Former National MP Maurice Williamson toying with a return to politics on Auckland Council

Maurice Williamson, the politician turned diplomat, is toying with the idea of a political comeback by standing for Auckland Council next year.

Only months after returning to his home in east Auckland from being New Zealand consul-general in Los Angeles, Williamson said locals are asking him to get elected to council and shake things up.

“I’m getting from a lot of people their anger that rates keep going up and going up and going up, but they are seeing a reduction in services that council provides them,” he said.

The former National Cabinet minister has a colourful background and is best known for a memorable speech on same-sex marriage legislation in which he described “the most enormous big gay rainbow” across his electorate.

There was also a bit of a larrikin about the MP for Pakuranga (1987-2017), whose antics included suspension from caucus in 2003 after refusing to curtail his criticism of party leader Bill English.

Williamson, who has just turned 70, told the Weekend Herald he has no interest in standing for the mayoralty, saying it is too big a job and not something he would wish on his wife and family.

He said he is considering standing for one of two council seats in the Howick ward currently held by Sharon Stewart and Paul Young, but also has business interests to take into account.

He expects to make his mind up by August or September to give himself a good year if he decides to stand at the local body elections in October next year.

Another prospect on the books is Williamson standing under the de facto National Party ticket of Communities and Residents (C&R), which is planning to expand its horizons across Auckland and improve on poor results at previous elections. Again, Williamson has not committed to the cause.

This month C&R called for expressions of interest for the mayoralty, with president Kit Parkinson saying “we need change” and a “solutions-focused candidate who will bring fresh leadership to our communities”.

The centre-right has a dismal record at the Super City mayoral elections with no candidate getting more than 35 per cent of the vote. The centre-left is unbeaten with each mayoral candidate swooping up nearly 50 per cent of the vote.

In 2010, Labour’s Len Brown beat National’s John Banks, and won a second term against businessman John Palino. In 2016, National-backed businesswoman Vic Crone and C&R member Mark Thomas were steamrolled by Labour heavyweight Phil Goff.

In 2019, former Labour MP John Tamihere, with C&R’s Christine Fletcher as his deputy and a helping hand from former National Party president Michelle Boag, lost to Goff by nearly 100,000 votes.

Former Auckland-based National cabinet ministers Paula Bennett and Nikki Kaye, touted as serious contenders to Labour’s throne at next year’s elections, are ruling out a tilt at the mayoralty.

Kaye said she is not standing for the mayoralty and “very much enjoying a new life”.

Bennett said: “I am not running for mayor. No ifs, no maybes. No.”

The former deputy leader of the National Party and avowed “Westie” with a big personality and love affair with leopard skin stepped away from politics last year and joined the real estate firm Bayleys as a strategic director.

“I’m staying out of politics now,” said Bennett, who recently appeared on TVNZ’s political show Q and A.

Heartof the City chief executive Viv Beck is another name mentioned for the mayoralty.

“I have had a number of approaches, but not by C&R. It’s fair to say I’m totally focused on my job for Heart of the City,” Beck said

The Weekend Herald understands Goff will stand for a third term,.

A spokeswoman for the mayor said he is focusing on delivering a successful 10-year budget, adding “any decisions about a campaign inn 2022 will be made closer to the time”.

Williamson is a strong believer in the National Party standing local body candidates under its own brand. Labour stands candidates in strongholds like south Auckland, and others stand under the City Vision brand of like-minded Labour, Green and independent people.

Williamson cannot understand why National is so reluctant to stand candidates, saying the big political parties in Australia, Britain, Germany, France and the United States do it right down the line to local councils.

“I think it helps the public make a decision about who they are voting for. I know a lot of people who said to me ‘who is this Joe Bloggs character and is he left or right’ and they don’t know,” he said.

Williamson said he had asked the National Party why it had never stood candidates under the National brand and was told “we have never done it”, but when he asked why not “there was no answer”.

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