The revelation that even key members of Mayor Len Brown's campaign team have urged him to step down at the next election has prompted a significant development. Former Labour Party leader Phil Goff, who has previously seemed little interested in the mayoralty, now says he is giving deep and serious consideration to running. His piqued attention is welcome. Mr Goff appeals as a figure who knows how things work in Auckland, is not captive to a tax-and-spend ideology, and would make a good ambassador for the city.
Mr Brown, in his heart of hearts, must know that he has no chance of being returned next year. He is tarred irrevocably not so much by his affair with council adviser Bevan Chuang but the litany of misjudgments that accompanied it. In that context, the "blunt message" from his advisers that he would receive no financial backing, political support or volunteer help in any campaign should have come as no real surprise. Already, those advisers have begun casting around for another left-leaning candidate.
Two people would have been at the top of their list - Mr Goff and the Deputy Mayor, Penny Hulse. Ms Hulse is limited by her relatively low profile outside West Auckland. Mr Goff has no such problem. His leadership of Labour and long tenure as the MP for Mt Roskill make him instantly recognisable. In terms of geographic spread, it helps also that he owns a property at Clevedon.
Mr Goff says that he has received approaches to stand for the mayoralty "from right across the community". That is unsurprising. Ideologically, he is on the right flank of the Labour Party, and has shown himself to be business-minded. There is nothing to suggest he could not work with councillors of all political persuasions. And if his period as Labour leader was not notable for any outpouring of charisma or ability to excite, there is more than sufficient compensation in his proven record in central government of developing, directing and driving policy initiatives. Appropriately, he currently speaks for Labour on Auckland issues. All this bodes well for the type of leadership that the city needs as it confronts a number of pressing issues, not least transport and housing.
His candidacy becomes the more welcome when other options are considered. On the right, former Act leader and Auckland City Mayor John Banks and Chamber of Commerce chief executive Michael Barnett have said they could run. A further term for Mr Banks, who is still fighting legal action associated with his 2010 mayoralty campaign, is unthinkable. And the name of Mr Barnett has been mentioned so often in this context that his time seems now to have passed.
Previously, Mr Goff has seemed keen on an overseas posting. That suggests he would feel comfortable in the ambassadorial role that is an important part of the mayoralty. His essential amiability is a further plus. He says that he has given an undertaking to those who have approached him to stand to consider it seriously. Those who sensed he would be a good option have the right instinct. It remains only for Mr Goff to acknowledge as much.