In reality, Labour’s working class hero was anything but a champion of the battlers. While in Parliament, he was the attack dog for his corporate cronies in Sealords against the company’s environmental critics. In the dying days of the Clark government, he was Labour’s ministerial go-between for a high profile immigration decision involving a wealthy Chinese migrant and party donor. (Hardly the best credentials for a future New Zealand First MP.) Despite the Greens being the only realistic ally that Labour had in forming an alternative government of the centre left, Jones spent almost as much time in publicly attacking them as he did in attacking the National government, which eventually rewarded him with a cushy bureaucratic job. Female voters have always shunned him. Now he’s back, standing for New Zealand First in Whangarei, and looking for his next ride on the gravy train.
Yet… the media are also back at it, and are still touting the magic sympatico that Jones allegedly has with the voters.
Please, no. There’s never been any ballot box evidence of this pixie dust. Jones entered Parliament in 2005 on the Labour list. He stood (unsuccessfully) for Labour in Northland in 2008 but was rescued again by his list position. In 2011, he lost to Pita Sharples in Tamaki Makaurau, and was rescued once again by the party list. When the Labour leadership came up for grabs in 2013, Jones came in third and last place of the three candidates on offer. Only months before the last election, Jones resigned from Labour to take up National’s kind offer of a well-paying sinecure. (So much for blokey loyalty to his mates.)
In sum, there’s absolutely no evidence to support the theory of Shane Jones, blue-collar hero and irresistible vote magnet.
I think the vast majority of New Zealanders will have never heard of Shane.
There are other implications. Given Jones’ track record of animosity to the Greens, this should finally put paid to the hopes still being entertained (in some parts of the centre-left) of a Labour/Greens/New Zealand First alternative government. The air kisses that Andrew Little has been sending to Jones in recent days (eg praising him for the ‘intellectual grunt’ he will supposedly bring to NZF) won’t change that reality. Winston Peters was never going to play third wheel in any such centre-left arrangement, and with Jones now set to cruise back into Parliament via a high ranking on the NZF party list, the Greens’ chances of playing a major role in any alternative government would now appear slim to non-existent.
At this point, the most credible chance of a change of government would be if a Labour/NZF pairing can get the numbers to enter into a formal coalition with the Greens situated outside government, but lending support on confidence and supply. For the Greens, this would mean propping up a new government that on issues like law and order, welfare and immigration would be barely distinguishable from the current government. It would also leave the Greens scrambling for a few gains on the environment – provided such measures would be OK with Shane Jones.
It is fascinating that the Greens are more than willing to put NZ First into Government, despite NZ First constantly demonising them, yet they refuse to even consider any sort of co-operation with National.