I have spoken with Desley Simpson and she tells me that she met Phil Goff in a café in Orakei, so the discussions were not being held behind closed doors. They discussed purely Orakei Local Board issues. Goff then asked to be taken around the ward to look at assets and projects that are part of the ongoing Orakei Local Board Plan. There was no discussion about the Mayoralty or any position Desley might or might not take in a future Auckland Council.
It seems NBR have been given information second hand and jumped to conclusions not warranted by the meeting. End of.
What is apparent is that Goff is doing his homework about the state of play in Auckland and taking an interest in Local Board matters. This alone would make a welcome change from the Len Brown’s mayoralty.
The most we can infer from the Goff/Simpson meeting is that Goff is serious about making a bid to replace Brown.
My original blog follows.
The answer is yes according to an article in today’s NBR. It says that the National Party has done a deal with Labour that sees former Labour leader Phil Goff being given the Mayoralty with National Party Chair of the Orakei Local Board, Desley Simpson, becoming the Deputy.
The trouble with these sorts of alliances is that in the end nobody is pleased. Not Labour, not National, not even those who want to see a Council get back to core values and reduce rates and debt.
Auckland is a mess and whoever inherits the Brown legacy and continues his crackpot projects will earn no respect whatsoever.
Pact with Nats makes Mayor Goff a done deal
Phil Goff appears to be putting together pact with National that should see him as a shoo-in for Auckland Mayor.
In NBR's print edition today, Sally Lindsay broke the news that Mr Goff (by one insider's account) has met with Desley Simpson, chairwoman of the National Party-aligned Orakei board and wife of National Party president Peter Goodfellow.
NBR understands the MP and former Labour leader broached the possibility of Ms Simpson taking the deputy mayor role if they ran on a joint ticket. The Labour front-bencher and former leader is widely expected to run for Auckland Mayor as an independent.
At the same time, Mark Thomas has emerged as the main centre-right Mayoral candidate to take on the incumbent Len Brown at next year's election.
The low-profile Mr Thomas has already served as a dupe candidate for National on two occasions during general elections, including an ultimately unsuccessful manoeuvre to deliver Wellington Central for ACT.
The conspiracy theory is that the Nats prefer the centralist, technocratic Mr Goff to a mayor further to the left, especially at a time when there is no obvious candidate on the right. According to one insider, Bill English sees the former Labour leader as a super city mayor who could be controlled.
"If it is true that Phil Goff is entering into some sort of alliance with National Party figures, then it’s a smart move," Otago University political scientist Dr Bryce Edwards tells NBR ONLINE.
"It will essentially make his victory almost inevitable.
"Goff is already positioning himself as a relatively centrist candidate for the mayoralty, and by gaining some sort of National Party endorsement – even if it’s indirect – this will shore up his support amongst more conservative Auckland voters," Dr Edwards says.
A Goff-Simpson pact would also have the effect of blocking the emergence of any strong right wing challenger from the National Party, or elsewhere.
"It is likely to destroy any chances of Maurice Williamson from entering the race. Although there’s always the possibility of a right wing maverick candidate getting some support on the basis of opposing what might be seen as an unprincipled 'stitch up," Mr Edwards says.
Mr Goff is likely to have a monopoly on left and liberal voters in Auckland, and this will deliver him enough voters from the centre and right to make his campaign unstoppable, Dr Edwards says.
"Of course he will forfeit some left wing support if he’s seen as being 'in bed' with National, but not enough to worry him. He’s already viewed on the left as being pragmatic and moderate, so it will hardly be a scandal if he’s seen to be working with National."
If some sort of Goff-National alliance is true, it really goes to indicate how weak the National Party and the political right is in Auckland, Dr Edwards says. At the last election, restaurant owner and reality TV B-lister John Paulino flew the flag for the centre right, gaining 108,928 votes to Len Brown's 164,338.
"It’s a sign that they’ve had to admit defeat on coming up with their own bona fide right wing candidate for mayor. But National Party pragmatists in government – Bill English and John Key, for example – might not be too bothered by this, and might be entirely comfortable working with the moderate and pragmatic Goff."
Phil Goff did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
I sense trouble ahead if NBR was read this right.The devil will be in the detail.