Maybe Paul Eagle thought it’d be wiser to wait for the results of his first parliamentary survey in three years before announcing he would run for the Wellington Mayoralty in October. But his announcement didn’t surprise anyone with a slightest interest in local politics: I had solid sources, back in December, telling me that he would run, after years of denying he would, and months of refusing to confirm either way. But early last week, he announced he would be the Labour endorsed candidate for the Mayoralty.
I found the waiting game a bit disrespectful. And while he had Wellingtonians waiting forever, he didn’t waste a second to put his billboards up, with controversy attached to them. Maybe his lawyers are telling him the billboards are legally compliant, but it’s not because you can do something that you necessarily should: all the others are waiting for the campaign advertising window to open, in 8 weeks.
Having his signs up so early, by the way, is less innocent than it seems. On the only promise “to bring Wellington’s mojo back”, Eagle has found a strong enough backer (or more than one?) to run billboards across town for a sustained amount of time. This kind of campaign is not cheap, and I expect now the same level of scrutiny Foster got when Peter Jackson handed him a cheque to run his Mayoral bid, back in 2019. Labour supporters whined all along that Foster had bought the election: now will be a good time to ask Eagle the same questions.
It will be interesting to see if voters have the same enthusiasm as Eagle’s backer(s). One week in, and the welcome has been fresh, to say the least. Is it because of Eagle’s little appetite for mode-shift (remember the “unhealthy obsession with cycleways”?)? Granted the cycleways are not unanimous, but I bet they are still strongly supported by a majority of Wellingtonians, since 92% of them demand climate action, no matter what. Why on earth does Eagle oppose the cycleways?
This un-passionate start of Eagle’s campaign could also find its roots in a game of musical chairs between Labour affiliated candidates. Wellingtonians know the state of the city, and they expect much, much better than some behind-the-scene kind of deals between friends: “you’ll do WCC and you let me be MP” begs for someone to remind Eagle and Fitzsimons that voters still need to be convinced by a thick mattress of policies supporting an ambitious, and clearly articulated vision.
A lack of policies, a group of people seemingly more interested in their next career moves, a confusing proposition (a Labour candidate, uninterested in cycleways, endorsed by Calvert, whose party has launched NPS-UD in the spin of the District Plan) … are all points Eagle will need to clarify sooner or later if he wants to give his candidacy a sliver of a chance.