Brian Edwards: That mayor culpa had better be all, Len

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Auckland Mayor Len Brown. Photo / Michael Craig
Auckland Mayor Len Brown. Photo / Michael Craig

A quarter of a century ago, after I'd got into a bit of strife, my lawyer, the late Mike Bungay, QC, gave me this advice: "You're a public figure, Brian, so if you want to stay out of trouble, just don't do anything else wrong." Len Brown is in something more than a bit of trouble, and I'd give him the same advice Mike gave to me.

Faced with this immediate crisis, however, the Auckland mayor's only option was to be straightforward, tell the truth and admit the error of his ways.

It seems to me that's more or less what he's done. But the "more or less" may be the sticking point.

In a crisis like this, involving personal morality, "more or less the truth" wasn't enough; it had to be the whole truth and nothing but the truth. And it had to come from Brown himself and not piecemeal from people who wanted to bring him down or from his former mistress, who appears to have no idea that silence can be golden.

Brown began well on Campbell Live, though he spent too much time talking up his record as Mayor of Auckland. It was as if he'd forgotten that personal integrity is the sine qua non for the job.

His problem now lies with the media, the blogosphere and his former mistress drip-feeding fresh details of the affair with some salacious new titbit emerging every day - the hotel room bookings; the complex subterfuge with the key; hotel staff or management not merely aware of this reckless endeavour, but supposedly complicit in turning a blind eye to it; the glowing reference he gave Bevan Chuang for a council position ... There will no doubt be more to come, each new revelation serving to keep the issue alive.

Brown's problem today is perhaps less the disconnect between his previous, largely self-cultivated image of decency and high moral standards and the pictures these detailed revelations paint in the public mind. Such pictures are difficult to erase and they are corrosive.

The mayor's only option now is to ride it out. Public figures are allowed only one mea culpa. Brown delivered his on Campbell Live and if it wasn't the whole truth and nothing but the truth, he's stuck with it. Further revelations, further apologies, further explanations and further endorsements from friends and family can only make things worse.

So my advice would be: keep calm, carry on and say nothing you're not compelled to say under law. It's largely out of your hands now.

One thing a life in media teaches you is that with time the public lose interest, their memory fades, mistakes and indiscretions are forgotten and some even forgiven.

The newly re-elected Mayor of Auckland's best hope is that national amnesia sets in sooner rather than later.

- NZ Herald

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