Pundits say Brown likely to survive
Pundits say Len Brown has handled the scandal around his affair well so far, and should survive politically - and that more revelations could lead to a backlash against his accusers.
"He's looking like he'll survive," Otago University political science lecturer Bryce Edwards tells NBR ONLINE.
"In New Zealand we tend to private lives of politicians as their own business, and unless an affair has some bearing on their ability to carry out their public office, affairs are seen in some way as being criminal or leading to conflicts of interest, it’s deemed to be neither here nor there."
He adds that on a personal level, he thinks Mayor Brown should stay. He fears where a resignation could lead NZ politics.
"I’m not sure we want to go down that route like in Britain or America where everything about what a person does and their background is fair game. I think that would be very corrosive for politics. That would be quite sad," he says.
No appetite for another election
Another factor that could help Mr Brown: Once the penny drops his resignation would involve a byelection, people could become less enthusiastic in their calls for Mayor Brown's head. "I’m not really sure people have a big appetite for another mayoral race. They didn't have much for the last one. It would cost a lot of money and mean a lot more campaigning to enure," Dr Edwards says.
Trust matters more these days
Mayor Brown is far from the first NZ politician to be caught up in a sex scandal, Dr Edwards says.
The difference is his affair has hit mainstream media while Mayor Brown is still in office.
"For years there’s been Prime Ministers who’ve had affairs. These have been quite well documented – David Lange, Robert Muldoon etc – and the politicians haven’t had these reported," he says.
Media's decision to cover Mr Brown's affair with Ms Chuang is valid, in Dr Edwards' opinion, given trust is now a core political issue.
"With less an less emphasis on substance and policy, trust has become one of the main selling points for politicians to campaign on these days. Politicians campaign more on their personalities and personal attributes and trust is the big one," he says.
Could enhance leadership
Pead PR principle Deborah Pead says a sex scandal has the potential to boost a politician's standing.
With the caveat that it does not necessarily apply to Mayor Brown's case, she tells NBR.
"It's widely accepted that if a man is virile then it does enhance his reputation for power. Virility is part of the power package. In a strange way it can enhance a leaders’ status."
Hinges on family reaction
In terms of Mayor Brown's immediate political career, Ms Pead tells NBR it all hinges on the reaction of his family.
If his wife and daughters say he should carry on in politics, then he is likely to survive the scandal.
If not, continuing as Mayor is far less politically saleable.
Handling scandal well
"One of the big issues is not so much the scandal but how the politician deals with the scandal," PR and political commentator Michelle Boag said on TVNZ's Breakfast this morning.
"And in this case Len Brown has done very well. He’s front footed it. He went on television last night. He did an interview about it and he was humble, he was apologetic. I think that’s the best way of cutting off this story. So I think he will survive. The New Zealand electorate is very forgiving."
She added the caveat that things could change if fresh revelations emerge today, as Cameron Slater's Whaleoil blog has promised - although also that more material could backfire, especially if people see it as self-serving, and attention-seeking.
The affair is "already pretty sordid", he tells NBR. Fresh revelations could be damanging, but they could also be seen as attention-seeking or dirty politics from the right, and public sympathy could swing in behind Mayor Brown.
Affairs for Dummies
Ms Boag also had advice for a person in power seeking an extra-marital dalliance.
"Len Brown has been quite naive in terms of having a relationship with a woman who’ got nothing to lose," she said.
"If you want to have a relationship with a woman, when you’re in public life, you have to have one with a married woman with a wealthy husband who can’t afford to be exposed or divorced.
Having it with a woman who’s 25 years his junior who’s got nothing to lose is not a smart thing to do. Stick with the one you’ve got Len, she’s pretty good”