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Chris Ford: Len Brown's affair - is the right targeting him?

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Chris Ford
Chris Ford
Len Brown.

Auckland Mayor Len Brown has confessed all following his affair which was conducted with Auckland woman Bevan Chaung.

The affair, disclosed on Cameron Slater's notorious Whale Oil website this afternoon has stopped Brown's post-election celebrations in their tracks. In fact, Brown disclosed that he had advised his wife of the affair in the last week of the campaign. In that case, the pictures of him on Saturday where he was shown smiling alongside his wife and children were of the traditional 'smile and let's get through this painful need to smile' variety you see when politicians are in trouble.

Simply, Brown is one of a long line of politicians (both male and female) who have shagged someone who isn't their life partner. History is replete with such examples with some able to keep their extramarital infidelities a secret during their lifetime (John F. Kennedy) and those which became public in their lifetime (Bill Clinton).

In this case, it appears, as Brown alleged on Campbell Live earlier tonight, that there could be a political motive behind the public disclosure of his affair. One element, according to Martyn Bradbury on the Daily Blog, that may have led the Mayor to make such claims is the involvement of Slater's father, former National Party President John Slater as his rival John Palino's campaign manager.

Of course, I would dare say that almost every politician across the political spectrum has made grave errors and not lived the life of a saint. Therefore, everyone knows that all politicians (like all human beings) have skeletons in their closet. I believe that where politicians blatantly lie about a political issue then they should resign (as I believe John Key has done over his knowledge of Kim Dotcom being spied on). But when they conduct extramarital liaisons and come clean with them (as Len has) then they should (ideally speaking) not resign - and in this vein, Brown is opting to stand up for himself by not resigning.

However, there is one complicating factor that may have let Brown down. Like Bill Clinton, Brown conducted an affair with a person who was, for all intents and purposes, a Council staff member. One of my left wing friends has come out on FB tonight and said that for the reason of the power imbalance involved in such a relationship, then Brown should resign. Moreover, there are other people on the left (particularly some in the radical and union left) who have never forgiven Brown for his fence sitting during the Ports of Auckland dispute. For that reason, I have no doubt that some of my comrades on the left will be quitely hoping for Brown's exit on the simple grounds of revenge.

Overall, the Brown-Chuang affair as reported so far has many similarities to the Clinton-Lewinsky affair in the late 1990s. I expect that like Clinton, Brown will probably bounce his way out of this. Yes, he might lose his wife and (temporarily) the respect of his family. However, these are matters that should be resolved out of the public gaze. He should also apologise for having overstepped employment and ethical boundaries in this case and, therefore, he should also face disciplinary action for having done so. On balance, though, Brown has done the right thing in staying. In saying this, I do have genuine grievances with how Brown has treated the Ports of Auckland dispute. But if Brown had resigned, he would have handed the right a huge scalp at a time when the centre left and left's fortunes are slowly reviving. And this is one of the factors that the politically astute Brown would have considered before facing the cameras on Campbell Live tonight.

That's why Len Brown deserves a second chance, albeit with a recognition that he acted unethically if nothing else. Once he acknowledges his unethical behaviour, he should now use his second chance to tackle the centre-right head on and face down their nasty games. And if he does that, then he might begin to recover the trust that some on the left have lost in him through both the Ports of Auckland dispute and now this affair.

NOTE: An earlier version of this post contained errors. Please see correction and apology.

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