Should Labour members vote Shane Jones?

03/09/2013

By Duncan Garner, RadioLIVE Drive host  

I’m out of the beltway these days, after 17 years in the Parliamentary Press Gallery in Wellington.

I live on the city fringe of Auckland, in what the NZ Herald calls ‘unpretentious New Windsor’. Most people I run into in Auckland have either never heard of it – or take the piss.

I paid a fortune for an oversized refurbished state house and, all things going well, I hope to be debt free by 70, in 30 years time.

I was up against 21 bidders and paid too much. But you have to live somewhere close enough to your job and where your kids go to school.

So, after 17 years entrenched in the beltway, I have a new perspective on politics.

Issues here include:

The quality of the schools;

Traffic;

The price of food;

Whether you’re paid enough;

Traffic;

Public transport;

Jobs;

Traffic;

Whether you’re paid enough;

Immigration;

Regional Development;

And whether Auckland is simply too big.

So who is the Labour candidate that seems to be connecting with the workers and their concerns right now?

Shane Jones, I reckon.

He’s talking common-sense; the people’s language; he appears in touch.

He’s talking about tax breaks for companies to set-up in the regions, a proper rail link to Northland, a look at the supermarkets duopoly, he wants to distance Labour from the Greens and he’s talking about getting Labour into the 40s.

He talks mining, forestry and real jobs.

Blackball will love him when the candidate meeting is held there.

He is making no soft and easy promises to the unions, women or the rainbow grouping within the Labour Party – in fact, it almost appears as if he is trying to antagonise them further.

I think he’s succeeding.

In short, he appears to talking to wider NZ voters. He appears to reaching out to the 800,000 apathetic voters who enrolled last time, but couldn’t be bothered leaving their lounges to vote.

On the other hand, David Cunliffe and Grant Robertson are tailoring their messages to those that, in the short term, hold the crucial votes.

They are talking directly to members who have the power to make one of them the king.

Both are promising a living wage for Government workers and new employment legislation – a sop to the union power base.

Cost? Who knows – but it sounds good when money grows on trees and you want to be the new leader. Even the man-ban is back on in Planet-Robertson and Planet-Cunliffe.

So what’s Jones’s response?

He says they’re writing out cheques Labour can’t cash.

This is direct criticism of Cunliffe and Robertson. Make no mistake.

So this is my take: Jones is reaching out to wider NZ. He’s using this opportunity to present himself as a future leader.

And, from some of the feedback I’m getting from listeners here at RadioLIVE, he’s making an impact.

But here’s my prediction: The party, its members and the unions will block his progress – they will not vote him in as leader because they don’t like him and what he has done (porn) and what he stands for.

He’s a centrist, a populist, a bloke, a gum-digger, not a greenie, and he certainly isn’t a handwringing politically correct liberal. Not to mention he left his wife for a younger woman. None of this is cool when you’re trying to convince the members you are person to lead Labour to victory in 2014.

He’s right-wing on some issues – but if it works – he wants to try it.

This will count against him in the end amongst those affiliates and members voting on this leadership change.

But Labour members need to consider this question: Isn’t it about getting the best candidate that can maximise Labour’s vote at the next election and take on John Key?

The answer to that is of course, yes.

And with that in mind – isn’t Jones the candidate that now offers that to the Labour Party?

Perhaps he is.

You don’t have to like your new leader – you have to choose the one who has the best chance of winning. Is that now Jones?

So, no matter what happens from here, Jones has restored his credibility. He has shown he is a serious option as a future leader and he has picked himself up off the canvas.

Four years ago he was down, out and buried; he was looking at his career options.

I predict Jones will quit politics if he doesn’t win this primary. This is his last shot.

He doesn’t want to wake up one day and say ‘I wish I put my name forward.’ This is it; it’s all or nothing.

This is not an endorsement of Jones – it’s just an observation so far. I still think the race comes down to either Cunliffe or Robertson.

But you know what you’re getting.

They are both slick and professional politicians. Some say Robertson won’t beat Key. Others says Cunliffe is too insincere and slimy.

Robertson has half the caucus support; Cunliffe has less than half. Jones has only 4 MPs.

It’s a Robertson vs Cunliffe race and it’s probably too close to call right now. But consider this: Cunliffe won’t even allow people into his multi-million dollar Herne Bay house for a sit-down ‘this is me’ TV interview.

Neither will Robertson.

That is their choice.

But John Key let reporters into his life and mansion before the 2008 election. He had nothing to hide; 'take it or leave it' he told NZ. So did Helen Clark before that.

If Labour wants to win in 2014 and take a big, bold risk – they will vote Jones. If they want to play it safe they’ll go with Cunliffe or Robertson.

They’ll go the latter – but it won’t help them beat Key.

source: data archive