Fear and loathing on the North Shore

Last updated 09:54 30/03/2010

I've seen a few hatchet jobs in my time covering politics, but this one takes the biscuit.

Andy WilliamsLet me say right up front that I'm no fan of North Shore Mayor Andy Williams. He's bombastic, opinionated, shoots from the lip, and makes as many enemies as he does friends. A bit like Auckland Mayor John Banks, actually.

He's clearly a bit of a larrikin, too, in the best Australian political tradition, given to sending late-night texts to the prime minister and enjoying a drink or two.

But of the stitch-ups, of all the nasty, low-down, personal vendettas, of all the naked, backstabbing, below-the-belt, shin-kicking attacks, the orchestrated beat-up on Williams has me almost feeling sorry for him.

Let's recap. Williams was sitting in a popular Takapuna bar, GPK, where a reporter, Jonathan Marshall, from the Sunday Star-Times, spotted him "by chance'', according to the paper. For some reason Marshall - or another reporter - decided to watch the mayor until he was done and then followed him down the street late at night.

Apparently Williams stopped to relieve himself against a tree outside the mayoral chambers before climbing in his car and driving off. The newspaper has reported he drove home, so presumably someone followed him there as well.

Now, I accept peeing on a tree isn't generally accepted mayoral behaviour, although I think there is a difference between doing it in the middle of the day in public and in the dark where Williams (presumably) thought he was alone, and not being spied upon by a member of the fourth estate.

The next thing we know, Local Government Minister Rodney Hide - who just happens to loathe Williams with every bone in his body, and is at loggerheads with him over the supercity - is calling for his resignation.

Funnily enough another North Shore councillor, Chris Darby - who happens to hate Williams and also wants his job - is also calling for his head. How very surprising. "It's the last straw,'' Darby said.

Now, we're told Williams drank two bottles of wine - because a waitress at the restaurant said so - and the reporter concerned has somehow got hold of Williams' bill from the night in question. Apparently it was Porters Syrah, a nice drop, although we have only the waitress's word that he consumed most of it alone. 

And - shock, horror - Williams didn't buy a meal, according to the Star-Times

The newspaper then interviewed someone from the Land Transport Safety Authority who said people shouldn't drink two bottles of wine and then drive home.

Good grief. What on earth is going on here? We've tried and executed Williams on the basis of what? Hearsay from a bar waitress and a reporter creeping around after the mayor in the dark? Printing claims that Williams has "some personal issues'' that he needs to go and sort out?

Talk about character assassination.

I wonder if Marshall's ever peed on a tree after a night out? Or has Rodney Hide, for that matter? Williams is said to have sent an email late that night to council staff saying he had "utter contempt'' for Hide and frankly I don't blame him.

It is bordering on unconstitutional for Hide to call for Williams' resignation. As the Minister of Local Government he has no right to do so. Indeed it's highly unethical.

And I wonder how the latest email surfaced? Clearly Williams doesn't have many friends on the council staff, either.

Those are issues for North Shore to sort out - not Rodney Hide. Only the voters can and should decide whether Williams stays or goes. Just the same as they alone will decide Hide's fate.

I know politics can be a blood sport, but the sheer venality of this campaign against Williams transcends even national politics. It's tittle-tattle, fear and loathing stuff.

Williams is certainly an eccentric character. But then so's Bob Harvey. He used to walk around without any clothes on. He was also a damn good mayor. It's all part of the colour of Auckland local body politics.

I hope Williams hangs on and I hope he contests the next election in October because I reckon he'll romp home. At least he's got warm blood in his veins.

This is an interesting trend. First someone finks on Labour's Charles Chauvel for muttering under his breath about noisy kids. Now this. What's next? Politician crosses road on "Don't Walk'' sign? MP caught littering?

God only knows what the supercity mayoral campaign will be like, but I wouldn't want to even report on it - let alone contest it.

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Picture: Grahame Cox/Sunday News

89 comments
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The Trickster   #1   10:00 am Mar 30 2010

This does stink to absolute high heaven. I think Andrew Williams is a twat, but even so, this sinks to a new low.

Then again I guess that's what you get for battling Rodders over his attempts to takeover Auckland.

Alan Wilkinson   #2   10:25 am Mar 30 2010

Well said, Colin. On this one I agree with you. Mayors (and politicians) should be judged on what they do at work, not afterwards.

Tada   #3   10:26 am Mar 30 2010

And this is the Sunday Star Times, fresh from their attempts at making going to sports matches the security equivalent of going to the US...

Ataahua   #4   10:35 am Mar 30 2010

Personally I'm more concerned that the Minister of Local Government is trying to interfere with an elected office. Williams is an idiot for weeing in a public place, but let the public decide through the next electoral ballot whether or not he should remain as Mayor.

Kevin Waugh   #5   10:38 am Mar 30 2010

If it wasn't so serious it would almost be funny. I have no opinion on Mr Williams but this is so shabby and pathetic. But if Rodney Hide hates him he must be OK.

Random   #6   10:41 am Mar 30 2010

Yep, it's a pretty bad hatchet job. It doesn't change the fact that he's a total muppet though.

keanu   #7   10:42 am Mar 30 2010

Isn't it really the business of the local voters to decide whether they want Williams as a mayor or not? More and more this government is disregarding democracy at the local authority level. This is arrogant and dangerous. Let's hear what local voters think, not Hide.

Pete   #8   10:42 am Mar 30 2010

To be honest Colin, I agree, but I also think the fourth estate has been doing it's darndest to promote this sort of thing.

The media creates celebrities (heroes and villians) out of these people - look at all the 'nice Mr Key' stories each week - rather than reporting so much on anything of real susbstance, including asking the 'whats' and 'wherefores' when answers given by the pollies don't ring true, or should have more follow-up (the mining groups-pre-election meetings issue at the moment is a nice exception).

And don't get me started on 'reporting' press releases. I know it's easier to cut and paste, but how about some research, facts and common-sense.

/rant over

Wayne   #9   10:48 am Mar 30 2010

I am not a fan of Andy Williams at all but feel myself supporting him in this petty Sunday Star Times / Rodney Hide hatchet job.

All heresay and no proof - who really cares about a late night pee on a tree - seriously!

Did he have too much to drink and drive? - no proof whatsoever.

I hope he stays and lets the people decide his fate.

Goodbye Sunday Star Times subscription (for this and other rubbish including the pathetic security at stadiums non story)

And diminished respect for perk buster / perk abuser Rodney Hide

Vorticon   #10   10:53 am Mar 30 2010

I've had a very involved ACT Party member say it's a beat up and that they know it's a beat up. They think it's funny and don't care what the public think, so take what you like from it.


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