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NZ POLITICS DAILY: The rightwing crisis over the Len Brown scandal

It was meant to be the scandal that would kill off the career of a centre-left political leader. Instead, it looks like it may end up doing more damage to the political right in New Zealand, including National and the government.

As I argued on Friday – see: Dirty politics means we all suffer – the political fallout is going to be much wider than just Len Brown. Tracy Watkins has a very good column elaborating on this theme – see: Story could be game-changer. In particular, the National Party is vulnerable to being judged as guilty by association. This became even more apparent during the weekend, with attention increasingly focused on the motives and machinations of those on the right who played a part in bringing the Len Brown scandal to light.

More importantly, the Herald revealed on Saturday that Palino met with Brown’s lover, with TV3’s The Nation revealing further allegations about the alleged rightwing conspiracy in an 18-minute video, Palino met with Chuang on election night which also included an excellent interview with Cameron Slater. The story is covered well in Matthew Backhouse’s Blogger denies plot to unseat Brown. And you can read the full transcript of the Slater interview: Whaleoil blogger Cameron Slater interviewed on The Nation. Slater also provides some useful and interesting answers in this blogpost: Rapid Fire Q+A on Len Brown story
Despite the fact that the Brown scandal has been frontpage news now for nearly a week, the moral focus has not worked and there’s been a definite public revulsion accompanying the fascination. With a public uncomfortable with the nature of the revelations it is likely that those implicated in the scandalmongering will suffer severe reputational damage.
Indeed, opinion now appears to be turning against Len Brown’s opponents. For example, a New Zealand Herald editorial yesterday was – despite its title (Brown has questions to answer) – tough on the Auckland right rather than on the mayor: ‘Having lost the election fairly, squarely and predictably last Saturday, they were not content with credit for a better than expected vote, they set about on Sunday to destroy the winner.  They used - in the worst sense of the word – the woman involved in the affair.’
In fact, there might even be growing public sympathy for Brown. The only scientific opinion polling released so far shows that Brown has reasonably strong support. The important detail is in Bernard Orsman’s Aucklanders would bring back Brown – survey. On top of this evidence, leftwing blogger and Otahuhu resident Daphna Whitmore provides some useful and interesting anecdotal evidence that Brown might not be as damaged in South Auckland as is commonly assumed – see: South Auckland misunderstood.
The Auckland rightwing and blogosphere
The sordid roll call of those involved in publicising Brown’s affair can best be seen in Bevan Hurley’s Herald article, Scenes of a sex scandal: Five-star hotels to low-rent motels in which ‘shadowy characters’ and their wish to create an ‘American-style smear campaign’ is detailed. Palino is implicated, too. All of those involved in bringing the scandal to life appear more and more sordid – see Tony Wall’s Reporter offers Chuang porn star role.
Matt McCarten puts it down to foreign influences on the Auckland political right: ‘we generally don't use opponents' personal relationship failings as weapons. Overseas, it's fair game.  Maybe that's why a recent immigrant on John Palino's campaign team thought romancing a woman and then badgering her to set up her former lover seemed a legitimate campaign strategy.  Palino comes from New Jersey, arguably the American state with the most ruthless and corrupt politics, where this sort of takedown is standard fare.  A new paradigm in politics, it seems, has been imported into New Zealand’ – see: Disgrace for sons of Supercity.
Expect to see a lot of infighting amongst the right as National Party figures attempt to escape blame and involvement. For the best on this, see John Weekes and Kathryn Powley’s Palino denies plot to take down Brown. They say that a ‘bitter battle’ has commenced ‘between senior members of the Palino team and National Party insiders’ and that ‘Palino's election team was tearing itself apart last night over who was aware of the Brown affair’.
John Palino’s denials
The role played by mayoral candidate John Palino has come under the microscope, with his denials being heavily scrutinised – see Colin Espiner’s John Palino: I was never part of any plot. Scott Yorke parodies Palino’s denials in A statement from John Palino. See also, Danyl McLauchlan’s Code Brown and Russell Brown’s Moving right along?
Luigi Wewege – public enemy number one
The unlikely star of the scandal has turned out to be Luigi Wewege, a character seemingly straight out of central casting for a political drama. Wewege is coming in for a massive amount of attention, especially from those supportive of Len Brown. It’s not only his apparently pivotal role in the scandal, but his own background that is now being made public– see, in particular, Bevan Hurley and John Weekes’ Holes in Wewege's shining CV and Jared Savage’s Palino's man cut from global list.
The Herald has even singled out Wewege in an editorial: ‘Perhaps the worst specimen in this bunch is a newcomer to New Zealand and its politics, Luigi Wewege. His email exchanges with Chuang suggest he wormed his way into her affections only to get evidence of her affair with the mayor’ – see: Brown has questions to answer.
The Twittersphere is now mercilessly mocking Wewege. For some examples, see my own aggregation of this in Top tweets about Luigi Wewege.
Bevan Chuang – victim or perpetrator?
Bevan Chuang is one rightwing politician who has come out of the Brown scandal with regret. There is ongoing debate as to what extent she has been a victim of her own actions. Kerre McIvor has a particularly unsympathetic critique of Chuang – see: Mayor's affair a sad sideshow. McIvor is especially dismissive of Chuang playing the victim.
Others are bringing in a gender critique, such as Deborah Coddington who says ‘Women like this let the side down. And women who take her side and call her a victim - by implication, the defenceless, exploited female of the species - take feminism back a few decades’ – see: Power as a turn-on. Beck Eleven says that Chuang has erred by saying too much: ‘I thought it degrading on her part to include the duration of his performance, the surface upon which his sexual effluvia landed, or the cost of the underwear he bought as a gift’ – see: Chuang's kiss-and-tell undermines her promise. See also, Martin van Beynen’s Can Len Brown survive derision?
Others have referred to ethnicity in their critique of Chuang – see Renee Liang’s Getting beyond Asian. She says that Chuang has played the ‘ethnicity card’ and that ‘There's no telling the damage Bevan's story might have done to other (young) (Asian) women and the conclusions uninformed people might now make about us’. So the list of those damaged by Chuang’s actions is growing longer. It also include the Auckland Communities & Residents ticket – see Jared Savage’s Chuang's record known to C&R.
The National Party – hoping to avoid guilt by association
The National Party is seemingly not directly involved in this scandal but there are certainly a lot of National Party figures involved in it. As Rachel Smalley writes today, ‘the fallout from this could be very damaging for the party and for the Government. Palino is on the right of politics, and for that very reason a crisis team will be working hard to stop this damaging the Government in any way’ – see: Len Brown sex scandal feels very American.
For leftwing analysis and speculation on how the scandal will affect the National Party, see Martyn Bradbury’s Will latest Whaleoil sleaze empower the ‘Anyone But Collins’ National Party clique? and Greg Presland’s National’s Civil War.
The upshot is that the National Party will not want to be seen as in any way associated with this train wreck of a scandal. The tawdriness of it all reflects very poorly on those involved in making the allegations public, and the New Zealand public will quickly become intolerant of what appears to be dirty politics. The National Government is already facing a difficult re-election campaign next year against a revitalised Labour Party and, as with any second-term administration, is vulnerable to being associated with sleaze and staleness. The last thing that John Key will want is for his party to be seen as embroiled in this sort of mess.
Finally, to see how the scandal is being reported internationally, see Tim Hulme’s CNN article, Sex scandal engulfs Auckland 'super mayor' Len Brown.
Bryce Edwards
Today's content:
Len Brown
Adam Hollingworth (TV3): Brown back to duties after scandal
Ian Steward, Kirsty Johnston, Robb Kidd, and Sarah Harvey (Stuff): Hints of more details about Auckland Mayor Len Brown
John Armstrong (Herald): Brown's mea culpa absolutely woeful
Fran O'Sullivan (Herald): Two men with their backs against wall
Brian Edwards (Herald): That mayor culpa had better be all, Len
Tracy Watkins (Stuff): Brown-Chuang affair has MPs wary
Gordon Brown (Stuff): Nation's news leader? Yeah,right
Jared Savage (Herald): Palino's man cut from global list
Jared Savage (Herald): Chuang's record known to C&R
Lincoln Tan (Herald): Chuang's family ask for privacy
Matthew Backhouse (Herald): Blogger denies plot to unseat Brown
Matt McCarten (Herald): Disgrace for sons of Supercity
Martin van Beynen (Stuff): Can Len Brown survive derision?
Taranaki Daily News: Darker side to Brown affair
John Weekes and Kathryn Powley (Herald): Palino denies plot to take down Brown
Deborah Coddington (Herald): Power as a turn-on
Bevan Hurley and John Weekes (Herald): Holes in Wewege's shining CV
Herald on SundayBrown has questions to answer
Kerre McIvor (Herald): Mayor's affair a sad sideshow
Renee Liang (Herald): Getting beyond Asian
Grant Duncan (Policy Matters): Mayor in an affair
David Farrar (Kiwiblog): Nasty Rudman
Ideologically Impure: Things I do/don’t care about
Daphna Whitmore (Redline): South Auckland misunderstood
Graeme Edgeler (Legal Beagle): Fact check: Q+A on mayoral resignations
David Farrar (Kiwiblog): Truth is stranger than fiction
David Farrar (Kiwiblog): Lengate update
Pete George (Your NZ): John Palino denial
The Standard: Playing dirty: The politics of contradiction
Scott Yorke (Imperator Fish): A statement from John Palino
Martyn Bradbury (Daily Blog): TV Review: The Slater interview on The Nation
Cameron Slater (Whaleoil): Matt McCarten on my old man
Cameron Slater (Whaleoil): Issue of security?
Cameron Slater (Whaleoil): Rapid Fire Q+A on Len Brown story
Cameron Slater (Whaleoil): What do my enemies say?
Ele Ludemann (Homepaddock): New media breaks news
Pete George (Your NZ): Brown roundup
Danyl McLauchlan (Dim-Post): Code Brown
Greg Presland (The Standard): Palino and Slater have to be joking
Keeping Stock: On a mission
Pete George (Your NZ): Questions for Len Brown
Cameorn Slater (Whaleoil): A new reader emails
Rachael Goldsmith (Daily Blog): Lies, lies, more lies and counter lies
Tim Selwyn (Daily Blog): TV Review: Down trou Brown
David Farrar (Kiwiblog): Lengate inquiry widens
John Banks
Andrea Vance (Stuff): John Key's call for final act
Adam Bennett (Herald): Police were lax: Peters
Phil Taylor (Herald): Bush lawyer brings Banks to book
Mike Smith (The Standard): The “cabbage boat” defence.
Peter Cresswell (Not PC): John Banks’s electoral fraud
David Farrar (Kiwiblog): Where to for ACT
Graeme Edgeler (The Ruminator): The Edge of Reason: Exit through the Gift Shop
NZ First
Hamish Rutherford (Stuff): Peters names price for any coalition talks
Tony Wall (Stuff): Brendan Horan money search over
Hamish Rutherford (Stuff): KiwiSaver 'pot of gold' for providers
Martin Hawes (Stuff): NZ Super: The $500,000 gift
Rob Stock (Stuff): Super funding with fiscal drag
Tyler Adams (Newstalk ZB): NZ First wants to nationalise KiwiSaver
Ele Ludemann (Hompaddock): NZ First’s Kiwifund threat to super
2014 Election
Matthew Hooton (NBR): NZ Labour now furthest left in OECD
Michael Cummings (Manawatu Standard): Labour still has a long way to go
Mark Blackham (Political Business): Christopher Hitchens
Ideologically Impure: The myth of the centre
Tat Loo (Daily Blog): Viper Pilot’
James Henderson (The Standard): The red tide rising
No Right Turn: A move towards honesty
Peter Cresswell (Not PC): A question for National Party supporters
Ele Ludemann (Homepaddock): Left won’t accept socialism failed
Jenny Michie (Daily Blog): Where danger lurks
Christchurch rebuild
Glenn Conway (Stuff): Use damaged houses, says Labour
Hamish Rutherford (Stuff): 'The rainy day came, they failed'
David Farrar (Kiwiblog): Patient ranking for hospitals
Kirsty Johnston (Stuff): Shutting the revolving door
Colin Espiner (Stuff): Greg King: A fair defence essential
Anthony Hubbard (Stuff): Break-neck brutality
Susie Nordqvist (TV3): Setback in prison voting case
Gordon Campbell (Scoop): On the Police being above the law
Sky City
Josh Martin (Stuff): SkyCity boss: 'We nailed the deal'
Local body elections
Andrew Gunn (Stuff): Next council has lift-off
Ross Henderson (Stuff): Business interests dominate council
George Driver (Stuff): Regional council ranks grow older
James Dann (Rebuilding Christchurch): Tighter than an inappropriate metaphor
David Farrar (Kiwiblog): A rare tie
Inequality, poverty, and unemployment
Bevan Hurley (Herald): Food work payout
Bevan Hurley (Herald): High-flyer calls on WINZ
Michael Timmins (Daily Blog): Fighting Injustice
Chris Trotter (Bowalley Road):"Low Trust Clients" Meet "No Sympathy State"
Tom Pullar-Strecker (Stuff): Reforms may mean axe for provisional tax
Rod Oram (Stuff): Digging deeper on coal
James Weir (Stuff): Labour costs rise for employers

Comments and questions

At last some factual unbiased and well researched journalism from the NBR on this hot topic. It might be a week late but at least you have finally accepted the dirt that has occurred on the right and the implications for the National party - the rules have now changed in politics and anything goes - which is more likely to hurt National unless John Key and the national hierarchy shows some leadership and allows those responsible to be banished from the party and publicly humiliated.

National can't just ignore this - there is too much poison out there. They also can't afford another teagate saga and brush over it and allow unfair character assassination on the wrong parties.

If National front up and knock this on the head this week they will come out of this alright - or a lot less damaged - they can't afford to protect former party leaders or their family.

One thing that has come out of this is that National are struggling with their political strategies at the moment - they are totally misreading public sentiment and are now believing their own BS - they are out of touch with the voting public and if they don't get their act together they will lose the net election - Labour will win by default.

The far right of the National party is killing the National party and former 'brat pack" members Nick Smith and Tony Ryall are not delivering and further weakening the party

John Key should be restructuring his cabinet now - pre Xmas to build a cohesive and respected cabinet well before the next election = post Xmas is too late. Maybe also replace Stephen Joyce as the strategist - he has run out of ideas and is out of touch with the people - could be his ego.

Regardless, Brown is the key figure in all of this.

If you are right, it does mean the LSM are good at protecting their own.

The biggest damage done to the right wing government is not showing leadership and taking a strong stand on the issue.

I think you are clutching at straws , Bryce.

When you have Len Brown quoted as saying the Code of Conduct doesn't apply to him .

But a quick search shows this at the start of the document ( as amended on 22 August 2013)

" 1. Interpretation
In this document: “Auckland Council” or “the Council” – consists of the governing body (including the Mayor) and local boards. This term is used only when referring to both the governing body and local boards."

I think he needs better advisors for at start.

The Herald's bizarre snow job has been the unseamliest aspect of this loathsome saga. That paper's repetition of the deliberately dubious phrase "right wing" is at least as sinister and invidious as any of the embarrassing plotting undertaken by these appalling lightweights.

People may have some sympathy for Brown - but I think you are missing the point, i.e. that it wasn't the people on the right who betrayed their family for a couple of years.

I voted for Brown but I don't consider him left any more than most of NZ - i.e. we have to qualify people now as left or right of the centre of a politically left wing country. In percentage terms we are qualifying people as 22% to 25% or 25% to 27%, when considering the left and right nature of the worlds largest democracy.

But if the "right" were really playing dirty politics it would have come out before voting started and Brown would have then clearly either got his mandate or not - that he hid it is just as shady.

We will see how he does in this term but he seems to be making a habit of bad decisions in a personal political manner - slapping himself on the face for the first one and god knows what he was hitting for this one.

One can't help but feel he is being a bit politically careless to be in such a role. But he is there now - let's hope he does something outstanding in this term as so far the powers that be in Auckland are not really stepping up - he was just the best of the woeful choices.

Wow you really have little regard for the standard "left" voter.

The left will stand by its parties even when they support corrupt behaviour leading to incarceration (TPF) but the right will desert because someone who might be in the same political spectrum might have been involved in leaking facts about his opponent?

Says volumes really