by Ian Apperley
A subtle attack piece, or perhaps just unconscious bias, in the form of a DomPost editorial titled “Does no-one want to be Wellington’s mayor?” In the vacuum of information, even editors will seek to fill it to sell papers.

The language the paper uses is telling, failing to describe Tory Whanau as a Green-backed candidate and describing Ray Chung and Barbara McKenzie as “fringe.” You can’t describe Ray Chung as a fringe candidate; but you could explain some of Barbara McKenzie’s policies as fringe.

The DomPost reckons that no one has seen or heard much of Tory Whanau, and you have to wonder how much research has been going on here. Not much, it would seem. Inside Wellington has run two long-read interviews with Tory and with Ray that provide a lot of insight into both of them.

I think if we ran the election today with just these three candidates, it would be a bit of a neck and neck race between Tory and Ray. In some ways, they polarise how residents vote in Wellington. Ray, as an independent, could even tip the scales into winning given that there remains a growing suspicion of central party-backed candidates, something that could undo Tory in this hypothetical situation.

Candidate nominations close on August 12th. A savvy mayoral candidate would declare a little earlier than that; in fact, now would be good, given there are so many reporters gasping for any little piece of information.

Andy should just declare or not. There is little advantage in him holding out until the last day, and it is starting to make him look like he is either playing games or is being indecisive. Neither is a good look. It’ll be interesting to see when he declares if he also runs for a seat in Western. Frankly, if I were him, I’d be hedging my bets and doing just that.

And according to the DomPost, when it comes to Paul Eagle:

“He’s apparently involved in horse-trading with Labour, which has presented him with a rather draconian list of conditions related to endorsing him. The party is likely doing its own calculations about the right time to hold a by-election. This does not bode well. Eagle should take care not to look too cynical about the process. Yes, he’s in a good position in this Labour-dominated city, but he must guard against seeming like, having given Parliament a go and discovering he isn’t going far there, he can coast into a cushy mayoralty.”

All of this is hearsay, assuming that Paul will run under the Labour banner. Knowing Paul, the last thing he’ll bow to is “draconian conditions.” His history shows that he is not afraid to challenge the establishment and whether people agree with me or not, when in Council previously, he did align with local communities.

There is a danger that if he runs with Labour, the growing disquiet about candidates being dictated to by the central party may work against him. It becomes a brand versus the person debate at a local level.

If he stands as an independent, then he has a higher chance of winning, in my opinion. He would have to divorce the Labour Party and make his independence clear. Greater chances of winning would include bringing other high-profile candidates in to run as councillors. Candidates who we have not seen yet.

As I’ve noted before, the centre and left attack Paul at every opportunity on social media anytime one of these “Paul might be running” articles appear. They are creating a narrative that he has done nothing, is fussing about playing games, will cost us a fortune in a by-election, and is ineffective.

It’s a sign that New Labour and the left see him as a threat.

The DomPost article accuses Andy Foster of being a “flip-flopping” mayor, which is a little unfair. Most councillors (with some notable, rare exceptions) have flip-flopped all over the place this triennium.

It also signifies that the DomPost is heading off into uncharted editorial waters. Perhaps it is kind to say that they seem to be arguing that opinion sells papers better than reporting hard facts. There are still some journalist stalwarts at the paper who produce great stories; however, there is a notable increase in slanted opinion pieces covering a range of issues lacking facts to underpin assertions. It might be unkind to say that they are heading toward becoming a tabloid.

Reporting on politics is a minefield for journalists, as the first thing that appears to go out the door with politicians is facts.

In other news, we see the Council trying very hard to get some runs on the board and shake themselves free of any controversial issues as we head into election year properly. The self-congratulatory echo chambers they have created on social media amplify their good intentions while suppressing the fact it has been an awful triennium.

It’s also interesting to see that the councillors don’t have their finger on the city pulse, it seems, including what their own Council is planning. Thanks to Benoit of Inside Wellington, much surprise was expressed when it came to light that a resource consent is in place to turn the south end of Shelly Bay Road into a bus depot. How do you miss that?

Tory and Ray have a unique opportunity right now to outline the how of their policies.

It is one thing to raise the issues of the city, which we all know; it is another to offer practical solutions on how they might be improved, allowing us room to debate.

Their window to sell themselves as the next mayor is closing rapidly.