Life After Winston Part Three: Game of Jones

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Two years after he quit Parliament to become New Zealand’s “Ambassador for Pacific Economic Development”, Shane Jones is rumoured to be plotting a comeback. This time, as the Member for Whangarei. TDB readers may recall our post in June last year ‘Life After Winston – On The Future Leadership of NZ First’. In it, we cast some light on Shane Jones’ relationship with Winston Peters and NZ First. Now we reveal new information about the back-room political manoeuvring that is going on in Whangarei.

Newshub’s Lloyd Burr broke the Whangarei story on 10 March. The timing could not have been better. Prime Minister John Key and Winston Peters were in town to mark the start of work on the Hundertwasser Art Centre. He ambushed both. Could National lose Whangarei to Shane Jones? “That’s not likely to happen in my view,” Key said tersely. Peters was less direct, though visibly more relaxed: “I’m not able to talk to anybody in the diplomatic core on a political matter.”

Of course the man himself would not comment. So who, or what, is behind the sudden media interest about a Jones candidacy? To the best of our knowledge, Shane Jones is not and has never been a member of New Zealand First. It makes sense, then, that Jones’ biggest supporters are outside of the party.

TDB can reveal that the push for Jones to stand in Whangarei is linked to the “Grow Northland Rail” campaign and members of the Rail and Maritime Transport Union. The alliance between rail interests and NZ First goes back to 2012 and former NZ First MP Brendan Horan, who established a close working relationship with a Whangarei-based RMTU organiser during his campaign to highlight rail safety and advocate for key infrastructural improvements and line reopenings. The same organiser is behind an informal campaign to ‘draft’ Shane Jones and unseat National MP Dr. Shane Reti. Said organizer also sent us the below-reproduced image in the hopes that we’d be able to help the cause by sharing it far and wide.

TDB Recommends NewzEngine.com

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We understand he has even approached figures in NZ First, Labour and the Greens to discuss the possibility of an electoral pact that would give Jones a clear run. This would theoretically involve both Labour and the Greens standing aside in Whangarei with the goal of affording as many of their combined total of ten thousand votes to Jones as possible.

Winston Peters’ ethical opposition to such backroom deals makes it unlikely, however. It nevertheless demonstrates that Jones has an identifiable support base independent of the Party and that his potential candidacy in Whangarei should be taken seriously. But let’s remember that as well as being a friend to the unions, Jones is also a friend to the National Party.

Last year, we received information that a senior National Party operative was openly discussing the implications of a Shane Jones-led NZ First. Jones, they reasoned, would be easier to control than Winston – or Ron Mark, for that matter. He had, after all, already demonstrated a capacious willingness to cripple Labour by abandoning his old party in the run-up to the 2014 Election in exchange for a bespoke-fit personally created sinecure position gifted to him by the National Party. NZ First would therefore potentially be transformed almost overnight into an obsequious Nat coalition partner a la ACT or United Future – devoid of principle, and concerned only with having a “seat at the table” in much the same way as the Maori Party.

In other words, some in National have already made the tangible calculation that those self-same mercenary proclivities they took advantage of with regard to Jones two years ago are still in evidence today – meaning that he could well be bought off (again). Worse, if National – or factions thereof – were to assist Jones in his rise to power in either the Whangarei constituency or New Zealand First’s internal politics, they might well consider Jones to be already ‘bought and paid for’ by the time the presumptive 2020 coalition/confidence & supply negotiations rolled around.

However, if Jones is serious about his leadership aspirations (rather than merely returning from the Pacific as an electorate or list MP in perpetuity), then there is one other crucial group whose opinion must be considered: the NZ First Parliamentary Caucus he’d presumably be climbing over the backs of in pursuit of first the Deputy Leadership, before eventually going for the top job. Despite the potency of a potential Winston endorsement, Jones would still need to command the support of at least a bare majority of his presumptive Parliamentary colleagues if an internal election for the Deputy Leadership and/or Leadership were to be held.

In this, Jones would face something of an uphill fight. Many in NZ First’s Caucus are strongly loyal to current Deputy Leader Ron Mark – as was seen during the ouster of former Deputy Leader Tracey Martin in June of last year.

This makes Martin a potent potential ally for Jones. She has at least one or two supporters left in Caucus who would presumably vote with her if she so requested, as well as other assets to draw upon within the Party and its governing infrastructure more broadly that could be helpful with bringing Jones ‘inside the tent’. She would also have several things to gain from helping Jones, including a potential shot at something she’d have difficulty doing herself – deposing and heading off the leadership ambitions of the man whom she feels “usurped” her Deputy Leadership position; while also affording her a shot at being given back her ‘old job’ as Deputy once Jones took the Leadership.

This logic is sufficiently self-evident that we are given to understand at least one of the camps previously named in this piece has already extended feelers to Martin with a view towards sounding out her potential support for such a maneuver.

As well as Martin, there is another senior party figure in Wellington whom we believe is supportive of Jones. In our June post we reported that Director of Operations Api Dawson had approached Jones about the possibility of defecting to NZ First as early as 2012. Dawson has previously been close to Ron Mark, but is also a pragmatist who has his eye on government.

So, all things considered -while the RMTU’s efforts at liasing with New Zealand First in order to get Northland rail back on track are to be commended … we would warn our comrades up north to think very carefully about what wagons are potentially hitched to that particular engine of change.

16 COMMENTS

  1. Shane Jones has already jumped ship from Labour to work for NatzKEY in the Pacific as an ambassador. The man is unreliable and I definitely wouldn’t want to see him in line for the leadership of NZF.

    What’s wrong with Ron Mark as a potential leader for NZF? He seems to be loyal, intelligent, keen, sharp and has plenty of spark, always challenging government and never hesitates to confront the Speaker when necessary either. Plus as far as I know, he has a clean record, unlike Jones.

    So drop Jones and focus on the man already there, Ron Mark.

  2. “Winston Peters’ ethical opposition to such backroom deals makes it unlikely,”

    That really did make me spit out my coffee. Nice one.

    • I’m not sure why that made you spit out your coffee.
      To my knowledge, he’s yet to engage in any such deals.

      Furthermore; he has voiced his opposition to said deals many times over, so the only reasonable assumption, is that he IS opposed to them.

  3. I have to also ask the question: why do people rate Shane Jones? I don’t recall him ever really coming up with the goods when it came to winning seats.

    Other than that, I can see what you mean about what it would be for NZF’s internal dynamic – the same sort of catastrophe he was for Labour. Notice that the moment Jones left Labour, the flow of damaging anti-Cunliffe leaks from within caucus suddenly dried right up. Ron Mark is the kind of conservative I can see the left getting along with, who knows what it would be like with an under-performing gossipy demagogue like Jones trying to white ant him like he did with DC.

    • All I recall Jones for is doing a little self stimulatory research of videos of dubious content. Lots of the population do this but what set Jonesy aside was his use of taxpayers funding to accomplish what the rest of us pay for. The minimum charge I would have against this is that he was careless, bit like another Labour MP who recently Twittered an opinion off the cuff. I couldn’t as a consequence trust Jones to keep the powder dry or to keep his nose clean.

      • Twittering an opinion that did make a point, that interestingly even Trotter agreed with, is not the same as Jones using tax payer money to watch porn.

    • Agreed, and SJ doesn’t rate at all, and don’t understand why people are even bothering to talk about him. The deal he made with the Nats is dirty, SJ is gone and should stay gone.

  4. Very good piece Curwen. Lots of food for thought and discussion. Certainly we do not need the greater ties with National that you suggest such a joining up would produce.

  5. Leadership of New Zealand First is a ticking time bomb for any aspirations of a Labour/Green/NZ First government. I can’t see either Jones of Mark in any sort of coalition that includes the Green Party.

    • I liked the way Winston and Ron worked in tandem yesterday, when Ron picked up the reins when Winston got kicked out. Excellent manoeuvre there, the point was made and tabled.

      The speaker as usual lied and was out of line in his defense and protection of John key. When the tables turn, and they will, I sincerely hope the new speaker will give back quadruple and more to the Nats sitting in opposition. They deserve it.

  6. We wouldn’t allow Jones or Winston for that matter to waltz into Whangarei and stand aside electorate candidates. Labour & Greens a trusted combo.

  7. Funny alot of what you say comes from a pimple faced bagpipe playing kid. Who doesn’t know shit from clay. Jones is too sketchy and Peters knows it. Don’t worry both Labour and the Greens will feild strong candidates and Labour a united crew around them.

    BTW we don’t trust Peters at all.

  8. The above item, although interesting reading, is completely incorrect in several respects. Firstly, as the co-organiser of the Grow Northland Rail campaign, I can categorically state that the statement “the push for Jones to stand in Whangarei is linked to the “Grow Northland Rail” campaign” is completely false. It is also laughable. Whilst the politics of the campaign members has not been articulated collectively (other than a general consensus that National is determined to kill rail in Northland), I don’t recall any campaign members saying anything about NZF, Shane Jones and the Whangarei seat. My personal estimate of the members’ political allegiances would be that they are almost all Labour and Greens voters.

    The second serious inaccuracy is the “We understand he has even approached figures in NZ First, Labour and the Greens to discuss the possibility of an electoral pact that would give Jones a clear run. This would theoretically involve both Labour and the Greens standing aside in Whangarei with the goal of affording as many of their combined total of ten thousand votes to Jones as possible.” As the Green Party Male Co-convenor for the Whangarei electorate, I can tell you that no union organiser (or anyone else) has approached me or other Branch executive with that or similar suggestion.

    The third problem is the inference that the “cross party commitment” referred to in the Whangarei Leader, is anything more than a commitment to support rail, which BTW the campaign has always included ALL 4 major parties, ie our sole aim is to get a commitment from all 4 parties to upgrade the Northland line and complete the link to Marsden Point. It is inferred that this commitment would be to a single candidate in the Whangarei electorate. The inference is objectionable.

    Rolinson’s Winston worship appears to have clouded his judgement here. I request a retraction of these inaccurate and spurious parts of the item.

  9. Jones is a nice guy but too loose for NZF, even though Shane is probably whakapapa to Winston he would be a liabillty and a distraction to NZF.

    Carries baggage from National and Labour.

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