A reader e-mails me these observations:
Sometimes you see something and it is so absurd that you think you must be missing something. You then look closer and realise the reality is really that true. I must thank Mayor Len Brown and his media team for providing exactly that sort of farce – it is still making me laugh.
I understand that Len has as many media staff as the PM, and also keeps an ex-prime ministerial chief press sec on retainer to provide more advice. With this sort of support you would think they could get the basics right. It turns out the opposite may be true.
On Friday afternoon Brown called a press conference to boast how prudent he has been with his budget, how tough he has been on projects, and how much money he has saved the ratepayers of Auckland. I am unsure why he’d wait until Friday afternoon to do this, but he deserves points for trying to get his positive messaging out, setting the agenda, and being available to the media.
That though is when it all becomes undone. For some reason (that I can’t begin to understand) everything that happened at the Brown presser plus all the material associated with it is placed under embargo until 5am Monday morning. I have watched politics for a very long time, but have never seen anything as curious as this. So Len tells selected media what he wants to say on Monday on Friday, swears them to secrecy, in a bid to set the agenda take any opposition by surprise? The only thing that was surprising was that Len and his media boffins thought this would work.
To make matters worse though they also released (also under embargo) a letter that they had sent out the day before to Auckland’s elderly. The letter was about a problem with rates rebates for old people homes, the fact that Government was ignoring it, and that Brown was going to fix it. This letter may have been embargoed as part of the press material until today, but was circulated widely on Thursday. Effectively, Len and his team tried to score points against David Carter… but figured they’d give him two days grace to work out how to respond. Madness.
Of course the Government and C&R had well and truly got its act together as early as Sunday morning. This meant instead of the good news stories for Len, the the focus of Monday’s reporting was on Brown’s extravagant budget, the unaffordable rail link (Carter and Key), the stupidity of spending on a V8 event (Carter on Q&A), Brown’s Greek-style spending habits, and a story about the massive storm water infrastructure deficit facing Auckland. The latter story found its way to TVNZ in the way of Council papers during Browns two-day meditation and self-imposed silence. Gee, that embargo really paid off.
The result of this farce…come Monday any good news Brown had planned is lost and he looks massively under-pressure and defensive. In case anyone missed this case-study in inept media management, three hours after the embargo is lifted someone in Browns office gets around to sending around the media material to all media (not just the selected few who turned up to the Friiday press conference). What’s the point? By then the material had been copied and distributed to media that cared and certainly all of Len’s opponents.
Auckland Council meet again on Wednesday. I understand that the focus for the Right will be to see how many of Brown’s pet projects (that he so confidently announced) can be voted down. Might be worth the trip to Auckland just to watch.
No wonder Auckland is fast losing patience with Brown. He is ripe for the picking next year if Auckland’s right can get itself organised – or if Trotter can organise a replacement.
I’m not sure if the reader is correct about the number of media staff Len has (does anyone have the number?), but their observations on the attempt to have a secret embargoed press conference as spot on.