Brian Rudman

Brian Rudman is a Herald columnist looking at Auckland and national issues

Brian Rudman: Poll shows Banksie's cheerleader hasn't much to be cheerful about

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Herald-DigiPoll survey shoots holes in bragging blogs from 'strategist'

Aaron Bhatnagar describes himself as "campaign strategist"of Auckland City Mayor John Banks' bid for the Super City mayoralty.

But in recent days, he's been sounding more like the band on the Titanic, blaring out inspirational hymns of hope as the good ship Banksie heads straight for an unexpected obstacle.

As recently as Wednesday, he was blogging that Mr Banks' rival, Manukau Mayor Len Brown, was showing signs of desperation and using scare tactics ... in an effort to try to claw back John Banks' rising support across Greater Auckland.

Last month, he was bragging about "the upbeat feeling Banks' team have after three months of hard work", talking of his delight "at how Banksie's message is being met with positive audiences" and saying "Brown is getting little or no media coverage, and when he does, it's usually only as an afterthought to an issue Banksie is leading on".

Today's Herald-DigiPoll survey results suggest the Banks team's strategy has been to either kid the rest of us into believing he's doing well - or to kid themselves and their supporters along, in a desperate effort to keep morale up.

Because if, as Mr Bhatnagar says, Mr Brown has been "getting little or no media coverage" and still scores the commanding lead he has in today's poll, imagine the support he might get once the campaign proper starts.

Of the 731 Aucklanders polled between April 30 and May 12, 48.4 per cent backed Mr Brown and 37 per cent Mr Banks.

Of course with five months to polling day, other candidates could emerge. But so far, the tactic of both candidates to scare off other rivals - Mr Brown on the left, Mr Banks on the right - by declaring early and with a bang, seems to be working.

A further setback to the Banks' camp is the widespread negativity towards the Super City project erupting from the poll. Mr Banks has always supported the "One City, One Council" campaign, telling the Royal Commission two years ago that "Auckland's governance is a train wreck".

Mr Brown opposed the concept, entering the mayoral race to make the best, as it were, of a bad job.

The mood of Aucklanders is much more in tune with Mr Brown. Only 32.8 per cent think the new Super City will be a better place to live in, and 48.5 per cent disagree.

The scepticism is even greater on the question of whether a single council will be better or worse for you personally, with 52.7 per cent voting for worse and only 31.2 per cent, better.

Aucklanders don't even believe the management of local government will improve, 49.5 per cent saying no and out-numbering the 42.1 per cent saying yes.

The Banks campaign will no doubt fall back on results of its own polling, by the National Party pollster, David Farrar of Curia Market Research.

On April 27, a Banks release said its candidate was 1.4 per cent ahead of Mr Brown. No other details were revealed.

In late February a Curia Poll of 1200 Aucklanders conducted for Mr Banks, showed the two equal pegging on 50 per cent.

UMR (the Labour Party pollster) polls on behalf of Mr Brown painted a different picture, showing that last December, Mr Brown was on 42 per cent to Mr Banks' 31 per cent. A UMR poll in July had the two level-pegging, with Mr Brown on 35 per cent, his rival on 34 per cent.

At the time of the July poll, Mr Brown had not officially declared his candidacy and argued "my name recognition is nothing like John Banks' is". It was a fair point.

Last night, Mr Banks' launched his official campaign website at trendy Sale Street Bar in Freemans Bay. If supporters don't wake up with a hangover this morning, these results will bring one on.

Sure, there are five months to go, but the widespread public disillusion and scepticism of the whole exercise suggest an uphill battle for someone calling himself "cheerleader".

- NZ Herald

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