Weirdest sight of the recent post-election jostling must have been Green-left Auckland regional councillor Joel Cayford bursting into a meeting of his right-wing foes at the Auckland Chamber of Commerce, bearded face aglow from his bike ride down from ARC House, announcing he was there to lead them to victory. But I'm getting slightly ahead of myself.
You may have noticed that Dr Cayford's name was strangely absent from yesterday's announcement that the ARC would be governed by a grand coalition of the left and the right over the next three years. The chairman, the left's Mike Lee, will remain in office, with the leader of the right, Chamber of Commerce chief executive Michael Barnett, his new deputy. The seven committee chairmanships and deputy roles will be shared among the 11 other councillors - all getting one or more posts. Except, that is, for Dr Cayford, who for the past three years has been chairman of the powerful transport committee.
Dr Cayford, who has a PhD in computational atomic physics, advertises himself on his election website as a "rocket scientist", so it should have come as no surprise to him to discover that when you try to play both sides off against the other in a game as deadly as politics, the chances of getting hurt are high.
His desire to be king was no secret. He'd signalled to Mr Barnett before last weekend's vote count not to pigeon-hole him in the left camp and that he didn't like Mr Lee's chairmanship style. With the votes in, he took his chance. The right emerged with six councillors, the left, Dr Cayford included, with seven. At a meeting of the victors at councillor Sandra Coney's waterfront apartment on Sunday morning, Dr Cayford made his bid, refusing to endorse Mr Lee for the chairmanship and broadly hinting himself as the left's alternative. No one else agreed. That left Mr Lee and Mr Barnett with six votes apiece and one maverick at large.
Without telling his old allies, Dr Cayford then invited himself to the right's caucus the next day at the Chamber of Commerce. He arrived in jeans and crinkled shirt, bike helmet under one arm, something of a contrast to the immaculately groomed Tories he was trying to win over. He was instantly off on the wrong foot by congratulating his fellow North Shore councillor Christine Rankin for her win, then twitting her for misspelling "bureaucracy" in her campaign literature.
No slouch herself at the put-down, the former Department of Work and Income boss noted archly that regardless of her spelling abilities, she had scored 4000 more votes than he had on her first time out.
After an address about the need for more inclusive governance, he was asked what his price would be for becoming seventh member of the Tory camp. He said he wanted to be Number One, the leader!
When they'd recovered, he was politely told they would get back to him. As he departed, one veteran councillor said if he became chairman, "there'll be a byelection, I'll resign". Ms Rankin added, "Make that two byelections. So will I."
Later that night and no phone call forthcoming, Dr Cayford rang to discover his fate. Mr Barnett told him his price had been too high. The next morning, Dr Cayford was waiting at Mr Lee's door when he arrived at work to seek forgiveness and pledge his troth once more to the left. It was too late. The two sides had stitched up a coalition deal that left him homeless.
It's no doubt cold comfort to Dr Cayford, but by holding both sides to ransom for his vote, he left neither with a clear majority, forcing them into the coalition-type governance structure he had been advocating. He was pushing for informal caucuses of all councillors, and for shared decision making, both of which are part of the new coalition agreement.
Ever the optimist, Dr Cayford says he "still hopes to make a continuing leadership contribution and [that] my fellow councillors have time to consider what's best for the region".
He might also be pondering the ode to leadership he's posted on the opening page of his website. "Excellence in leadership is the result of caring more than others think wise, risking more than others think safe, dreaming more than others think practical, and expecting more than others think possible."