Is the new rule that anyone holding public office who has an affair must resign? Come on. That’s setting the bar ridiculously high. It would mean resignations in parliament and in councils across the country.

I don’t want our politicians to be super human, different to the rest of us. I do expect them to be honest, good at the job, and politically courageous. The prurient focus of some outraged bloggers and journalists while they salivate over the sordid details of this affair is nothing short of voyeuristic. For others it’s political maliciousness, posing as moral outrage. 

Who Len brown sleeps with or what he likes to do in the bedroom is nothing to do with me or you, as long as he hasn’t broken the law. I do care what he plans to do about Auckland’s transport problems or the looming housing crisis.

The only people who deserve an apology are his wife and family. He has hurt them, not the voters of Auckland. I think less of him as a man for this affair, but that’s got nothing to do with his role as mayor.

And those who say - ‘ah, but he has sinned against Aucklanders because he had sex on council property.’ Would it have been morally more acceptable if he’d had the affair in the marital home? Or in  a Council park? A public toilet? 

Let his family hold him to account. The rest of us should back off. 

Plenty of politicians have survived sex scandals in the impossibly moral world of US politics; David Vitter, the junior senator from Louisiana whose phone records revealed calls to D.C Madam in 2007 survived; Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa of LA remained in office despite an affair with a reporter. Bill Clinton was impeached but not fired.

It’s random  - who survives a sex scandal and who doesn’t. Truth is, if we like you, your chances are much higher. 

Here’s a rough guide on how Len can survive:

  • Fess up straight away. Front the media. This is exactly what Len did. So far so good.
  • Don’t make excuses. Don’t try and blame anyone else (the other woman, the other side, the media).
  • Focus on your family first. Put yourself at their mercy. Try and get your wife on board. If she is prepared to forgive you, so will voters.
  • For the next few months, front the issue at every public meeting, and do as many of those as you can so Aucklanders know you have the courage to front them too.
  • Be a nice guy.  According to the same New York Times blog, that’s what got Eliot Spitzer. Not the addiction to call girls, but that fact that he was charmless. People didn’t like him. Same with the John Edwards affair. The general belief that he was an egocentric narcissist, and how the affair played into that narrative proved fatal for his presidential bid, rather than the fact of the affair itself.
  • Say you’re sick. A sexual addiction made you do it. Or alcohol. If you can’t patholigise it, turn it into an uncharacteristic accident. ‘One thing led to another...’

The only caveat to this is the law. If you’ve broken any big laws, there’s no way out. Resign and move aside. Eliot Spitzer’s use of prostitutes was illegal. That’s what got him.

And luckily for Len we don’t think that the Auckland Council is bedeviled with loose morals  and corrupt politicians. So he doesn’t become a symbol of a greater sin, which would bring him down. It helps that he has never campaigned on morals. One thing voters hate more than anything is hypocrisy. 

That, and prurient media deciding to bring a politician down based on a moral test card some great public figures, including journalists would fail.


Comments (10)

by Judy on October 16, 2013

As I was sayin' to Tim:   "  by Judy on October 16, 2013Judy

Your take on Palino standing a better second election chance if Brown won and then stood down is interesting. 

There is also the likelihood that now the anti-Brown councillors will try to engineer Chairmanships that then control the strategic CCOs like Transport, Watercare, Finances, Properties which were why Brown was certainly voted in to continue; i.e. stop asset sales, (esp. water privatisation or contracting out) by government, not safe under Key's protegee Palino, and damage or reverse any progressive public transport initiatives.

Shame on Brown for giving both Slaters and Key ammunition to control his actions if they are not successful in taking him out.  Brown was never the government's choice.

Money and Power are the game here; lust is just a tool to try to destroy someone ALL Aucklanders need to progress their city. No one else will do, currently.

Shame on Key for orchestrating this 'game'.  "

by Andrew Osborn on October 16, 2013
Andrew Osborn

Judy: "Shame on Key for orchestrating this 'game'. "

Shame on you for suggesting that

by Tim Watkin on October 16, 2013
Tim Watkin

I don't necessarily disagree, but this raises questions... Can we make no moral judgments about our leaders? Must we always vote according to the professional and political? Is the law the only line of unacceptable behaviour? What about a lie or cheating on the horses or not telling when you run over the neighbour's cat or something? Is the hypocrisy of a family man of faith having an affair not a political double standard worth debating?

And if we expect full disclosure, should we only expect it when they get caught?

by Judy on October 16, 2013

Andrew; Key is a master manipulator and if you cannot consider the possibility of his fingers in the Palino, Slater, Slater, show (he did shoulder tap Palino) then shame on your political naivety.

by Steve F on October 17, 2013
Steve F

Everyone seems to have an opinion on where to draw the line in these sad and salacious events and that line shifts from one end of the private/public business divide to the other. 

But the  line is erased altogether when you consider what any politician opens themself up to when the details are NOT made can imagine Len receiving this text.....


" hi len u ratbg u brk mi hrt, i wnt u 2 ensur i get on dat comitee and i wnt yr vote 4 me in anythg i ask or i spill all d beans, and u will not b mayor much longer."


That is exactly why these actions are completely unacceptable in political life. Its nothing to do with anyone's moral goalposts, whether its his private life or public life. If a politician is able to  maneuver himself into a position to be blackmailed, then it is all over red rover in my opinion. 


by Josie Pagani on October 17, 2013
Josie Pagani

Cheating at gambling, I'm pretty sure that is breaking a law (Andrew?). Running over the family cat and not telling? So are we now asking anyone who stands for political office to be impossibly super human? Never lie, cheat in an exam or say means things about someone. I don't want my public representatives to be so unlike the rest of us they can no longer look like us. And I reject the idea that if you have faith you must therefore be without sin, or you're a hypocrite. Even the Pope says he has sinned. Isn’t being a christian about aspiring to to be the best person you can be - the person you’re meant to be  - and repenting when you inevitably let yourself and others down? Sin doesn’t make him any less a man of faith. It makes him human. I’m not excusing what Len did, I’m just saying it shouldn’t impact on his role as mayor - unless he’s broken the law. Let him prove his character in his actions as mayor.

by Chris on October 17, 2013

I hope that Len will ultimately find solace in the Christian community,  forgiven sinners who know that they live and grow day to day by God's grace.  No pedistals for anyone pretending that they're holy.  Nor any need to justify, downplay, deflect or ignore the significance of cheating and lying, as so many seem to be doing.   The guy needs compassion, not exoneration.

Should Len Brown resign?  Not sure.  But Josie's requirements for a politician are that they are honest, good at the job and politically courageous.   It is naive to suggest that Len's chronic deceit of those closest to him, poor judgement, self interest, and inability to face his failings until forced are irrelevant to his qualification to be mayor.   The issue is not public vs private, but whether his actions reflect on his ability to do the job.  They do.  We all have our failings and Len shouldn't be written off.  But let's not pretend that who Len sleeps with is nothing to do with me or you.

by Barry McDonald on October 18, 2013
Barry McDonald

I am disappointed in Len Brown, but also mystified how this kept silent so long.

I am particularly disappointed because this time I voted for Len Brown (as did at least three other members of my family, on my recommendation). This was remarkable because I have never voted for a left-wing politician before.  But this time I believed Len Brown was an experienced person of good character whereas the alternative Palino was an unknown quantity to me, and I couldn't really tell from his publicity what he was like or would do.

(The reason I never voted Left before is not because I think left-wingers are necessarily worse people, but just that every left-winger seems to be focussed on spending money they don't have, and then forcing other people to pay for it.  The current steep rise in debt by Auckland Council, and the mountainous spending plans of Len Brown, almost compelled me to vote centre-right instead. However I decided to let my heart rule my head and to vote on what I thought was proven character. Now I find I was wrong.) 

So Len Brown had feet of clay. Of course so do we all, one way or another. There has been a lot of focus on the sex, and the Left have reacted with fury, focussing on the whistleblowers. (Actually I would like to know where were the people who knew about this affair for so many months, but remained silent until after the election. Were they deliberately skewing the public choice? Shame!) To my mind focussing on either the sex or the whistleblowers misses the main point: that voters have been misled.

To me it is not so much that he had an affair – as plenty of commentators note, this is all too common.  It's that Len persisted in it for a very long time and it has obviously been covered up, and he has acted with hypocrisy. Some people argue that this is a personal and family matter and nothing to do with politics. Garbage. That might possibly be argued for someone on a party list, but when you are standing as an Independent then your character is obviously vital for someone deciding whether to vote for you. Even on a party list, character can be one's undoing, as Aaron Gilmour exemplifies. (I don’t remember the Left standing back from that character scandal).

Yes Len needs forgiveness and reconciliation with his own family first, but Len definitely owes an apology to the people of Auckland as well – especially those who were misled by hypocrisy. John Campbell talked about the Christian community in South Auckland who would be distressed by the adultery – this is true but I think if Len had confessed it a decent length of time before the election there would have been forgiveness for feet of clay – provided there was humility and apology (forgiveness is not equal to licence). Then the Christian community might well have rallied round and re-elected him.  But Len held silent for so long, promoting himself as one thing while doing another, and repeated the liaison in July at the threshold of the election. That was deliberately misleading the electorate, and misleading is definitely a political matter that the public has a right to judge on. Left-wingers will say “look he admitted it on TV so that is the end of it”. But would he ever have admitted his hypocrisy if he hadn't been outed?

Should Len resign and seek a fresh mandate?  It would be the honourable thing to do but I won't hold my breath. I think at the moment people would not trust him, and he will be scared of losing his job.  And unfortunately the first rule in politics is caveat emptor – let the buyer beware. I and the other voters of Auckland are partly to blame for trusting him.  I suspect mayor len brown will retain power without glory.

I am very aware of human frailty including my own. But I will not vote for someone who says that private morality has no place in politics.  I disagree with John Key who said the affair was simply "a matter for Len Brown and his family". And I equally disagree with Josie’s "The only people who deserve an apology are his wife and family. He has hurt them, not the voters of Auckland. I think less of him as a man for this affair, but that’s got nothing to do with his role as mayor." Rubbish. He misled voters and has lost trust and respect. I truly hope he can turn his life around and rebuild it.

by Andrew Osborn on October 18, 2013
Andrew Osborn

Judy: Fact is Len was caught with his trousers down. As Barry quite rightly said, it's amazing he kept it quiet so long. As to how you can make the PM out as the bad guy when Brown effectively shot himself in the foot, I don't know. Blinkered vision or a tin foil hat?

Why does it matter? It matters because, like his inability to keep his council credit card in his pocket when at Manukau, it brings into question his self-discipline. If he can't control control himself, can we expect him to control the Auckland budget?

by Richard Clark on October 20, 2013
Richard Clark

Simple ancient philosophy . . . . Principles above Personalities.

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