John Banks' campaign has him peering over motorways and turning up on television at the eleventh hour. Len Brown, meanwhile, is everywhere

For political aficionados, the tussle for the super city mayoralty is the most interesting local election in years and, whatever the result, it is already surprising in many ways.

For a start, the right has been clearly out-organised and out-campaigned by the left.

As one who has been watching or actively involved in Auckland mayoral elections since Jim Anderton had a tilt at Robbie a hundred years ago, I haven’t seen the conservative side of Auckland local politics so heavily outgunned.

John Banks’ campaign seems nothing short of a shambles in almost every respect.

While many predicted division on the left side of the race, the reverse had happened with Banks bleeding a possibly crucial ten per cent of the conservative vote to Colin Craig, a nonentity whose only claim to fame is organising a fizzer demonstration in favour of smacking kids, but who is clearly well heeled.

Len Brown’s early declaration had the intended effect of burning off competition on his side of the ledger.

Banks' team at first eschewed television advertising and only when more than half of the probable total of postal ballots had been cast suddenly launched commercials which can only have been devised and produced by the media studies class from Remuera Primary School.

In contrast Len Brown’s team has somehow afforded a long and regular flight of engaging and positive messages with a repeated theme.

Turnout, as I write this, is upside down with unprecedented high participation in the left’s Otara, Mangere and Manurewa heartlands, well ahead of slow polling in the posh, leafy Epsom, East Coast Bays and Orakei.

Clearly Brown has troops on the ground and Banks hasn’t. This is reflected by the two contenders’ billboard presence.

Brown has accessed private sites previously only available to the Labour Party in general election campaigns, while Banks seems to have focused on a few large commercial sites.

The effect of this is Brown everywhere and Banks smiling over a few motorways and arterials.

In cyberspace, there’s equally no contest.

I turned my cell phone off last Wednesday evening to give my methamphetamine talk to a Rotary gathering in Mission Bay (you get fined if your phone rings at Rotary meetings). When I turned it back on at 10.30 pm the phone’s mailbox was full (that’s twenty-plus messages) with reminders to text my support for Brown following a TV debate. 

Predictably, Brown won that particular contest, and that’s just old-fashioned good organisation coming through.

John Banks has seemingly compounded a weak and disorganised campaign by ignoring what must have been revealed in his pre-campaign polling.

His problem has always been that he polarises opinion.

An unpublished survey has positive attitudes to him at 35%, but dislike at 47%. The same survey clocks Len Brown at 57% positive and 38% negative.

Banks’ handlers are no amateurs and include Michelle Boag and Bill Ralston.

They must have been apoplectic when their candidate dissed all of South Auckland – more than a quarter of the electorate he is supposed to be wooing – this introducing the radical new campaign strategy of insulting your potential supporters without attracting any other votes.

I’ve only seen such a tactic used once before.

This was when an obscure candidate running for a seat in the Northern Territory Assembly was asked why he was scoring so poorly in the polls.

He replied, “Because they’re all bloody idiots”.

Needless to say, this gentleman didn’t win.

What John Banks had to do was to sell the new softer candidate and depress that sky high negative perception. This doesn’t seem to be part of his thinking and he compounded the error by what seemed to be a petulant and nasty attack on his opponent during a debate.

It may be that the Tories look at the “exit polls” which are currently showing Len Brown comfortably ahead and post their ballots in the dying days of the campaign, but the truth of the matter is that John Banks doesn’t deserve to win.

Whatever the result a new and rare organisational talent has been launched.

Conor Roberts as Len Brown’s campaign manager has done a superb job, and can look back with pride whatever the result.

Sure, he has a saleable product, but Brown’s campaign has run like clockwork and I’ll be surprised if Roberts doesn’t join the pantheon of great political organisers with the likes of Sir George Chapman and Matt McCarten.

A friendly warning though, Conor.

I did this off and on for thirty years on both sides of the Tasman.

Its great fun.

But there’s no money in it.

Comments (12)

by Tim Watkin on October 06, 2010
Tim Watkin

Great post Mike. Even though the mail is now flooding in from the eastern bays, as you'd expect, your point about Craig is interesting because that vote could be crucial.
But my question is whether the South Auckland comments are a gaffe or not. Thing is, he's repeated it several times, which makes it look like strategy.

It sounds like an attempt to turn out the base and bugger the rest, which suggests he thinks that a strong turnout from conservative voters could give him the numbers. What do you think?

by The Falcon on October 06, 2010
The Falcon

Tim, let's face the truth - South Auckland is a hell-hole. It's not Len Brown's fault (no mayor could fix it), but Banks wants people to pin the blame on Brown.

If it succeeds, Banks will win a lot of votes from people who don't want their city to go to the dogs like South Auckland has. And some South Auckland voters might vote for a mayor who says he can clean the place up a bit after Brown's supposed mismanagement.

 

by Justin Maloney on October 06, 2010
Justin Maloney

Tim, no gaffe. Maybe I give Banksie too much credit but I think it was deliberate ploy, albeit a poorly considered one.

1. He was never going to win the south auckland vote. So nothing to lose.

2. Most non-south aucklanders have a prejudice against the place.

3. He could associate Len Brown with that prejudice.

I think he gambled that his "decisive" leadership would win out over any "divisive" backlash. It is a gamble and may have backfired, time will tell.

What has surprised me is that he hasn't really been called to account for the comment. I guess its a problem of too much ammunition and not enough guns.

by Mark Wilson on October 06, 2010
Mark Wilson

Mike,

It ain't over until its over!

 

by Tim Watkin on October 06, 2010
Tim Watkin

Falcon, that's just a crazy generalisation. All the posh horsey set in South Auckland would disgaree, for example. And why do we assume that living on less than the average wage = hellhole. It's hardly Mogadishu! But I suspect you're right inasmuch as what Banks is attempting.

Problem is, there's a flipside. Some moderates (I'm thinking of older folk who may be conservative, but who value politeness very highly) and some South Aucklanders who might not have bothered to vote, could be motivated to get off their chuffs.

So Justin, not so sure about 'nothing to lose'. I'm not saying it can't work, but it's a gamble.

by Justin Maloney on October 06, 2010
Justin Maloney

Tim, yes I agree with you & maybe that was a poor choice of words. What I meant was... "He felt there might be more to gain than to lose". Personally think it was a bad gamble and poorly advised (assuming I'm right and it wasn't a gaffe of Henry-istic proportions).

Anyone know if the results are announced regionally? I will be interested to know how each of the candidates does in each region/suburb...

by Craig Ranapia on October 06, 2010
Craig Ranapia

@Tim:  Honestly, I think the turnout north of the bridge has shown that in the three years time the candidates better lift their games significantly on the Shore -- try showing up, for a start.  And when you do, show some awareness of local issues and concerns rather than repeating the same old same old talking points.  The Shore was wide open for the first candidate who actually gave a shit.  Instead, an overwhelming majority of NS residents will be casting their ballots in the dustbin.

In the end, Brown is probably going to be the beneficiary but that's nothing to be proud of.

by Mark Wilson on October 07, 2010
Mark Wilson

Hi Mike,

Still sure it's all over?

by mickysavage on October 08, 2010
mickysavage

Interesting comments Mike.  With the benefit of a further couple of days returns the North Shore and Orakei are surging.  The west is still a bit quiet and South Auckland may have voted themselves out.

I agree with others that Banks' comments about South Auckland were calculated and the dog whistle was being given a good blow.  Time will tell if it worked or not.  If it does work then I do not know how Banks will be able to rule all of Auckland the way that Len could.

One other possibility is that this is all a reaction to the idiot Paul Henry comments.  They are so offensive that maybe they have stirred a shift to the left and persuaded people to cast their vote.

Isn't crystal ball gazing fun!  Not as accurate as entrail gazing however.

 

 

 

by Mark Wilson on October 09, 2010
Mark Wilson

Congrats Mike - you were right and i was wrong!

The Tories didn't come out and vote and the left did.

To the victors belong the spoils!

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