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Editorial: The "Anyone but Banks" strategy

Mon 4 Oct 2004 In: Features

A series of quick and fairly random chats with glbt Auckland City voters indicates that many have been holding back their voting forms until this week, the last days before voting closes. The reason behind that pragmatic action may not be good news for Christine Fletcher. The overwhelming reason for those last-minute glbt votes is the “anyone but John Banks” philosophy which became slightly more complex after Dick Hubbard announced his candidacy. In any usual two-contender race against the controversial Banks for the Auckland mayoralty Chris Fletcher could have counted on the glbt vote being almost unanimously hers. She is the most gay-friendly and accessible-to-us mayor since Dame Cath Tizard, or possibly ever. She has backed up her liberal social politics with appearances and legwork within the glbt communities, and is currently the patron of the Gay Auckland Business Association. But in a poll conducted shortly after Hubbard announced he was a third contender Fletcher instantly looked like a single-figures also-ran. Hubbard had media exposure by the tonne at the time but it was possible, even probable, that Fletcher would pick up voter support as the weeks progressed. Despite a media obsession with Banks and Hubbard and an almost complete blackout of her own campaign Fletcher has indeed picked up more support according to NZ Herald indicators, but not nearly enough to look like unseating Banks. Hubbard now may be the winner by a small margin. So it is probable that all those late glbt votes will be for Hubbard, the apparent best hope of ejecting the vociferously anti-gay Banks and setting a more genuinely glbt-friendly tone for the city. Fletcher has not run an appealing campaign, seeming to start late and low key. Though this was better than the previous election when she didn't campaign against Banks at all and a huge number of Aucklanders woke up one morning feeling rather like many Americans must have felt the morning after Bush won the White House: “What the hell?” In a rancorous mayoral race which is obsessing the media Banks' combative philosophy seems to have set the tone for attacks, sensitivities and incivility. His strangest “if I say it then it must become true” claim has been his oft-repeated statement that the gay community are right behind his bid for a second term. Trying to stay open-minded about this possibility had a go at contacting the glb or t people who are apparently helping fund his campaign but no-one would front up or inform on their friends. The closest we got was in the real-estate sector where one possible Banks funder is out of the country “until mid October” and the other has long since moved to the scenic South Island. Banks clearly took his own advice that we should not dwell on his past viciousness towards glbt folk and our rights. He refused to be interviewed about those past ‘unhealthy lifestyle,' ‘policemen in pantyhose' and ‘barbed wire up the bum' rants (to name just a few). He wants us to just accept his word that he is now the gay community's darling. We wanted to give him the opportunity to explain his apparent change in attitude but he was an emphatic no-show. A Banks spinmeister even suggested that we should just take his several years of silence on glbt issues as a clear indication of his change in outlook. Yeah, right. His election mode anecdote about what a gay-friendly mayor he was a couple of years back when he passed community concerns about a spate of gay-bashings in downtown Auckland to the notice of the police continues to raise eyebrows. Wouldn't any mayor of any city contact their local police chief if any member of any minority group reported that targeted assaults were happening a block or two from the mayoral offices? His claim to have employed more gay people than anyone else must have caused a chuckle in the HR departments of the national airline and a few other sizable companies and government departments. So who is the new main contender who might k.o. Banksy? Hubbard is undoubtedly a successful businessman which says a lot for his management and strategic skills. He's not a good politician, having only got into the game six weeks ago, but his gaffes have been mostly minor despite some use of dubious facts and figures. He and his family are committed Christians, Anglicans with a claimed liberal tint. He is firm that homosexuality is not a sin, supports the Civil Unions Bill and believes that the presence of thriving glbt communities is an indicator of a healthy and progressive city. He says tolerance of people's differences is important. Despite worries that the grimly anti-gay David Hay, outgoing deputy mayor and mainstay of the ultra-conservative C  


First published: Monday, 4th October 2004 - 12:00pm

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