral part of the affair.

Any meeting in Brown’s office, and any event Brown is involved with in the Ngati Whatua room, risks reminders of what might have taken place in those council locations.

Many people who have future dealings with Brown will now think differently about him. His integrity and credibility have been severely challenged.

And this is based on what is known now. We don’t know yet if there will be further revelations – apart from what has already been subsequently claimed on Whale Oil. This could get even dirtier for Brown, and more difficult for his family and his mayoralty.

There are more chapters to come in this playbook. Some are likely to cover more of recent history, and some are yet to be written.

One thing is certain, as @Zagzigger (John Drinnan ‏) tweeted yesterday, “The old Brown mayor he ain’t what he used to be”. We are yet to see whether this Brown mayoralty is destined for the knackers yard.