Matt McCarten on politics

Matt McCarten is a Herald on Sunday political columnist

Matt McCarten: Left wing flying high over the Supercity

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Act's Rodney Hide introduced the Supercity idea to Aucklanders but his right-aligned candidates appear to have paid the price of unwelcome publicity during the campaign. Photo / NZ Herald
Act's Rodney Hide introduced the Supercity idea to Aucklanders but his right-aligned candidates appear to have paid the price of unwelcome publicity during the campaign. Photo / NZ Herald

Yesterday was a great day for the left in Auckland. Len Brown decisively defeated John Banks for the Supercity mayoralty; the progressives' senior leaders Mike Lee and Richard Northey won handsomely; and there's a solid 12:8 anti-corporate agenda majority on the new council.

There were three reasons Brown trounced Banks. The first reason is obvious. Too many Aucklanders didn't buy the new warm and cuddly Banksie. In the last fortnight their fears were confirmed.

When Brown made a gracious offer to appoint Banks to a role, Banks refused to reciprocate, sneering that Brown "wasn't up to it".

The tipping point was surely when Banks said on Close Up that he didn't "want South Auckland replicated across the rest of Auckland. [Brown's] city is a social disaster". It was a dirty little trick to play on the fears of the "white vote".

But you could just feel the liberal and the "brown vote" that Banks had been courting slip away from him. Banks' alpha male claim to be a strong leader, promising "I'll get the job done" was in contrast to Brown promising inclusiveness and consensus.

The second reason was Brown and his campaign got better as time went on while Banks and his campaign fell apart. After Brown's self-flagellation over his credit card misuse the informed money was on a Banks win.

Fortunately Brown employed heavyweight advice and didn't put a foot wrong from then.

The third and probably the most important factor was Rodney Hide's role. His arrogance during the creation of the new city and his appointment of political and corporate cronies on to the council-controlled organisations didn't fool anyone about what his agenda was.

His actions terrified enough Aucklanders to come out in huge numbers to vote against Banks and the Act and National Party-aligned candidates.

The election of Brown and a centre-left dominated new council spells the end of Hide's corporate privatisation agenda. The good people of Auckland can breathe a sigh of relief.

I give it to Banksie, he fought a great fight. But it was a knockout and it's his last campaign.

There was another significant knockout to the right-wing on Saturday, too.

The conservative establishment was routed. The days of the Citizens and Ratepayers machine are over.

Their senior people - such as Dick Quax and Doug Armstrong - went down and Noeline Raffills barely survived.

Most of the C&R survivors, like Christine Fletcher and George Wood, are centrists.

Surprisingly, the right across the region ran a dreadful campaign, with cracks and splits all over the place. The future for the conservatives is with the likes of Cameron Brewer.

Unlike the old C&R fossils, the new councillors will be less ideological and will work co-operatively across the political aisle.

That should make for a harmonious and successful council.

The other heavyweight ending his career in defeat was Jim Anderton in the Christchurch mayoralty.

Everyone assumed he'd romp home and due to criticism of double dipping Anderton grudgingly allowed the Labour Party to select his Wigram replacement.

Then the earthquake happened and it took him down.

Not only did he lose the mayoralty, he will no longer be an MP this time next year. Like Banks, his career ended yesterday, too.

However, one politician came back from the dead yesterday. Thousands of winning candidates through the country will be thrilled by their success but the happiest surely must be someone who wasn't even standing: Labour leader Phil Goff.

Not only has his irritating nemesis Chris Carter finally accepted the inevitable and surrendered, Brown and the progressives' victory in the Supercity give Labour and Goff new hope for next year.

- Herald on Sunday

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