Shane Jones quits politics
"What a shame he didn't join National in the first place. He may have been in Cabinet for the last 6 years, and with support for and from the Maori party while in Cabinet, he might have achieved a lot more for Maori."Featured comment
Shane Jones is quitting Labour, and politics.
The frontbencher has been offered the job of Pacific Economic Ambassador — a role created for him by National.
Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully has confirmed he had head-hunted Mr Jones for the ambassadorial appointment.
Mr McCully told 3News that Mr Jones was the best man for the job.
Asked if National would benefit from taking a Labour high-flyer out of the game, the Foreign Affairs Minister said, "No one can make Shane Jones' personal and professional decisions for him."
Mr McCully said there was no National Party role for Mr Jones; he expected that if he took the job, he would remain "a creature of Labour" in the same manner NZ Ambassador to the US Mike Moore retained his affiliations to the party.
For his part, Mr Jones said the Pacific role was an area he was interested in, but that no contract had been signed.
Labour leader David Cunliffe, who met Mr Jones at the Bay of Islands' Waipu Hotel last night, says he expects the resignation will take effect in about a month.
"It's very interesting that this [Pacific Ambassador] role was created specifically for Shane Jones," Mr Cunliffe said.
Davis next on list
Assuming his successor wants to step up, Mr Jones will be replaced by the next on Labour's list — Kelvin Davis, the straight-up-and-down ex school principal who is also the party's candidate against Mana's Hone Harawira for the Te Tai Tokerau (Northland) Maori seat.
Mr Jones told OneNews "I was true to myself after I lost the leadership. I'm not able to give Labour the 100% that I ought to be giving. They need a team that will stay for the long term and I'm not in that space.
"The leadership has a bit to do with it, but also I'm 55 this year and I just want to go and do something else."
Mr Cunliffe is said to have been aware of Mr Jones' decision, but other senior Labour MPs were caught on the hop when approached by media.
The Labour leader told The Paul Henry Show he was sorry to see his colleague quit but also that his departure is "in no way a disaster for us".
The man to save Labour
In September last year, Mr Jones lost a three-way fight to succeed David Shearer as Labour leader.
But the MP made middle New Zealand sit up and take notice in 2014 with his campaign alleging Australian-owned Countdown is bullying New Zealand businesses.
The verdict of NBR columnist Matthew Hooton, and others, was that Mr Jones had displayed the kind of leadership his party needed for a come-from-behind election win.
His broad appeal was illustrated in two NBR Business Pulse polls, one showing readers considered him the most business-friendly and economically-competent potential Labour leader, the other that NBR's member subscribers believed Mr Jones over Countdown.
NBR political editor Rob Hosking gave dibs to the man who had "fire in his belly" and a nose for an issue that would resonate with the wider public.
But it is understood Mr Jones did not rate his chances at overthrowing Mr Cunliffe, given Labour's new leadership election system that gives weight not just to MPs' votes but also party members, and affiliated unions.
Ever more indiscreet
The level of Mr Jones' frustration was revealed in March, when he made off-the-cuff comments about joining forces with Winston Peters.
The "two Maori boys from the north" could barnstorm the nation and secure 10% of the vote.
However, OneNews reports un-named Labour insiders saying Mr Jones has pledged to quit politics altogether and will not join another party.
Once was a high flyer
With his easy charm, Mr Jones connected with voters in way that so eludes David Cunliffe, or his predecessor David Shearer. And with his openess to business, the ex-Sealord chairman had the potential to move his party toward the centre, where elections are won.
But despite being groomed for leadership from a young age, and entering Parliament higher on Labour's list than any political novice before him, the Northlander came unstuck over controversy over Chinese man William Yan (aka Bill Lui) being granted citizenship while Mr Jones was Associate Immigration Minister in the Helen Clark government. He was ultimately cleared of any wrongdoing over the affair, but it led to him being temporarily demoted from Labour's frontbench.
Mr Jones again got into hot water for using his Parliamentary credit card to pay for what he called "red blooded" hotel movies in 2010.
Less obviously, "He has also been somewhat semi-detached from the more precious and politically correct wing of Labour – rather a large wing, at that," Mr Hosking noted in February.
"Mr Jones also favours mining, and has often, and publicly, given Green MPs terse reminders of the facts of economic life."
Those lessons will now go begging.