Tag Archives: Shane Jones

Labour has found its mojo at last

23 Sep

By Matt McCarten, Herald on Sunday 22 September, 2013

After five dark years, the Labour Party have their mojo back.

The past month of quality presentations by David Cunliffe, Grant Robertson and Shane Jones was a great success.

New Labour Party leader David Cunliffe

Day after day the media covered confident and articulate candidates espousing policies the faithful wanted to hear. The Prime Minister was pushed to the sidelines for the first time.

Luckily for the sake of party unity, Cunliffe’s win was decisive. The overwhelming members’ vote and the even higher support by the unions is a huge mandate. Even in the caucus, Cunliffe surprisingly got 16 MPs to Robertson’s 18 – a difference of one MP.

The mana of Robertson and Jones has increased, too. Robertson will be leader one day and Jones has cemented himself back as a future contender.

It was always unrealistic to have any of the three being a loyal deputy to the other. David Parker was a good compromise. He’s the brains and the policy wonk.

Competing with the Greens for the same vote is a zero game. Cunliffe is smart and knows it’s the 800,000 voters who didn’t bother to turn out at the last election he has to win over to be Prime Minister.

Some pundits pose that Cunliffe has to move to the centre. That’s silly. The centre doesn’t exist. Parties win by convincing the majority of their policies – whether left or right. If the electorate supports left policies, by definition the centre moves leftwards. If it supports right policies, the centre moves in the other direction. The centre is never some fixed point.

Cunliffe’s policies of forcing up wages, opposing asset sales, investing in public services and spreading the tax base are unabashed left policies. What matters is that they are popular and could potentially motivate hundreds of thousands of non-voters to turn out.

To do that, the parties of the centre-left have to build a machine to get the Auckland vote out. They were creamed in our biggest city in the past two elections.

Who wins Auckland, wins government. With this new momentum for the left, I hope they can capitalise on next month’s local elections.

Postal ballots for local government across the country are hitting mailboxes this weekend. In Auckland, there are hundreds of candidates contesting more than 200 positions. Len Brown will romp home, of course. The only interest is how many votes John Minto gets on his left and John Palino on the right.

The real contest is for the council. Currently it’s a third on the right; a third on the left, and a third in the centre. Most voters don’t have any idea where many candidates’ political allegiances lie.

The Auckland trade unions have 150,000 members. They have assessed all the candidates against the three campaigns they are running: Protecting the Assets – no privatisation; A Living Wage – starting with council workers; and Sorting out the Port – force the incompetent ports bosses to settle a fair deal with their workers.

Most candidates support the unions’ campaigns but the unions don’t want to split the centre-left vote. Most unions are non-partisan. For the first time, the Auckland unions steering group, of which I am a member, is recommending a single candidate it believes has the best chance of winning, for each elected position. You can peek on www.UnionsAuckland.com.

Union members of course will vote for whoever they like. But for those who want to use their vote strategically the recommendations could be decisive. Wards have an average of 10,000 union members. Draw your own conclusions.

It’s good to see the Labour Party getting its act together. Hopefully, workers will unite to win too.

Herald on Sunday

Kingmaker Jones stealing show

10 Sep

By Matt McCarten

Herald on Sunday 8 September 2013

I haven’t had a conversation in the past fortnight where the Labour Party leadership contest doesn’t come up. So I popped into the two Auckland Labour Party meetings last Sunday to hear David Cunliffe, Grant Robertson and Shane Jones woo the faithful.

A number of attendees congratulated me for seeing the light and re-joining the party. Alas, I had opportunistically passed myself off as official media to gain a box seat. I noticed my fellow non-Labour lefties, Willie Jackson and Chris Trotter, had pulled the same trick.

The leadership fight has been the injection that Labour has sorely needed. Jones is the surprise hit, giving the campaign a flair and wow factor that Labour hasn’t experienced since David Lange entered the political stage.

Despite some in the media fawning over Jones, he hasn’t got a bolter’s show of winning. Jones knows he’s third.

But then Jones was never in it to win the leadership. He entered the fray to restart his political career by creating a new public persona to wash away the embarrassment of his early mistakes. He is already exceeding everyone’s expectations.

Former Labour MP, Rick Barker, once said to me that Jones was the man to lead the party after Helen Clark. Shortly afterwards, Jones self-destructed and his reputation nose-dived.

In the past fortnight the country has seen a man we haven’t seen before. He’s reborn. He’s witty, clever and charismatic. The Jones boy is stealing the show.

At Sunday’s meetings, before 1000 party members, the three candidates were on fire. Any of them could singly match John Key. If the three of them can work as a team after the contest they will turn the tables on this government.

Cunliffe is Auckland’s favourite son and with home-crowd advantage went down well.

Robertson performed strongly and was warmly received. Jones spoke without notes, delighting the crowds.

Given the crowd reactions, Cunliffe had half of the audience in his column and Robertson had a solid quarter. The rest were behind Jones or undecided.

Cunliffe needed an overwhelming win in Auckland to create an inevitability that he had the contest locked up, thus swinging undecided members and MPs to his side.

Apparently, Cunliffe intended to deliver an early knockout blow and lock up the party’s union and left vote by declaring his support for a living wage. As the Herald on Sunday revealed, Robertson gazumped him by announcing his support for the unions’ living wage the day before.

So, although Cunliffe won Auckland it wasn’t enough to give him the unassailable headstart he wanted. It will now be a close race to the finish.

Here’s the state of play. Cunliffe has Auckland and Hamilton. Robertson will pick up Wellington, Dunedin and the provinces. Christchurch is a toss-up.

The party overall is likely to be evenly split. The unions were supposed to go to Cunliffe, but enough of their vote is shifting to Robertson to make their vote competitive. The caucus is still heavily weighted towards Robertson.

If the analysis is correct, none of the candidates are likely to get an outright majority.

So what happens then? Assuming Jones comes third; his supporters’ votes then go to either Cunliffe or Robertson. This makes Jones the kingmaker.

I may have to eat my words when I said earlier that Jones had no chance of becoming deputy leader. If his supporters determine the final winner any role he desires is his for the asking. Frankly, he’s earned it.

No matter what happens there will be two winners in this contest: the new party leader and Jones. The star of the Maori boy from the North is on the rise.

Matt McCarten: Opposition taking too long to sharpen its claws

12 Aug

DavidĀ Which shadow cabinet portfolios do Nanaia Mahuta (pictured) and Jacinda Ardern hold for Labour? Photo / APN
Which shadow cabinet portfolios do Nanaia Mahuta (pictured) and Jacinda Ardern hold for Labour? Photo / APN

Herald on Sunday column By Matt McCarten 12/8/12

Spin over last week’s political polling is that David Shearer must lift his game if Labour is to be competitive. That’s true, but he is pitched against the most popular prime minister in living history.

It will take Shearer at least until election year before voters pay him much attention. His current 13-14 per cent preferred prime minister support is twice as much as Phil Goff managed and it took Helen Clark almost a decade before she smote her opponent.

It was always going to take a lot to knock off a Key-led National Party. Does it look like Shearer could despatch Key yet? Of course not.

But no single person can win government without a front bench of competent potential cabinet ministers. So here’s the real question: do Labour front benchers look like they are ready to govern? Have they earned the confidence of the public?

Labour’s problem is not its leader, it’s the caucus. The Green Party in Parliament is less than half Labour’s size yet day after day they prove how lacklustre our main opposition party is.

With the exception of Shearer and his deputy Grant Robertson, do we hear anything much from the rest of Labour? What sense do you have of their finance spokesman? It’s David Parker, if you’ve forgotten.

I assumed David Cunliffe would have been a better pick. But Shearer did appoint him to target Key’s right-hand man, Steven Joyce, the Minister of Everything.

Cunliffe must have a secret plan he’s not sharing with us because he hasn’t initiated one attack on Joyce for more than a month. He’s awol.

And what about our other great hope, Shane Jones? Admittedly, he’s sidelined but he still sits on the front bench so he should do something notable. Alas, his website hasn’t been touched since November.

Cunliffe and Jones’ lack of seriousness suggests they should recommit or put up their hands for early retirement.

So about the other talent? During Cunliffe’s leadership bid, he tried to persuade me that Nanaia Mahuta was a hidden talent and once in a front-bench leadership role she would be formidable. I was unconvinced. Does anyone outside the Wellington beltway even know she is Labour’s education spokesperson?

You’d think with all the fallout from National Standards and charter schools she’d be a household name. Yet in over a month, according to her own website, she’s put out a total of three press releases.

Even the new blood such as Jacinda Ardern, at No 4, can’t seem to lay a hand on Paula Bennett as she goes about kicking the poor. The most attention Ardern got was when Maggie Barry made a nasty remark over her not having a child.

Labour has always owned health but I bet you couldn’t tell me who its spokesperson is? Health minister Tony Ryall must find it hard to believe he hasn’t had one sleepless night from being marked by Maryan Street. I respect Street but she’s made no impact on him.

If you think I’m deliberately personalising my criticism, I’m not. My point is that most of the caucus aren’t up to the task. For example, unemployment increased by 2000 people in the three months to June. The party’s employment spokesperson didn’t comment.

Even putting aside the day-to-day non-performance, think about this. Winning the Maori seats from the Government at the next election is Labour’s key to victory. Yet its Maori Affairs spokesperson, Parekura Horomia, has put out just two press releases in nearly six months. One was condolences to a family and the other acknowledged the Maori New Year. Good grief!

Former leader Phil Goff was left by his caucus to do most of the heavy lifting in last year’s election campaign. It seems the MPs haven’t learned. Those current MPs who aren’t pulling their weight should be sent to the back benches in a summer reshuffle and replaced with the few in their caucus who are actually doing their jobs.

Otherwise those Greens will continue to look better and better.

By Matt McCarten | Email Matt

Matt McCarten: Crash! Another Maori PM hope trips and falls

6 Jun

Sunday June 3, 2012

Hekia Parata has shown misjudgment and carelessness over her education plan. Photo / Greg Bowker

Until this week, Hekia Parata was on the way to becoming New Zealand’s first Maori Prime Minister.

She presents well and lacks any self-doubt. Having that old strategic master, Wira Gardiner, as her husband and confidante doesn’t hurt, either.

There had been three other contenders, all probably more deserving. Fortunately for her, they each sabotaged themselves.

Winston Peters would have been a shoo-in for the National Party leadership, but he couldn’t wait for Jim Bolger to retire. Eventually his colleagues expelled him for promoting himself to an adoring audience at their expense.

It must have galled Peters watching helplessly as Jenny Shipley, an inferior politician on every level, rolled Bolger and took the job which was rightfully his.

Peters will be odds-on to take the deputy prime ministership once again after the next election, whoever wins, but there must be many nights he contemplates, what if?

The impressive talent and charisma of John Tamihere were obvious from the start. If he’d stuck around, the Labour leadership would have dropped into his lap when Phil Goff vacated it.

While Tamihere is one of the smartest intellects around, he has a bad habit of saying whatever he is thinking. His sense of humour is cutting at best, but it’s fatal to advancement when dealing with sensitive egos within a caucus.

It was typical that he took his name off the Labour list, forcing an all-or-nothing campaign against Pita Sharples. Unfortunately for him, the tide was out for Labour and Tamihere was swamped by the Maori Party tsunami.

Much of the “blokey” working class went with him and has stayed away. Some of the smarter operators are trying to woo him back into the fold, hoping that constituency will return to Labour.

So the Peters and Tamihere political stories may not quite be finished, but our fourth contender’s is.

Shane Jones is arguably the smartest brain in Parliament. Whether it’s arrogance or he has a blind spot, he has undone himself.

He was the great brown hope, good with people, respected in boardrooms and in the media. He could move between the Maori and Pakeha worlds with ease.

But his judgment over misusing his government credit card was astonishing. Jones humbly accepted his demotion. But you got a sense his heart went out of politics and hasn’t returned, even after David Shearer rehabilitated him to the front bench.

Jones’ approving citizenship for someone with questions over their character, after being advised not to, smells.

The best he can now hope for is that the impending inquiry clears him.

I wouldn’t be surprised that whatever the result, he will give the political game away and resign. Unlike many of his fellow parliamentarians, he’d make a better living outside without the aggro.

Parata’s mishandling of her education plan this week showed a misjudgment we haven’t seen before. She seems out of her depth and, for the first time, we can question her competence.

Trying to spin to parents that having fewer teachers at their children’s school will not affect their education is not going to wash.

Her not knowing that some schools would lose up to seven teachers was careless.

Private schools are now marketing to prospective parents that they have a better-quality education because they have fewer students in their classes – because the Government has increased their funding.

The powerful teacher unions are now in sync with the public mood, parents, trustees and school principals.

This is her moment.

Whatever she does will define her for the rest of her political career. If she loses, as I’m sure she will, another Maori contender for the top job crashes.

Eventually someone with Maori blood will be Prime Minister, but the two surviving front runners appear to have crashed this week.

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