There's a clever saying commonly misattributed to Margaret Thatcher that if you have to tell people you're powerful, it proves you aren't.
The precise wording of that quote is no longer socially acceptable to be written here.
But it does hit on a truism that may explain the lack of high-profile candidates lining up to be the next mayor of Auckland.
The position has been described repeatedly over the past few weeks as the second most important job in New Zealand.
On paper, this seems at least plausible.
In many other international cities the role of mayor is merely a figurehead, but the current mayor, Phil Goff, presides over a $7 billion budget as the head of Auckland Council.
The Auckland economy generates 38 per cent of New Zealand's GDP.
It is responsible for delivering the 1.7 million people in Auckland with all roading outside highways, public transport, waste and stormwater, parks, libraries, community facilities and rubbish collection.
So you would think a line of prominent politicians and ambitious public figures would be clambering for that 27th storey Albert St mayoral office with panoramic views of the Hauraki Gulf.
Right now, since Goff officially announced on February 14 he won't be running for a third term, there isn't.
No disrespect to the people who have officially announced themselves as candidates, but they are niche in their appeal.
I am not suggesting this is a bad thing in itself.
The relative independence that comes with anonymity might actually be what is needed to guide the city out of the $13b of debt it will reach. (Think about the fact Auckland ratepayers will be faced with a targeted rate to help pay for the Government's $15b light rail project. A hell of a lot of non-Aucklanders will be using that route from the airport.)
But the current candidates do not have broad name recognition across Auckland, let alone nationally.
Auckland Councillor Efeso Collins from the South Auckland Manukau Ward is a member of the Labour Party.
A talented orator with intimate ties across the Auckland Pasifika community, Collins reportedly has a strangely coolish, even bordering on hostile, relationship with some in the Labour Party - which has not yet endorsed him - and some of his fellow councillors.
Auckland Central business association Heart of the City chief executive Viv Beck, will be a pro-business, centre-right candidate and endorsed by the Communities and Residents (C&R) local government party.
She is understood to be having her campaign backed by Auckland property developer Andrew Krukziener. Beck hasn't actually announced her candidacy yet but is understood to be a sure thing to do so in the coming weeks.
And there is also Leo Molloy, 65, the owner of Headquarters bar and restaurant in the Viaduct who is socially liberal and fiscally to the right.
Molloy has been a constant fixture of Auckland media headlines over the past few years, which he actively courts with attention-grabbing outbursts and stunts. Last year he was convicted for breaching name suppression for naming online the killer of British backpacker Grace Millane.
In 2020, he was fined $15,000 and banned from the racing industry for calling an official a "racist ****" online. Throw in a Covid end-of-lockdown party in 2020 at his Headquarters bar that raised eyebrows.
There are too many similar incidents to mention, but you get the picture.
A slightly cruel description of those three candidates came last week by one Labour source that: "If it becomes the tallest dwarf contest, then somebody could win with 23 per cent of the vote".
Contrast that with some of the people who've ruled out running: former Deputy PM Paula Bennett, former Defence Minister Mark Mitchell and former Labour leader David Shearer.
Even Auckland Councillor Richard Hills, 35, arguably has a larger profile than any of the three confirmed candidates through his unrelenting, pro-Labour social media presence and role as chairman of council's environment committee.
Hill is a new father and ruled out running on February 10 after much speculation and despite being heralded as Goff's protege of sorts.
You might say it's barely been a week for the major parties to front up a candidate, and such commentary on the lack of high-profile names is premature.
But speculation Goff would not campaign for a third term has been simmering since late last year.
And I have spoken to numerous councillors who've said they've been approached to pursue the mayoralty and turned it down.
"I don't think there will be [fresh high-profile candidates]," former Auckland mayor Christine Fletcher said.
"I think there are a lot of people who will not be willing to make the sacrifice to forgo personal lives to do that [job] unless there is something keeping them awake in the middle of the night to say 'you've got to do this'.
"Normally at this stage you would have whispers of, oh my goodness, Michael Barnett is interested - I'm not saying he is, but that type of thing. Or this one or that one. There's just nothing there."
The Labour Party has announced it's taking the unprecedented step of conducting an endorsement process to select a candidate it will officially back for the mayoral race in October's 2022 local government elections.
Labour Party president Claire Szabo indicated those interested in being awarded the party's endorsement were asked by Tuesday last week to have "forward[ed] their case via documentation".
The official jargon for the party endorsement process went as such:
"In the case of a contest, candidates will be able to present to members of the party's local government committee in Auckland and to interested party members from the area. Indicative votes and feedback from these engagements will go to the party's governing body, and will help in determining any endorsement."
Auckland Cr Chris Darby is not alone in being slightly bemused by this process.
"I don't think they've done that before, but it does raise the question in my mind: are Labour going to do that for Wellington, Christchurch, or Dunedin, Palmerston North, Rotorua, wherever else?" Darby said.
"Or is this just for Auckland because someone demanded it? I don't know. It seems pretty late to start a process like that. It feels like they're back filling because they've come under pressure but that's just my observation. National might be doing the same, I'm not sure.
"But other feedback I've got is National is focusing on rebuilding under Christopher Luxon and it's putting all its energy into trying to become a Government in waiting rather than be distracted by mayoralties."
Collins' fellow Manukau Ward Cr Alf Filipaina says he is waiting for the Labour Party endorsement before he follows with his own endorsement, "because that's the right thing to do".
"I don't know how many other people are going to ask for endorsements. There's a process to follow," he said.
But paradoxically, part of the reason the Labour Party needs to reconvene to settle on an accepted candidate, is part of the reason the role of Auckland mayor is compromised.
As Goff's huge success at the local body elections attests name recognition and political profile is a huge advantage for an election cycle that was only voted on by 35 per cent of the Auckland Region population in 2019.
The incumbent Goff won with 48 per cent of the vote in 2019, over John Tamihere with 22 per cent of the vote. In 2016, Goff won with 47 per cent of the of the vote over the right-leaning candidate Vic Crone who had 28 per cent of the vote.
There is so little engagement among voters at local government elections that both sides of politics are totally paranoid with splitting the vote of the left and right side of politics a given candidate might appeal to.
It is understood that Auckland Cr Desley Simpson has also been approached to run as mayor.
Simpson is chairwoman of the council's finance committee, the ward councillor for the wealthy right-leaning Ōrākei Ward and married to National Party president Peter Goodfellow.
But she would split the right vote with Beck.
Beck and Molloy will already be tussling to establish a base out of their small business credentials as Heart of the City CEO and long-standing Auckland restaurateur.
Collins is running regardless of Labour's endorsement, so if that party machine does front up another official candidate in a month's time that would equally split the left vote in the mayoral race.
The endorsement of a national political party is valuable in the access it provides to its party volunteers, which the campaigns costing hundreds of thousands of dollars desperately need.
But the question of what cost that party allegiance has in the mayor's capacity to be an independent voice for the region's interests has been raised by several Auckland councillors I spoke to this week.
Although the councillors differed vastly in their assessment of the job Goff did over his six years, all were in consensus that party politics has no place in Auckland Council or local government generally.
Deputy mayor Bill Cashmore said he's knocked back offers to run for mayor and will be stepping down as an Auckland councillor at the end of this local government cycle after consistently doing 60-80 hour weeks.
He said "I just don't think it's a positive step" to have party politics involved in the mayoral race.
"For the mayor, I'm going to look for the best person for the job. Not whether they belong to the Labour Party or National or Act or anything else. I just think that becomes a distraction," Cashmore said.
"Party politics need to be left at the door when you come into council. You're there to represent your community effectively and individually, and the party politics stuff I think, there's no place for it in local government, it just gets in the way. So endorsements from one party or the other, I don't think, are really helpful. What you really want are quality people with a wide ranging list of experiences."
Auckland Cr John Watson was particularly scathing of Goff's close ties to the Labour Government, which he believed compromised the interests of Auckland and created a dysfunctional governing body of 20 councillors.
Watson claims Goff's tenure as mayor has "really been more like a case of Auckland being run by a Minister out of Cabinet".
Goff was Labour Party leader from 2008-11, and held the Ministries of Justice, Foreign Affairs and Trade, Defence, in Helen Clark's Government.
"There's very close connections to the Government," Watson said.
"There's kind of a deficit of local democracy. I don't think the position of local boards has ever been more marginalised, in my experience. So the civic presence of the council, and the local voice has been all but lost.
"That's hasn't been helped by the style of mayoralty we've had. It's almost been like a Government within a Government. I think there's a chance for someone to rewrite the type of mayor that now comes to lead Auckland. Rather than an experienced political bureaucrat, you get someone who reaches out to the people a bit."
Watson claims Goff's allegedly in-group parliamentary style of governing has come with a rotating collection of faceless bureaucrats too.
"These people in the mayoral office, I'm a councillor and I would hard-pressed to know who they are. They come and go, they're responsible to the mayor, they work for him, there's a separation there," Watson said.
Cr Fletcher says she has "found that Phil is a man to bear grudges" and she draws it back to his partisan parliamentary style of political deal-making.
"He'll argue that he's working in a cross-party way but I don't even know what the party system's got to do with Auckland," Fletcher said.
"If I sound negative about Labour I don't want to be, it's just Labour have been far more strategically successful in harnessing the Auckland mayoralty as sort of their campaign headquarters for the Labour Party for general elections. You set the agenda for what the country will be considering."
Cr Wayne Walker equally has felt there hasn't been enough push back from Goff as the representative of Auckland Council against "changes the Government is foisting on Auckland".
Walker highlighted the controversial Three Waters reforms canvassed last year, which seek to cede control of all regional and district council water services to four new large-scale national water entities overseen by Government.
"I'm certain there are issues around light rail and the need for alternatives and funding, and the intensification that are being imposed on us by central government," Walker said.
"From my perspective, the serious problem we've had is a mayor, Phil Goff, who's obviously been Labour and really hasn't, in my opinion, provided the very genuine challenge to the Government that's been necessary."
But Cr Darby, who was part of Goff's inner circle and witnessed his interactions with Government ministers, disputes the mayor rolled over to the Government.
"If they're Labour-endorsed candidates they can't be acolytes to the Prime Minister and the Labour Party, and I don't believe Phil Goff has been that sort of mayor either," Darby says.
"Even though he has that lineage back to the Labour Party and he still is a Labour Party member I believe. But if you look at [how] Phil has led the city in responding to Three Waters I can tell you the Labour Government is none too happy on the 'Labour mayor's' response. Phil's pretty damn tough on some of the ministers.'
Equally Cashmore, a member of the National Party, disputes Goff has been rigidly partisan and uncollaborative in his tenure.
"I didn't know Phil before he stood to be mayor other than what I'd seen [of] him as a Labour Party leader," he said.
"I've got to know Phil and he's a pretty determined guy. He listens and he works really hard. As long as you get people around him to say 'these are the options, I recommend you go this way, or that way' he'll listen to that. Him and I haven't agreed on everything, but we've mostly sorted out problems in a manner that we can sort of have a laugh afterwards."
Cashmore also redirected the criticism of an uncollaborative approach to council voting and debate back onto the mayor's detractors.
"I think you've got to look at the people who are the naysayers and say is that Phil's fault? Or is it those people's fault for not having a better argument or a more honest discussion?" Cashmore said.
"That would be my challenge to those folks. Because I've seen people clash with Phil and he's gone, 'okay, let me think about that'. He's open to ideas as long as they're constructive. But people just want to tear you to pieces for the sake of tearing you to pieces because they think it makes them look good."
But what of the true power of the mayor and whether the role is a bit of a toothless tiger in a legislative sense?
Several councillors all independently raised the fact that the mayor only has one vote around Auckland Council's governing body table - just as much influence as any of the other 20 councillors.
"You've got quasi-Presidential powers through the legislation but you don't have the quasi-executive powers because you've got to make things happen by votes around the table. That's the trick," Cashmore says.
Cr Simpson says considering the uncertainty around the new makeup of the governing body - with the mayor and at least three sitting councillors not running in the October elections - many potential mayoral candidates may be uneasy about the balance of power.
"I think a lot of people have looked at the mayoralty but when they see that they only come to the table with one vote," Simpson said.
"A very big part of the success of the mayor is getting buy-in from the people who are sitting around the table, and you've got a lot of retirements.
"You look at who's not standing again and what would that do [to] the political colour around the table? Would it make it more right-leaning or left-leaning if the seat was won by this person?"
So, is it really more of an impression of power the Auckland mayoralty holds than actual influence?
Or maybe it holds a huge amount of potential power and influence, which can only be cultivated with constant appeasement to conflicting sides - your fellow councillors and, presumably, the national political party that helped get you there.
Implied in many of the comments from councillors on the role of mayor it was hard to not get the impression the job was a constant uphill battle - with little public recognition or full authority within council doors.
"Phil puts in 80 hours a week. It's a long, tough, hard gig, and you get no thanks. So it builds up the leather on your back," Cashmore said.
"No one rings you up to say 'hey, thank you, you did a great job' but they'll ring you up and scream and yell at you if a rubbish truck doesn't pick up their rubbish because it's overflowing.
"I think personally it would just knock you to shreds. So why people aren't putting their hand up? I think people recognise it's just such a challenging job. And the constant negativity that's driven around local government.
"There are people out there who would make excellent mayors in the private sector but they don't want to do it. And I think that's largely because they don't want to get associated with the negativity."
Darby echoed this, and offered some advice for all those who have already, or are about to, throw their hat in the ring.
"I've had people approach me but I do not get a quickly inflated sense of who I am and what I'm capable of just because half a dozen people approach you and say 'oh you should put your hand up Chris'," Darby said.
"This is an enormous job, it is a massive job. Once you go past the Prime Minister and maybe the Minister of Finance, this is a task that has not just that enormous responsibility to lead the city of Auckland, but it's how you lead it.
"Let the best of big ideas and new pathways triumph at the next Auckland mayoral election and not allow it to descend into a contest of personalities and shallow eloquence."