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Brian Rudman is a NZ Herald feature writer and columnist.

Brian Rudman: Sex, blogs and right-wing plots

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Former political Rasputin and his pick for mayor completely out of touch with plotting within campaign

John Slater says he has always played with a straight bat. Photo / Natalie Slade
John Slater says he has always played with a straight bat. Photo / Natalie Slade

Poor old John Slater. The one-time Rasputin of Auckland right-wing politics has suffered the fate all politicians dread. Ignored.

There was a time when nothing happened inside the National Party or its local body shadow, the Auckland Citizens and Ratepayers organisation, without Mr Slater's knowledge. Not any more.

This week, after the Len Brown scandal erupted forth from his son Cameron's blog, Mr Slater confessed to the Herald that his very own, hand-made Frankenstein had not bothered to consult him beforehand about it, or the ongoing dirty tricks campaign to try to bring Mayor Len Brown to his knees.

Mr Slater headed the campaign team for mayoral hopeful John Palino, yet his son, better known as right-wing blogger Whale Oil, had not briefed him on the sleaze bomb being prepared against the sitting mayor. A bomb designed to advantage Mr Palino more than anyone else.

The day the story broke, Mr Slater told Herald reporter Jared Savage, "I only became aware of this whole thing today. During the campaign, we had lots and lots of stuff coming forward, innuendo, suggestions, rumours. I said to John [Palino], 'Ignore all that, you don't have any evidence. Ignore it and concentrate on getting votes.' And that's what we did. I've always played with a straight bat."

If anything, it gets worse for the old veteran. The Palino campaign team was small. Yet throughout the campaign, Mr Slater failed to be informed or pick up on the fact that a key team member, Luigi Wewege, was not just sleeping with the mayor's on-again-off-again mistress, Bevan Chuang, but was also trying to cajole her into sabotaging the mayor's campaign by revealing all on Whale Oil's website.

Poor Mr Slater. There was a time when he would have picked up an innuendo at a thousand paces. There was a time when his underlings wouldn't have dared keep him out of the loop.

More to the point, no one on his team would have dared attempt such a dastardly and high-risk enterprise without his seal of approval. But no more.

Amid all this plotting and sleeping around, no one seems to have even noticed poor old Rasputin, propped up in the corner of the campaign HQ. Certainly not hot-blooded Luigi, who you would have thought would have been bragging over the teacups about his conquest and of the master-stroke plan he was working on to save Mr Palino's dying campaign.

Mr Wewege certainly put his heart and soul - and, dare I say, body - into the task, pleading and badgering Ms Chuang over Facebook to dish the dirt on her relationship with Mr Brown because "we need him out of office and a Pro Bevan [Chuang] person in!"

He later promised her that if she did do this for the Palino campaign, "you are fully protected! Baby I have everything set up people are just waiting for you." Yet at no time did Mr Wewege see the need to consult John Slater about the commitments he had made, or the political timebomb being primed on their candidate's behalf.

Unkindest cut of all was that even Cameron Slater, who has been steadily assuming his dad's role as Hammer of the Left, showed his filial gratitude by similarly treating his dad as an irrelevance. Indeed Whale Oil proudly told the Herald he consulted or forewarned neither his father nor Mr Palino. Poor, cast-off John Slater.

Mr Palino also comes out of this looking like a doofus. Like his campaign boss, he also says he had no knowledge of what was going on.

On one level, that's great news. Auckland doesn't need a mayor who uses dirty tricks and honey traps to win votes.

But that said, Mr Palino did declare on the campaign trail that while not a career politician, "I am far from being politically naive".

He also said he was a businessman and as a business is "how the city should be run".

Which does beg the question, if Mr Palino can't even keep track of what his tiny campaign team are up to, what does it say about his ability to keep on top of a business employing more than 8000 staff and an annual budget of $4.5 billion?

Debate on this article is now closed.

- NZ Herald

Brian Rudman

Brian Rudman is a NZ Herald feature writer and columnist.

Brian Rudman's first news story was for Auckland University student paper Outspoke, exposing an SIS spy on campus during the heady days of the Vietnam War. It resulted in a Commission of Inquiry and an award for student journalist of the year. A stint editing the Labour Party's start-up Auckland newspaper NZ Statesman followed. Rudman decided journalism was the career for him, but the NZ Herald and Auckland Star thought otherwise when he came job-hunting. After a year on the "hippy trail" overland to London, he spent four years on Fleet St with various British provincial papers. He then joined the Auckland Star, winning the Dulux Journalist of the Year award for coverage of the 1976 Dawn Raids against Polynesian overstayers. He has also worked on the NZ Listener, Auckland Sun, and since 1996, for the NZ Herald as feature writer and columnist. He has a BA in History and Politics.

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