Brian Edwards Media

Of Bullies and Sensitive New Age Guys [Some free advice for Brown and Banks]

Now here’s a curious thing – when the people of Auckland tossed John Banks out as Mayor what they were looking for in a replacement was someone decent, nice, caring, maybe even just a bit saintly. And that is precisely what they got in Dick Hubbard.  But three years later they threw out the decent, nice, caring, maybe even just a bit saintly chap and brought back the not-so-decent, not-so-nice, not-so-caring and definitely not a bit saintly Mr Banks.

What had gone wrong? Well, Mr Hubbard was no less decent, nice, caring, saintly after three years than he was at the beginning. So it can’t have been that. And, though Mr Banks claimed to have turned over a new leaf, we all knew that leopards never really changed their spots and voted him back in anyway.

You see, the trouble was that Dick was a bit wishy-washy and somewhat  eccentric in the way he talked and looked and moved. He wore his religious belief on his sleeve and used high-flown words like ‘vision’ and ‘community’. He really was a nice man, but we didn’t know what to make of him. He made us feel uncomfortable and ill at ease. We’d thought he was what we wanted, but he wasn’t.

So John was back. Like him or loathe him, you knew where you were with John – a definite, no-nonsense, tell-it-like-it-is, take-no-prisoners sort of bloke who spoke in headlines. John was the smaller scale reincarnation of his mentor and hero, Rob Muldoon. And a bit of a bully too.

We like that in our leaders.

We really do. If you look at the history of New Zealand politics in the age of television, it’s as clear as the nose on your face. We abhor weakness and we admire strength. Or, to be strictly accurate, we abhor the appearance of weakness and we admire the appearance of strength.  Think of Kirk, Muldoon, Clark. Think of Bill Rowling, another nice, decent man, fatally dubbed ‘The Mouse’ by Bob Jones and beaten in three elections by Muldoon.

Given the choice, we Kiwis prefer the bully to the sensitive new age guy.

Now here’s another curious thing. In the battle for the super-mayoralty, it looks as though we have a re-run of Hubbard/Banks.

How well does my description of Hubbard fit Len Brown? Someone decent, nice, caring, maybe even just a bit saintly…  a bit wishy-washy and somewhat eccentric in the way he talked and looked and moved… wore his religious belief on his sleeve and used high-flown words like ‘vision’ and ‘community’

Well, it isn’t a perfect parallel, but it’s close.

There are some lessons to be learned here for the people advising both men who, if you’ll forgive me, ladies and gentlemen, are currently doing such an appalling job. Well, it must be an appalling job, when the indications are that most Aucklanders would prefer someone else altogether.

So here’s my gratis advice:

If your client, Mr Brown, doesn’t get his emotions under control, stop behaving like a maniac or a clown, come down from the clouds of political idealism and concentrate in his public utterances on the down-to-earth, day-to-day, practical issues that confront this city, his epitaph may be: He made us feel uncomfortable and ill at ease. We’d thought he was what we wanted, but he wasn’t. It’s already happening.

And if you want your client, Mr Banks, to make a second comeback, stop trying to turn him into a warm, wonderful human being and ‘just  one of us’ by taking off his tie, being ‘more chatty’ and ‘speaking up’ about his difficult childhood. It’s fake and transparent. And we aren’t fools. Let’s have the old John back, the one we know. And if you’re looking for a slogan, go for ‘Better the devil…’

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9 Comments:

  1. though Mr Banks claimed to have turned over a new leaf, we all knew that leopards never really changed their spots and voted him back in anyway.

    The idea that Auckland voters went back to proven hard leader John Banks after three years of wishy-washy leadership is an interesting one, but it doesn’t withstand scrutiny of the facts:

    * When Banks was voted out of the mayoralty in 2004, he got 46,151 votes.
    * When he was returned to mayoral office in 2007, he got 45,387 votes.

    The joys of simple first-past-the-post.

    • The idea that Auckland voters went back to proven hard leader John Banks after three years of wishy-washy leadership is an interesting one, but it doesn’t withstand scrutiny of the facts:

      I don’t entirely see how that affects my argument which is essentially that voters became disillusioned with Hubbard and went back to Banks. They may not have loved him any more than on the day they voted him out, which is what your figures suggest, but they still preferred him to the saintly Hubbard. Banks’ vote remained much the same between 2004 and 2007; Hubbard’s dropped by almost 30,000.

  2. I am dumbfounded by the choice available thus far. Surely there will be a third and fourth contender worthy of a vote. As it stands I am unable to seperate the leading pair from the kith of Brian Tamaki. How does this inspire voter turnout?

  3. Neither of these Mayoral Prospects are worth a vote at all. They are spendthrifts in trivia and good at wasting public money like most Local Government pollies. The Super City will not change that culture because pollies are steeped in the fact that rates increases are there for the taking well beyond the rate of inflation.

  4. my argument … is essentially that voters became disillusioned with Hubbard and went back to Banks.

    That’s what I understood it to be. My point was that people didn’t become disillusioned with Hubbard and go back to Banks. No-one went to Banks. People left Hubbard, but they left Banks too.

    Banks got the same votes he’d gotten three years earlier (indeed, fewer votes – between 2004 and 2007 voters actually left Banks). The only difference was that in 2007 the people who’d voted for Hubbard split their votes between Hubbard and other non-Banks challengers (or didn’t vote at all).

    In 2007, voters preferred Banks to Hubbard (when required to state one preference only), but they also preferred not-Banks to Banks, but I think my principal point stands. The result went back to Banks, but voters didn’t.

    • That’s what I understood it to be. My point was that people didn’t become disillusioned with Hubbard and go back to Banks. No-one went to Banks. People left Hubbard, but they left Banks too.

      You’re really wasted in your present job, Graeme. I’m sure the Vatican would be interested in your services as permanent Advocatus Diaboli. Having told me that Banks’ vote didn’t change between 2004 and 2007, you now tell me that in 2007 people left Hubbard, but they left Banks too. Well, it’s true, but between 2004 and 2007 Banks lost 784 votes and Hubbard lost 29,853 votes. And it doesn’t matter a bugger where those 29,953 votes went, he lost them.

  5. Banks came in with a team (Cit Rats) and Hubbard came with no team.
    The other bunch of clowns lead by that other clown Bruce Hucker who as the saying goes, Cut of their nose to spite their faces.
    I think the difference this time ( i hope) is that Len Brown will come into the race with some kind of a team.

  6. Banks and Hubbard both stood as independents. Hubbard was a genuine independent – Banks has proved indistinguishable from C&R.
    The difference in 2007 was that there were attractive alternatives to both major candidates. Alex Swney was there to sop up the right wing votes that could not stomach Banks and John Hinchcliff had some deluded idea that another grey old lefty could be attractive. Even Lisa Praegar got 2% of the vote.

    The Banks vote did not change. The non-Banks vote was split.