Great headlines – but would you take a punt on him?


    Would-be Auckland mayor Leo Molloy made (or should have made) his case for election recently at Club Waiheke in Surfdale. Unfortunately, he spent most of his time attacking his opponents rather than outlining policy or even establishing what he stands for.

    The similarities between Donald Trump and Molloy are obvious. Not the hair, as The Guardian claimed, but the truculence, egotism, “doubling down” if challenged and splenetic fury when thwarted. And both Trump and Molloy are political outsiders.

    Then there’s the lack of detail. Molloy will solve Waiheke’s transport problems with golf carts – or so he told the audience. No need for further comment.

    And his pretensions to medical knowledge are also Trumpian. He suggested his audience didn’t need masks because New Zealanders had been double and triple vaccinated and were over it – an emotive response and confusion of two issues. Also incorrect, as millions of doctors and nurses worldwide could tell him. If he’d listen.

    Not quite on the chloroquine-peddling or get-some-bleach-inside-you level of The Donald but…

    I suspect Molloy’s pro-vax, anti-regulation narrative has been shaped by events in the area he inhabits – hospitality and entertainment – hit hard by Covid-19 both here and overseas. His knee-jerk reaction in blaming the government and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern for their handling of the pandemic is to be expected. Like Trump, it’s all about him and his interests.

    He’d certainly make waves as mayor.

    Abusive tirades, lawsuits, threats of payback and Employment Tribunal appearances have been headline makers over the years.

    Here are two of his outbursts, from an article by The Spinoff’s Duncan Greive.

    Over a dispute with The Project: “I will do whatever it takes to hurt people until I really hurt you badly… I will seek to extract maximum revenge in every way possible.” (Sounds suspiciously like Judith Collins’ “give back double”.)

    Regarding rival establishments: “Soul, that place where the old white people hang out with girls with flappy lips, sugar daddies and car salesmen, some sugar daddies who are car salesmen… then there’s Prego, that’s that nursery for young mums in active wear with screaming babies…”

    He’s equally dismissive of his prospective opponents for the mayor’s office and current councillors.

    He’d already lost anyone with a hint of compassion earlier this year with a Facebook video post advocating hosing down the homeless in the Fort St area “where the losers and the ratbags and the drug addicts and the alcoholics congregate at night”.

    It’s a novel “solution” to the problem but only moves it somewhere else, rather than addressing it.

    In 2002 he was fined $7000 by the Employment Tribunal for unjustified dismissal after physically restraining waitress Melanie Cheung from transcribing what he was saying. (Or yelling, if you crave accuracy.) Cheung has had the last laugh. These days she’s an acclaimed neurobiologist doing world-leading research on Huntington’s Disease, brain trauma and neuroplasticity.

    Chances are he won’t change – since egotists don’t – and therefore a Molloy mayoralty would be a media bonanza. He’s likely to generate mountains of copy and multiple minutes of air and screen time, just like Trump.

    But since the mayor’s role comes with considerable limitations, he couldn’t do too much damage, could he? Arguable – but further questions arise.

    Will he preside over a smooth (or smoother) flow of services? Will he be able (or willing) to navigate the complexities of rating income versus services? Will he eliminate environmental protections – along with other regulations – with the stroke of a pen? (If – a big if – he has a majority of councillors to back him?) Will he show any capacity for compromise – quite an important quality in politics, if not life? And will he be at loggerheads with central government?
    The last is almost a given if Labour remains in power, and highly likely whichever party is elected to government next year, since he has an apparent talent for picking fights.

    He talks about our need for a “decisive, strong leader with good ideas who is not afraid to get things done”. That’s cause for at least some concern, looking around the world at the works of other “decisive, strong leaders”.

    Also concerning is his lack of experience in anything other than hospitality and horse racing. If you were a punter, would you bet on him?

    As the mayoral election draws closer, some of these questions may come into sharper focus.

    In a less-than-stellar field, he probably has more profile than any other candidate. Trump-like, he may triumph over the odds against an outsider. But he runs a fine line between abrasive and abusive – and that may alienate sufficient voters to ensure his failure. • Jim Mahoney

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