It bemuses me the way the major political parties go to so much trouble to disguise their interest in running Auckland Council. Why wouldn't they want to control the powerhouse city of the New Zealand economy, home to a third of the population?
This week we learn a triumvirate of National Party presidents - past and present - have joined forces with two Auckland-based junior Cabinet ministers, Nikki Kaye and Paul Goldsmith, to mastermind a new front group, Auckland Future, set up to contest next year's local elections.
The presidents include sitting party boss Peter Goodfellow, long-time party Svengali Michelle Boag, and Sue Wood, who headed the party during Sir Robert Muldoon's tumultuous prime ministership.
Last month they hosted Prime Minister John Key at a fundraising event for the new ticket.
But when fronted by my colleague Bernard Orsman, they ducked for cover. It is as though they're ashamed of Brand National. Scared it will turn voters off.
Similarly, their Labour Party rivals are all over the place. In traditional working class areas like Whau, Maungakiekie and Manukau, Labour candidates are still proud to wear the party label.
Councillors Ross Clow (Whau) and Alf Filipaina (Manukau) are two successful examples.
But in the more trendy suburbs the left are more coy, hiding behind bland, apple-pie labels such as City Vision. That, of course, doesn't stop them borrowing Labour Party billboards and workers for the duration.
As for the National brand, that has never darkened a local poll. For local elections, supporters use smokescreens like Citizens and Ratepayers and in the last election, the disastrous nom de plume Communities and Residents.
The ridiculous excuse both sides use is that people don't want politics in local affairs.
To me, the pathetic 36 per cent turnout at the 2013 Auckland Council poll hints at the opposite.
Voters are busy people. They haven't the time to be bothered guessing between a gaggle of candidates, all hiding behind silly labels such as "independent", City Vision, West at Heart and now, Auckland Future.
Who can blame them. If wannabe councillors can't even be open and upfront with their brand name, why should voters waste time taking them seriously?
If Mr Goodfellow and his backroom plotters want to rule Auckland, then for goodness' sake, come out of the closet and present a National-labelled ticket and policy.
Who knows, it might encourage Labour and the Greens to present as a team and do the same.
To mark the fifth anniversary of the Super City, Mr Goodfellow and his fellow Futurists might also like to urge government allies to reform the Auckland political structure designed by their former Act Party ally Rodney Hide in his role as Minister of Local Government.
The plan was for an executive-style mayor, with presidential type powers, and a well-funded office to match. Elected councillors were to be kept in their place, with a role somewhere between consultant and rubber-stamp.
To help keep them docile, the mayor has a number of higher paying committee chairmanships in his gift.
He also has a $3.2 million personal office budget. These advantages put the mayor in a much more powerful position than his one vote on the council suggested. The lack of discipline that a strong party system would bring is an added advantage.
The cynics argue that National and their ally Mr Hide designed the system exactly with this outcome in mind.
The only flaw in their plan was they failed to find a credible candidate to represent the "right". The result was Labour-backed "independent" Len Brown stormed into office.
It can give National little joy to see senior Labour parliamentarian Phil Goff now limbering up to take over from Mr Brown in next year's election. With Mr Goff so centrist he'll draw votes from across the political landscape, Auckland Future faces an uphill battle.
If National had been smart they would have taken a gamble and introduced a parliamentary system where the mayor is elected by councillors.
With the present council more or less evenly split between left and right, an electoral contest between two blocs might have just produced the result they crave. It would also have introduced a level of democracy so far lacking at Auckland Council.