Rodney MP Mark Mitchell has confirmed making comments about
politicians with "skeletons in their closet" which led Len
Brown's camp to believe the mayor's affair with Bevan Chuang
would be made public.
The Auckland MP yesterday said he did not know that blogger
Cameron Slater was working on a story about the affair when
he was talking with Rodney councillor Penny Webster at a
Both Mr Mitchell and Prime Minister John Key described the
conversation as nothing more than gossip, which Ms Webster
then took up with Mr Brown.
Last night, a source inside the Brown camp said they had
heard "chatter" from other sources about the affair, but the
word from Mr Mitchell was enough to say to Mr Brown "you need
to go to your wife about this".
Mr Mitchell said he was talking with Ms Webster about the
mayoralty race and made a generic comment along the lines 'I
hope Len Brown hasn't got any skeletons in his closet'.
"It's been taken and turned into something much bigger than
it was," Mr Mitchell said.
He said he did not know at that point whether rumours about
Mr Brown were true and none of the details. Although he knew
Cameron Slater through the National Party, he had not known
Mr Slater was working on a story about it until he read it on
the Whale Oil blog, he said. He also said he did not know
Bevan Chuang or any others involved.
"I'd never heard anything specific, only generic scuttlebutt,
off the cuff type comments, like you go to a lunch and
someone says 'oh, I heard Len Brown is not behaving very
well'. That sort of stuff."
Mr Key said Ms Webster rang him yesterday after stories about
a National MP tipping off the Brown camp surfaced.
He said she had told him the MP did not have many details and
was simply gossiping.
It did not amount to a tip-off aimed at forewarning Mr
Brown's team and, even if it had, Mr Key said, he would not
have had an issue with it: "We've got nothing against Len
He maintained the National Party was not involved.
Election rival John Palino has extended a break in Melbourne
until early next week. He was due home on Tuesday.
Luigi Wewege, a member of the Palino camp who had a
relationship with Ms Chuang and wanted her to expose the
mayor's infidelity, is still in hiding.
Said a National Party source: "Things don't look too good for
The Brown cocktail
Rodney MP Mark Mitchell talks about "skeletons in the closet"
to Rodney councillor Penny Webster.
Webster passes gossip on to Len Brown's campaign team.
Team take it as the trigger to tell the mayor.
Len Brown tells wife Shan about affair with Bevan Chuang.
- Claire Trevett and Bernard Orsman of the NZ Herald