The Dim-Post

October 26, 2013

Two dumb things

Filed under: media,Politics — danylmc @ 2:41 pm

The Herald interviews David Lewis, ex-press secretary to Helen Clark and current press sec for Len Brown and wonders if he is as amazing at his job as Malcolm Tucker, the terrifying spin doctor from The Thick of It. Which is something you hear a bit around political circles: ‘He’s a real Malcolm Tucker’, said of various powerful staffers, and its always annoyed me because one of the running gags of The Thick of It is that Malcolm Tucker is terrible at his job. The plot of almost every episode involves Tucker bullying and screaming at Ministers and their staff, which causes them to do something  stupid which turns into a public relations catastrophe for the government. It’s a bit weird that people in politics might watch that show, see Tucker screaming and swearing himself into disaster after disaster and think he’s someone to be emulated. Most successful press secretaries seem to work by building relationships. Lewis does seem to have done a fine job advising Brown through his sex-scandal, although outwitting John Palino, Luigi Wewege and the Slaters doesn’t seem like a very high bar to clear.

Anyway, also related to the Len Brown scandal is this article on Stuff:

Employment relations experts have weighed in on the Len Brown case, with some saying if he was employed as a chief executive on one of New Zealand’s major listed companies he would be fired.

Susan Hornsby-Geluk, partner at Dundas Street Employment Law said there would be a “strong likelihood” that Brown would be asked to stand down by the board of directors if the same behaviour occurred in a private company, more so if he led a public department.

It’s unlikely Brown would be fired if he was a CEO, relationships between executives and staff being a routine feature of corporate life. But certainly in the case of some equivalent-sized scandal his board would have offered him a huge sum of money to step down, and he’d probably have taken it. Likewise, if Brown was a Minister he’d have offered his resignation as a Minister and he’d be spending a year or so on the back bench before being reinstated. If the scandal was a little bit worse he might even resign as an MP for the good of his party. The point being that in any of those scenarios the person stepping down gets something: either some money or their old job back, or even just the goodwill of the party for doing the right thing. If Brown steps down from the mayoralty he gets nothing. Instead he just hands a huge political victory to his enemies. And the other huge difference between CEOs, Ministers and Mayors is that you can simply replace a CEO or a Minister. The new Mayor only happens through another election, and the public really don’t seem to want to go there.


  1. When someone is compared to Tucker what springs to mind for me is “fear” and “control”. And wonder how many skeletons in the closet he knows about and can rattle…

    The politicians Tucker spun for were pretty terrible. Hard to imagine them *not* effing up.

    Comment by MeToo — October 26, 2013 @ 3:02 pm

  2. Who says the public doesn’t want another election?
    I’m not averse to it, no drama at all. At least now we’ll know who Brown is and can make a call based on the fact we know he’s had at least two affairs while twice married and that he at best duplicitous and at worst a serial liar and a compulsive cheater. This is not a random one night stand it’s a full blown 2 year deception, get your geisha girl a job, and cart her around to council functions type thing.
    Bring on another election I say.

    Comment by Yabby. — October 26, 2013 @ 3:14 pm

  3. That ’employment relations experts’ don’t grasp that a Mayor is like the Board Chair rather than the CEO is another reflection of our nation’s woeful understanding of governance.

    Comment by Sacha — October 26, 2013 @ 4:46 pm

  4. Isn’t the gag that Tucker isn’t very good at his ostensible job (i.e making his current boss look good) but very good at his real job, which is to maintain his, and his mates’, positions at the heart of the system?

    I think it’s a pretty backhanded compliment in general.

    Comment by Keir Leslie — October 26, 2013 @ 5:23 pm

  5. Len says this is a private matter, so why are any spin doctors involved at all?


    Comment by JC — October 26, 2013 @ 5:38 pm

  6. I note that Luigi Wewege has fled the country. What a shame. after his photo shoots with most
    of the top pollies we need him back to stand for Mayor or even the PM

    Comment by bosun — October 26, 2013 @ 8:19 pm

  7. As the Cameron Slater of the left, your “argument” is getting desperate…

    “It’s unlikely Brown would be fired if he was a CEO” Actually its very likely.

    “relationships between executives and staff being a routine feature of corporate life” not really, most are too busy.

    ‘in the case of some equivalent-sized scandal his board would have offered him a huge sum of money to step down” that’s the public service, you are confused.

    “If Brown steps down from the mayoralty he gets nothing.” That’s because he is otherwise unemployable.

    You really dont understand Auckland at all.

    Comment by grant — October 26, 2013 @ 8:25 pm

  8. Danyl just stick to your day job as a humble Vic Uni employee. You’e out of your depth here. Auckland is not something you really understand.

    Comment by John — October 26, 2013 @ 8:36 pm

  9. Given the above comments who the hell would want Auckland, let alone understand it.

    Comment by peterlepaysan — October 26, 2013 @ 8:43 pm

  10. You really dont understand Auckland at all.

    Oh, yes – Auckland … that alien landscape of strange visions and baffling happenings. The rest of us call it “otherworld” – a place where reds become blues, walking turns into a dance, and screaming monsters fall from boiling clouds to seize horses from the streets and carry them away to their nests, where their young rapaciously rend and devour the equine flesh.

    Guide us, oh wise grant, through its different and confusing ways, so we foolish outsiders can understand what the future holds for that baffling figure whomst thou calls “mayor” (for the moment, anyway)?

    Comment by Flashing Light — October 26, 2013 @ 8:44 pm

  11. Beltway boys bickering eh flash

    Comment by bart — October 26, 2013 @ 9:24 pm

  12. “one of the running gags of The Thick of It is that Malcolm Tucker is terrible at his job”

    Remember when he displaced Nick Hanway to become Tom’s minder? Or when he sabotaged Julius Nicholson’s bid to be Foreign Secretary? Hard to see these as failures.

    Comment by Hugh — October 26, 2013 @ 9:48 pm

  13. Two points: 1) It would seem those who claim to ‘understand Auckland’ don’t actually understand South Auckland, Len’s power base, at all. Moreover, Len is very safe even if he has to stand for reelection.
    2) Malcolm Tucker was brilliant at political management, it was just that he was never in charge at a time where there was also a competent leader. His first one quit on a whim, throwing the party into disarray, and his second one was a standby to keep the likes of Ben Swain out until such time that Dan Miller could take over. I don’t think its a coincidence that this is mirrored in British politics, Tony Blair had Alistair Campbell to rely on, while Gordon Brown had no such allies to keep his media presence strong.

    Comment by alex — October 26, 2013 @ 10:30 pm

  14. Danyl rightly dismantles the resignation myth. ‘Banks (Nick Smith, Dunne, whoever) resigned so Brown should too’ is one of the more idiotic lines of the past week. All of them have stayed on in Parliament.

    The last prominent elected representative to be forced (i.e politically, not legally) to resign and cause a by-election was Pansy Wong. Before her … who?

    Generally, they stay because they can. If her seat had been marginal and National had had their current majority, Wong would have clung on too. But back then she was expendable, therefore she was expended.

    Comment by sammy 2.0 — October 26, 2013 @ 11:24 pm

  15. not really, most are too busy

    Thanks so much, grant. Best belly-guffaw I’ve enjoyed all week. Look at the polls, old boy. And admit your heart’s not really in it.

    Comment by ak — October 26, 2013 @ 11:47 pm

  16. Malcolm Tucker is Alistair Campbell which is why we think his berating and hating is hilariously successful. As for the first three comments who try to say you don’t know AK they’re wrong. AK supports Brown’s polices and is willing to overlook his transgressions for the sake of finally sorting out this effing city.

    You may hear the far right wing whinge but that’s cos they have no other leg to stand on. They lost the election in a grand style and are clutching at anything to save them from public fucking transport.

    Comment by nigelsagentinthefield — October 27, 2013 @ 2:40 am

  17. Like the man said: ‘Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.’ (Samuel Johnson).

    Comment by Lee C — October 27, 2013 @ 6:26 am

  18. It’s true that outwitting Palomino WeeWee and Slug is not a high bar, but I think Brown’s main protagonist here is the NZ Herald, who appear determined to drag every possible bit of entertainment out of the debacle well past it’s use-by date.

    When the story originally broke I assumed it was a case of right-wing-rag-jumping-on-left-wing-foolishness, but in hindsight I think Herald has simply been pushing it’s ratings by intentionally drip-feeding us a soap opera, starting from a straightforward sex scandal developing through a cast of the murky political underworld.

    Comment by Ralph — October 27, 2013 @ 9:17 am

  19. bosun: “I note that Luigi Wewege has fled the country.”

    Here I was being led to believe that Luigi Wewege was a vicious political operator, but it turns out I was completely wrong. Thanks to an honest, balanced analysis, we can now see that he’s nothing more than an innocent and politically naive soul, who did nothing more than pass on information.

    Shame on you, New Zealand, for chasing a bright young US-golfing-scholarship awardee from your shores, for no reason other than your irrational hostility towards those who immigrated here and obtained some success. He had friends as far as DC, he did, and now he may be lost to this country forever. A merciless and unfortunate victim of New Zealand’s tall poppy syndrome.

    Comment by izogi — October 27, 2013 @ 9:43 am

  20. Re not understanding Auckland – it’s candidates across the spectrum from Penny Bright to John Palino who don’t get it – Auckland is a region, not the central city. The big thing Brown has had in his favour is that he knows that Auckland does not equal the old Auckland City Council boundaries.

    Journalists, most living in Auckland central, don’t get this either.

    Comment by MeToo — October 27, 2013 @ 9:43 am

  21. @Izogi: Sarcasm?

    Comment by alex — October 27, 2013 @ 10:04 am

  22. I guess so. That linked Herald piece was hillarious. Or very, very sad.

    Comment by izogi — October 27, 2013 @ 10:09 am

  23. “The point being that in any of those scenarios the person stepping down gets something: either some money or their old job back, or even just the goodwill of the party for doing the right thing. If Brown steps down from the mayoralty he gets nothing. ”

    That’s a lovely ends-justify-the-means non argument.

    Comment by Swan — October 27, 2013 @ 1:42 pm

  24. I have worked in large private sector organisations throughout my working life in four different countries (I have been CEO of two medium sized ones) and most of my close friends are successful in business. Based on that experience I believe that your assertion that “relationships between executives and staff being a routine feature of corporate life” is fatuous. Things may be different in the public sector in which case I apologise unreservedly.

    Comment by fred smith — October 27, 2013 @ 4:37 pm

  25. That’s a lovely ends-justify-the-means non argument.

    I think it’s meant to be a bit of a cynical, real politic assessment of why Brown’s situation is not the same as the examples it’s being compared with. No-one can force Brown out of the mayoralty – he has to decide to step down himself. And these are reasons why he is less likely to make that decision than (say) John Banks or Nick Smith (irrespective of the separate question of whether his wrongdoing is of a similar level of “badness”).

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — October 27, 2013 @ 5:10 pm

  26. “a real malcolm tucker”

    malcolm tucker, mother tucker, you see where i’m going with this.

    Comment by Che Tibby — October 27, 2013 @ 5:37 pm

  27. If Len Brown was a sociopathic CEO like Mark Hurd he’d be laughing all the way to the bank.
    But Brown is facing the music and that takes guts.

    Comment by ropata — October 28, 2013 @ 12:07 am

  28. “Brown is facing the music”


    Comment by bart — October 28, 2013 @ 3:59 am

  29. This story hasn’t become about the many different shades of Brown (although so far, I see only one) we’ll get to see, but how many expressions of sycophancy.

    Comment by Lee C — October 28, 2013 @ 7:05 am

  30. > As the Cameron Slater of the left…

    Comparing Danyl to Slater is like comparing champagne with prune juice. But thanks for the laugh!

    Comment by Ross — October 28, 2013 @ 7:47 am

  31. > That’s a lovely ends-justify-the-means non argument.

    Not at all. Criminals can be discharged without conviction if it’s seen to be in the interests of justice. Brown AFAIK is not a criminal, so why treat him like one?

    Comment by Ross — October 28, 2013 @ 7:53 am

  32. yeh Izogi- remember that your sarcasm sounds a lot more resonable than John or Grant’s opinions.

    Danyl as the Slater of the left…the mind boogles.

    The article seems a bit politically slanted. As Danyl mentioned if it was a CEO the allegations would likely never come to light and certainly wouldn’t be sold in such sordid detail and printed all over the front of the papers. But nothing like a tenuous comparison to scrape a bit more out of a story…

    Comment by sheesh — October 28, 2013 @ 3:27 pm

  33. Comparing Danyl to champagne is like… never mind.

    Comment by Hugh — October 28, 2013 @ 7:13 pm

  34. I suspect that David Lewis is more comparable to a mature version of Kasper Juul in Borgen rather than the comic Malcolm Tucker in The thick of it. Then again, I don’t think the New Zealand Herald really ‘understands’ Auckland because its editorial line (confected by the like of ageing Pakeha echt-provincials such as John Roughan and Bernard Orsman) presupposes that it’s just a big Tauranga, so really, its opinions are really quite meaningless, unless, of course, you’re an ageing Pakeha echt-provincial.

    Comment by Christopher T — October 28, 2013 @ 10:09 pm

  35. Chris T epitomises the cringing cultural apologists that dominate the urban left. God save us.

    Comment by bart — October 29, 2013 @ 2:28 am

  36. I don’t know where Danyl gets his information, but executives shagging their staff is not a “regular” feature of corporate life. Don’t just assume that what you do at Vic Uni goes on everywhere.

    Mad Men isn’t real and it was also set in the 60’s.

    Comment by King Kong — October 29, 2013 @ 10:17 am

  37. It is highly amusing how all these commenters (mainly right-wing it seems) so authoritatively state that executives do NOT regularly have relationships with their staff and that danyl is wrong based on absolutely zero evidence. Of course, danyl has no evidence either, but at least his point is consistent with human nature – if you are going to have an affair with someone, it is usually someone you have a lot of contact with, which would usually mean someone you work with. Not to mention the fact that such things are often keep secret, so the fact that they are not obvious does not mean that they do not happen.

    In any case, it is all irrelevant, since the relationship in question was not between an executive and a staff member anyway.

    Comment by wtl — October 29, 2013 @ 5:15 pm

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