In an extraordinary post on his blog, Vodafone’s Head of Public Affairs, Roger Ellis, has gushed over Celia Wade-Brown fully detailing every single thing she claims to have done and lauded her various “achievements”. The post is laughably presented as a “centrist” analysis of the mayoral race and goes on to be roughly 80 per cent about how wonderful Celia is, 15 per cent on how promising Jack Yan is, with only 3 lines for Wade-Brown’s main opponent John Morrison.
It is hard to argue that an article that focuses 95 per cent of its content on the virtues of a thinly-veiled Green candidate and a former Alliance candidate could be considered centrist. The way Ellis presents his puff-piece on Wade-Brown as analysis is odd as it largely reads like a hagiography.
But what is most surprising is that the chief lobbyist for New Zealand’s largest mobile phone company would firstly back a Mayor who has clearly been out of step with the Government, and secondly be so dismissive of a strong contender, John Morrison, along with Nicola Young, who looks very likely to at least pick up a Lambton ward seat on Council. Why would a lobbyist want to cosy up to a green Mayor who has been publicly panned by Ministers and snub the two candidates most closely aligned with the Government?
After the 43 bullet points of Wade-Brown achievements, this is the best Ellis could conjure up on Morrison and Young.
John Morrison – arch-conservative, cricket commentator and anti-green critic. Criticised during the campaign for off-colour remarks made about a model at a public event. There have been comments about his suitability for the Mayoralty.
Nicola Young – part of the Young political dynasty – inter-generational National Party stalwarts. Despite her slogan implying “young ideas” there is little in the way of innovative ideas for sustainably growing Wellington. She is also supportive of a Wellington Super City which is hard to reconcile with local democracy. Young also denounces “vanity projects” but then lists several of her own she would like to fund using ratepayers money.
The construction of cell phone towers can be difficult projects as no one particularly wants them in their street, which means the phone companies need good relationships with councils to ensure a smooth consenting process. So it is strange that Ellis would make such a public statement about where his support sits (or doesn’t sit) given his company could be reliant on good future relationships with Morrison and/or Young at the council table.
Politicians have long memories so if either John Morrison or Nicola Young do become Mayor or are at the Council table, it is hard to imagine Ellis getting much cut-through after posting stingers like “Morrison harkens back to yesteryear – the Wellington of the 1970s...”
Ellis has come under attack in the past from the likes of Whale Oil for the way he has walked a fine line operating as a lobbyist while also being active within Peter Dunne’s United Future Party and as a failed Council candidate Northern Ward. This really is one of the strangest episodes of the campaign and it just seems odd that Vodafone’s lobbyist would come out like this. What on earth is his motivation and is Vodafone aware of his blogging activities, and the potential to damage to its relationships with the Wellington City Council, post-October 12?