Losing the unlosable election?

Simon Lusk and Cameron Slater are launching a book on the recent Auckland local body election. It has a curious title, considering Lusk was managing the campaign of one of the mayoral contenders.

Losing the Unlosable Election – How the Right Lost Auckland Again

unlosableelection

Yes the centre-right to right was fragmented and did poorly in Auckland. Again.

In 2011 John Palino was an odd contender for the mayoralty. He was the best of the rest but came a distant second to Len Brown.

Then just after the election there was an attempt to discredit Brown and have him dumped – the discrediting worked but Brown remained to see out his term. Palino was seen as linked to the virtual coup attempt even though I don’t think he could have stepped up if Brown had stepped down. Both Brown and Palino came out of it severely tainted.

So it was odd to see Palino stand again with Lush as his campaign manager. Slater tried to talk up a consolidation of the right wing candidates – which appears to have favoured Thomas and Crone stepping aside to give Palino a better chance against Phil Goff.

Palino never stood a chance, even if it was just him versus Goff. So Lush helped split and fragment the centre-right. And now he seems to be complaining about it.

The Auckland mayoralty was pretty much an unlosable election – for Phil Goff. As soon as he announced he was standing the media installed him as front runner and that’s how they played out the whole campaign, never seriously reporting a contest.

The media ended up giving a bit of consolation coverage to Chlöe Swarbrick, probably to try and inject some interest into a contest they had decided months previously.

There has been a lack of serious centre-right or right candidates in Auckland for some time. John Banks (versus Len Brown) in 2010 was hardly a great new talent, and Palino never looked like getting close in 2013.

This time the mayoralty was virtually unlosable for Goff as soon as he stepped forward.

And it was unwinnable for Palino, even if Lusk has persuaded the centre and right to back him exclusively. He was never going to be seen as a Trump.

To win mayoralties, especially in major cities, you need a credible candidate with good name recognition and a strong campaign team.

The Lusk formula might succeed in knocking a few contenders down, but it’s always going to struggle to get a top candidate and widespread support, even from the right.

But if you want his advise on how to not win an election – New book being launched Nov 7, pre-order now.

Palino can’t quit the mayoral race but…

John Palino, who came a distant but creditable second to Len Brown in the 2013 Auckland mayoral election, is standing again but is failing to fire.

But he fired some shots that seem to have been aimed footwards this week when he made a claim about what amounted to Maori extortion.

In Our leaders need some steel in the backbone, not just in their roads and building projects Jonathan Milne writes:

Now in Auckland, mayoral candidate John Palino has backed off claims that if a home-owner wants to build a garage, Maori can demand $50,000. “You’ve got some individuals saying look, give me $50,000 and then I’ll sign off on that,” he alleged in a live debate.

In fact, iwi don’t have veto rights on developments. Now, back-pedalling wildly, Palino says that if such an extortionate demand was made, it was for a large commercial building on a farm, not a residential garage. More likely, it never happened at all: he admits it was just something someone once told him in the restaurant; he doesn’t know who the bloke was.

Sounds like he made it up

This is the same politician who beggared belief with his incredible attempts to justify sitting in a car in a darkened carpark talking to Len Brown’s mistress Bevan Chuang about “the mayor’n’all” just before she revealed the sordid affair in the council’s Ngati Whatua Room. He is either stupid or reckless or dishonest.

He’ll be gone soon – it seems likely he’ll quit the race before the voters throw him out.

I think that Palino’s campaign was doomed before he started this year, and with Simon Lusk running his team and an odd launch it never got off the credibility ground.

So it’s not a surprise to see the media hammer him when Palino spins blatant bull.

But he can’t quit the race. Once you’re in the ballot system you remain there until the election.

Palino could quit campaigning, he could tell people not to vote for him, but he can’t quit the race. Regardless of what he does the voters get the opportunity to choose him or throw him out.

UPDATE: I have removed a reference to Cameron Slater also being in Palino’s team. I accept that he isn’t. He says he has never been on Palino’s team.

It was reported that Slater was involved in Palino’s launch:

Meanwhile he batted off suggestions Whale Oil blogger Cameron Slater – who broke the story about Brown’s affair – was also involved, despite Slater setting up an interview he gave to the Sunday Star-Times newspaper 

http://www.stuff.co.nz/auckland/77380817/former-candidate-john-palino-confirms-he-will-stand-again-for-auckland-mayor

So Slater has had some involvement at the start of Palino’s campaign, and has associations with Lusk who widely thought to have had input into content at Whale Oil (this is covered in detail in Nicky Hager’s Dirty Politics), but is not in Palino’s team.

Whale Oil has favoured Palino as a candidate in posts, and has attacked other mayoral candidates, especially Palino’s main right-ish opponent Vic Crone, but that may be more to do with Slater’s well known dislike of Michelle Boag and others supporting Crone than anything.

‘Reduce rates’ promises

Political promises are Clayton’s promises – they are promises that are not really promises. They are statements of ‘I’d like you to think I would do this if elected but it depends…’

In local body election campaigns ever escalating rates inevitably attract promises but the promises never seem to be delivered.

NZ Herald: Auckland’s would-be mayors offering same old hoary chestnuts

The triennial “silly season” is upon us. Most of the mayoral candidates and many of the council aspirants are trotting out the hoary old chestnuts, reduction of rates, for example, or capping rates. Remember those promises any other times? Remember any rates reductions, or “caps” staying in place?

Does anyone remember anyone actually drinking Claytons, ‘the drink you have when you’re not having a drink’?

…please look at the website showing press statements of Phil Goff…

From Goff’s policies:

  • Rate rises will be kept low and affordable at an average of 2.5 percent per annum or less, if current Council fiscal projections are correct and the CPI stays low.

Rates are high now so can’t be ‘kept low’ by allowing them to continue to rise faster than inflation. And Goff has two out clauses so this is not a promise, it is political snake oil.

Vic Crone delivers fairly similar, glib statements, including “keeping residential rates low”. She will also “cap rates”.

So Aucklanders can expect that their rates will remain high and will be capped at whatever the mayor and councillors think they can get away with without being run out of office.

Crone, like Goff, also proposes to make savings (“at least $500million”) and increase efficiency by reducing “back office waste” and by “efficient procurement”.

Meaningless mumbo jumbo.

Mark Thomas…

…has a more varied menu of options, such as: “freezing rates for a year with targeted options” or, “two further options of targeted growth involving an average rates increase of ‘around’ 2-4 per cent including a version of targeted rates”.

No sign of anything different there.

John Palino proposes to…

“…reduce rates by 10 per cent across the first term” by reducing spending on “non-core” and “wasteful spending”, “discretionary activities”, “payroll costs”, bringing these down “to a more normal level”.

At least Palino doesn’t pretend that rates are currently low, but I don’t know how anyone can believe he can get the support of councillors to reduce rates by 10%.

Penny Bright still doesn’t pay her own rates.

Voters are likely to remember things like this: Len Brown breaks election rates promise

Auckland Council’s budget committee has voted 16-7 for a proposal to increase rates by 3.5 per cent for each year of a new 10-year budget.

The proposal got the backing of Mayor Len Brown, who promised voters to hold rates at 2.5 per cent this term.

Nearly one in four households face rates increases of more than 10 per cent, largely due to big rises in property valuations.

 

Choosing a pig-like mayor?

Chinese born former Labour MP Raymond Huo (2008-2014) tweeted:

@RaymondHuo

Is this real? “Not afraid of divine opponents but a mayor like a pig. Choose wisely…” (Not a verbatim translation)

PalinoChineseHoarding.jpg

Keith Ng picked up on this and did some further translating.

Keith Ng Retweeted Raymond Huo

More verbatim translation: “Not afraid of a god-like opponent, most afraid of choosing a pig-like mayor make a smart choice; vote mayor, vote John Palino”

There’s not really any room for misinterpretation on the “god-like opponent” or “pig-like mayor”.

I don’t see how you can accidentally mistranslate something into god-like or pig-like.

I suspect he has a Chinese copywriter with very weird ideas, or a fairly weird sense of humour.

Weird for sure.

Auckland mayoral poll – two leaders

In two ways of looking at an Auckland mayoral poll there are two leaders – Phil Goff easily leads the other contenders, but ‘Don’t Know’ easily leads Goff.

But care needs to be taken with this poll – it has been done by a pollster with an unknown record and was done entirely online with none of the traditional polling being done.

The Spinoff: Exclusive: new Spinoff/SSI poll shows Phil Goff with huge lead in Auckland mayoral race

A survey commissioned for the Spinoff’s War for Auckland pop-up site puts the Labour MP well in front of his nearest rival, Vic Crone, just weeks out from voting. But many remain undecided.

Comparing the contenders (decided voters):

  • Phil Goff 60.3%
  • Victoria Crone 15.5%
  • John Palino 7.9%
  • Penny Bright 4.6%
  • Mark Thomas 3.3%
  • David Hay 2.8%
  • Other 5.6%

This is a big lead for Goff. Being the only one with well established name recognition the lead isn’t a surprise but perhaps the size of his lead is.

Crone has a huge job to try and close the large gap.

Palino stood against Brown last election so should be known, but his campaign has failed to impress since it launched.

But the numbers look a bit different when adding one significant number.

 

  • Don’t know 43.7%
  • Phil Goff 31.2%
  • Victoria Crone 8.0%
  • No intention of voting 4.6%
  • John Palino 4.1%
  • Penny Bright 2.4%
  • Mark Thomas 1.7%
  • David Hay 1.4%
  • Other 2.9%

 

Despite the large lack of certainty – about half chose none of the candidates – that is still a huge lead for Goff. As ‘don’t knows’ get to know other candidates the gap may close but this looks like it is Goff’s campaign to lose. This seems unlikely as he is likely to run a fairly bland campaign.

However the accuracy of this poll is unknown. It was conducted by am international pollster with no phone surveying done.

Survey Sampling International conducted an online survey of 760 Auckland residents 18+ with quota applied for gender, age and Auckland region. Polling took place August 17-19 and there is a margin of error of +/- 3.6%.

From the SSI website, About:

SSI is the premier global provider of data solutions and technology to drive business success.

As the premier global provider of data solutions and technology for consumer and business-to-business survey research, SSI reaches respondents in 100+ countries via Internet, telephone, mobile/wireless and mixed-access offerings.

 

The ladders of democracy should be equal

Democratic processes should be as even handed and equal opportunity as possible. The Auckland mayoralty contest seems to be far from fair.

Quinton Hogg at Whale Oil pointed out something I have been meaning to post on:

I attended the EMA candidates meeting last week where Ms Crone, Mr Goff and Mark Thomas spoke. And Penny Bright stood outside in the cold as she wasn’t let in.

Of the three Mark Thomas was the most impressive. I had heard Ms Crone previously without being impressed and Mr Goff wandered through the platitudes.

Slater added:

The EMA refused to allow John Palino to participate.

This stinks, regardless of how anyone may rate candidates at this early stage of the pre-campaign campaign.

It is sad to see the Employer’s and Manufacturer’s Association picking and choosing candidates to give exposure to.

Penny bright may have limited appeal, especially to an EMA audience, but she’s prepared to put herself forward and should be given an equal opportunity in a democratic contest.

John Palino (who has Slater as an adviser) and got off to a poor start with a launch that was treated as a bit of a joke by media, but he is one of the choices so should be in the mix at any election meeting.

But this does have some irony as Whale Oil is not exactly an equal opportunity blog for candidates. Slater seems to have been quiet on Palino but has been predictably critical of Goff, and frequently very critical of Crone who happens to have a good chance of keeping Palino out of the contest.

Slater is also often critical of ‘the media party’ and how they influence politics, but this is even more ironic given his claim to be serious media but is far more biased and attack orientated than the MSM are ever likely to be.

The Auckland mayoralty and democracy are being poorly served all round.

The ladders of democracy should be as even as possible.

Vision for ‘best city in the world’

Auckland mayoral candidate John Palino has released a manifesto book titled A Vision for Auckland (PDF) in which he outlines how he thinks he can make Auckland “the best city in the world”.

Auckland has an amazing opportunity that many cities around the world could only dream of. While some may be opposed to growth, the alternative is far worse. So let’s take advantage of our challenge and make Auckland the best city in the world.

In ways an aim of ‘best city’ may be admirable, but it’s an impossible overall goal – impossible to judge and impossible to achieve.

The purpose of this book is to lay out a very clear choice between the current council’s strategy, which I am convinced is not working and will not work, and an alternative strategy I will put before you. I appreciate your reading this book and allowing me to paint a picture for you of my vision for Auckland.

Palino’s key strategy planks:

  • To implement a comprehensive and transparent budget that reduces rates by 10% over my first term
  • To introduce an Auckland Ratepayers Bill of Rights that will hold Council responsible for meeting and managing within budgets
  • To make Council spending transparent to Ratepayers so they can judge whether or not their money is being spent sensibly
  • To ensure Council priorities are focused on core services and resolving the key problems facing Auckland
  • To provide a planning and regulatory framework that allows and encourages the private sector to genuinely provide affordable new housing in the numbers required
  • To promote economic growth by ensuring business friendly policies and a pragmatic regulatory environment and associated processes
  • To provide a long term city plan that reduces traffic congestion by creating an environment that encourages and allows businesses to develop in locations and provide employment opportunities near where people want to live
  • To abandon the current council ideology that increasing housing density in existing suburbs will solve traffic congestion problems and provide affordable housing
  • To provide an Iwi consultation process for resource consents that is limited to genuine cultural issues, that is speedy and cost certain
  • To hold council officers to account for poor or tardy decisions by establishing a Citizens Decision Review Panel, including relevant external experts, that ratepayers can appeal to

Most of those are fairly general political palaver.

Will anyone believe that it’s feasible or possible to reduce rates by 10% in one term?

A mayor doesn’t have the power to do what they promise in an election campaign. The full council votes on everything, so to achieve what the want a major has to win majority vote in the election, and majority vote for everything in council.

So rates reduction and everything else Palino has in his book is aspirational rather than a promise.

Palino will have to convince voters he can manage a mayoralty and manage the council, and have his say along the way.

‘Best city in the world’ is over the top unattainable. ‘Best candidate for mayor’ might be possible.

Crone promises limit to rates rises

Auckland mayoral candidate Victoria Crone has pledged to limit rates rises to a maximum of 2% per year for the next three years (the latest increase under Len Brown’s council is 9.9%).

Crone announced this on her website: Getting the basics right for Auckland

Auckland Mayoral Candidate Vic Crone has announced her first set of policies, fiscally responsible commitments she says are fundamental basics of building a world class city.

The policies were jointly developed with Auckland Future and the announcement includes lifting council performance in four key areas: keeping residential rates low, cutting waste, reducing staff costs and controlling debt – essentials that council needs to get right.

“Last year ratepayers faced a 9.9 per cent average rates increase, for some it was a shocking 15 per cent. As Mayor I will cap average residential rates increases at 2 per cent per annum for the next three years,” says Ms Crone.

“If council isn’t being cost-effective, timely and smart with its spending, it’s downright outrageous to expect more from ratepayers.”

Vic Crone’s leadership will deliver at least $500 million in savings with a focus on reducing back-office waste, efficient procurement, cutting duplication and imposing a Mayor-led Line-Item Review programme.

As a start, Crone will reduce staff costs by 5-10 per cent over the next three years and cap staff numbers at current levels, saving up to $80 million.

“It’s concerning that every year for the last three years council has exceeded its staff cost budget line by over $50 million. I will put a stop to this trend while protecting frontline staff, core services and key capital investments.”

She says any additional operating surpluses will be prioritised toward paying down debt faster than forecast.

“I understand even with minor changes in interest rates, council could breach the 12 per cent interest payments to revenue cap under its current debt management strategy. I’ll ensure council is repaying debt above the current plan target and impose a review of this strategy to better protect Auckland’s interests,” Ms Crone says.

“I would like to acknowledge the Auckland Future candidates who worked together on developing this policy, and other centre-right Council candidates for their input.”

“Council can be a high-performing organisation that delivers real results for ratepayers and is ahead of the game. I have the strong leadership, fresh ideas and energy to get there and it starts by getting the basics in order.”

Link to Policy: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0Bxk_SbCo_sMkS3lNclpiV1R3cVU

It’s interesting that having been highly critical of Crone in a series of posts, including slamming her lack of policies, Whale Oil hasn’t posted on this policy announcement yet.

In contrast David Farrar posted at Kiwiblog: Some fiscal discipline for Auckland

So Victoria Crone and Auckland Future are pledging a maximum rates increase of 2% annually for the next three years.

Having rates go up massively end endlessly is a political choice. Len Brown and the current Council chose to increase rates by 9.9%.

This year Aucklanders should check out all candidates for Council and the Mayor, and ask if they have made a pledge on rates increases. If they won’t make a pledge, then don’t vote for them unless you want more further massive rates increases.

Pledging to limit rates rises is a start.

Actually limiting them when elected is a different matter, as Auckland has found out with Len Brown. NZ Herald in 2014:

Len Brown breaks election rates promise

Auckland Council’s budget committee has voted 16-7 for a proposal to increase rates by 3.5 per cent for each year of a new 10-year budget.

The proposal got the backing of Mayor Len Brown, who promised voters to hold rates at 2.5 per cent this term.

But as the Herald reported last July in Mayor Len Brown’s Auckland budget passes  the average household from last July was set at 9.9%.

Phil Goff’s website Mayor for a better Auckland is short on detail. His launch speech doesn’t mention any intent on rating levels and “A city that thrives on talent and enterprise – where talent and enterprise can thrive” is a confusing campaign sound bite.

John Palino’s Plan for Auckland is to reduce rates:

Auckland Council has increased rates far beyond the rate of inflation. Ratepayers have been treated as ATM machines that council can raid to fund any kind of spending. In the coming weeks and months John Palino will release fully costed, pragmatic policies designed to reduce Aucklanders’ rate burden.

John believes that Council needs to control spending. As mayor he will implement policies designed to prevent council from spending ratepayers money without regard to whether ratepayers can afford the spending.

Penny Bright seems to think that paying rates is voluntary, having not paid hers for several years.

Voters will have to judge the credibility and resolve of candidates on rates.

Another Auckland mayoral candidate?

With John Palino’s mayoral campaign derailing at it’s train wreck launch attention is already moving back to other candidates and forward to another possible high profile candidate, Michael Barnett.

That would make the field even more crowded on the centre right.

Richard Harman from Politik was at Palino’s launch and has posted on AUCKLAND’S CHAOTIC MAYORAL CAMPAIGN.

He said that National will…

…probably not lose too much sleep over the announcement yesterday by café proprietor and 2013 candidate John Palino that he was standing again.

It didn’t go well.

But…

…with Mr Lusk running  his camopaign, and “Whaleoil” Cameron Slater in the background, Mr Palino looks unlikely to pull out.

At Whale Oil yesterday Cameron Slater suggested candidates consider whether they consolidate their position and policies.

It was no surprise to see the sensible Stephen Berry endorse the position, but with some additional things to consider around rates.

It’s worth considering whether or not these two should consolidate their position and policies.

So would Berry pull out to improve another candidate’s chances? Possibly. I asked him and he responded:

When I announced my candidacy in April last year, I did so on the proviso that I would stand as long as there was no other candidate who represented Affordable Auckland’s position and could attract more votes. That still remains my position and what is most important in this election is ensuring a centre-right majority in the next Council. I’d welcome working with other individuals and groups on the centre-right to make that happen.

It’s too early to say at this stage whether that may be Palino. I have an open mind on the matter and would love to be pleasantly surprised by some serious policy announcements from Crone or Thomas.

I think a lot of people would be pleasantly surprised by some serious policy announcements.

When Berry announced he would stand he said:

“What is most important for the future of Auckland is not whether I win the Mayoralty, but whether politicians advocating smaller government and less regulation win a majority on the Council.

Affordable Auckland will be taking a strategic approach to ensure this occurs.”

Berry’s campaign website: Affordable Auckland. He followed Palino’s launch with a press release More to Rates Than Just the Rate.

Harman looks at the other candidates from centre to right.

Ms Crone has the backing of two Cabinet Ministers so she won’t pull out.

Mark Thomas, who stood aside once before in the 1996 election campaign in Wellington Central to allow Richard Prebble through, will undoubtedly come under immense pressure to stand down.

So Crone will probably remain in the race and Thomas may or may not.

And will Barnett also join the line up?

Meanwhile speculation is mounting among National Party insiders in Auckland that Chamber of Commerce, CEO, Michael Barnett, may also add his name to the list of Mayoral hopefuls.

But…

Mr Barnett can expect little enthusiasm for any candidacy he may want to mount.

Unless that mess can be somehow sorted out this all looks good for Phil Goff. There is no credible competition for him to his left, Penny Bright may get some protest vote but annoys more people than she attracts, and David Hay is there in name only at this stage and I don’t think he will get the Green machine behind him.

The mayoral ‘primary’ strategy

There are indications that John Palino is trying to run his mayoral campaign as a ‘primary’ along the lines of the US presidential process.

And this is not just in trying to mimic Donald Trump tactics in trying to tap the angry voter (Auckland and the US may be quite different) and what appeared to be a planned ‘attack the media’ strategy at yesterday’s launch.

But Palino’s acting skills aren’t anywhere near up to the task. Yesterday’s launch looked too faked and farcical.

But there are more signs of a primary approach. From Palino’s pre-launch Fairfax interview:

After Palino announces, there’s one more fly buzzing in the ointment. If he garners support, the vote could split between him and the other rightwing hopefuls, handing Labour-backed Phil Goff easy victory. Victoria Crone, especially, is positioning herself to be the right’s great white hope.

Sure, says Palino, Crone has “grabbed people already so there’s not a lot left for me in Auckland”, but he still has the backers and funders he needs. As for splitting the vote, it’s early days. No one is really running till July, when you actually sign the candidacy papers. “Till then it’s like a primary.”

How will they knock out the other right wing contenders? ‘Spanish Bride’ suggests at Whale Oil:

There is a limited pool of right wing donors for a campaign. Soon they will decide who they will invest their money in and the other right contenders will drop out. Without donors they have no campaign.

So will there be a battle for donations, US style? Will there be attempts to deter donations for other candidates? Will the Auckland mayoralty become a dollar dominated democracy? Much of the anger in the US is about how corrupted by money their politics has become.

In a New Zealand local body context a preliminary head on battle between Palino and Crone may be too damaging to the ‘victor’ if the most trashed candidate drops out – and that’s a big if.

Would any candidate drop out?

With or without Palino’s input his camp didn’t even drop out after the last election, they tried to have the elected mayor dumped to effectively overturn the election result.

The ‘primary’ strategy may be simply a ruse with the aim of trashing and demoralising and starving the right wing candidates of funds and sort of committing them to drop out if things don’t go well for them.

Would Palino drop out if he is overshadowed by say Crone? I wouldn’t bet on it.