Is the new rule that anyone holding public office who has an affair must resign? Come on. That’s setting the bar ridiculously high. It would mean resignations in parliament and in councils across the country.
I don’t want our politicians to be super human, different to the rest of us. I do expect them to be honest, good at the job, and politically courageous. The prurient focus of some outraged bloggers and journalists while they salivate over the sordid details of this affair is nothing short of voyeuristic. For others it’s political maliciousness, posing as moral outrage.
Who Len brown sleeps with or what he likes to do in the bedroom is nothing to do with me or you, as long as he hasn’t broken the law. I do care what he plans to do about Auckland’s transport problems or the looming housing crisis.
The only people who deserve an apology are his wife and family. He has hurt them, not the voters of Auckland. I think less of him as a man for this affair, but that’s got nothing to do with his role as mayor.
And those who say - ‘ah, but he has sinned against Aucklanders because he had sex on council property.’ Would it have been morally more acceptable if he’d had the affair in the marital home? Or in a Council park? A public toilet?
Let his family hold him to account. The rest of us should back off.
Plenty of politicians have survived sex scandals in the impossibly moral world of US politics; David Vitter, the junior senator from Louisiana whose phone records revealed calls to D.C Madam in 2007 survived; Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa of LA remained in office despite an affair with a reporter. Bill Clinton was impeached but not fired.
It’s random - who survives a sex scandal and who doesn’t. Truth is, if we like you, your chances are much higher.
Here’s a rough guide on how Len can survive:
- Fess up straight away. Front the media. This is exactly what Len did. So far so good.
- Don’t make excuses. Don’t try and blame anyone else (the other woman, the other side, the media).
- Focus on your family first. Put yourself at their mercy. Try and get your wife on board. If she is prepared to forgive you, so will voters.
- Don’t lie. It’s the lying, not the sex that will get you. ‘Just as we expect full disclosure from our spouses, we expect it from our politicians too,” says a New York Times blogger.
- For the next few months, front the issue at every public meeting, and do as many of those as you can so Aucklanders know you have the courage to front them too.
- Be a nice guy. According to the same New York Times blog, that’s what got Eliot Spitzer. Not the addiction to call girls, but that fact that he was charmless. People didn’t like him. Same with the John Edwards affair. The general belief that he was an egocentric narcissist, and how the affair played into that narrative proved fatal for his presidential bid, rather than the fact of the affair itself.
- Say you’re sick. A sexual addiction made you do it. Or alcohol. If you can’t patholigise it, turn it into an uncharacteristic accident. ‘One thing led to another...’
The only caveat to this is the law. If you’ve broken any big laws, there’s no way out. Resign and move aside. Eliot Spitzer’s use of prostitutes was illegal. That’s what got him.
And luckily for Len we don’t think that the Auckland Council is bedeviled with loose morals and corrupt politicians. So he doesn’t become a symbol of a greater sin, which would bring him down. It helps that he has never campaigned on morals. One thing voters hate more than anything is hypocrisy.
That, and prurient media deciding to bring a politician down based on a moral test card some great public figures, including journalists would fail.