Departing Labour MP Shane Jones' antipathy for the Green
Party went so deep he once told Labour's leadership he would
not be a minister if he was "second fiddle" to Green co-leader
Russel Norman as deputy prime minister or in a senior economic
Mr Jones announced he was stepping down from politics this
week and although his primary reasons are to take up a new
role as well as personal and financial, he has also hinted he
was increasingly uncomfortable with the direction of Labour
toward the Greens.
Asked whether David Cunliffe had tried to keep him by
promising a ministerial post if Labour regained the
Government benches, he said he had told Labour's leadership
some time ago he would struggle to be a minister if Mr Norman
or other Green MPs held senior posts.
"The Labour Party I came into is a party of New Zealanders.
Some are on the left, some are on the right. The sweet spot
is in the centre. I'm not interested in ever campaigning for
the Green vote or going out there promoting Labour as only
being able to govern if it has some sort of Green organ
Green MP Gareth Hughes, whom Mr Jones has called a
"mollyhawk", said he wished Mr Jones well.
It has also emerged that Mr Cunliffe made little effort to
persuade Mr Jones to stay and had not asked whether there was
anything that might encourage him to stay, despite driving up
to Waipu to see the MP after Jones told him of his decision.
Mr Cunliffe said yesterday he had not asked Mr Jones whether
anything might change his mind to keep him with Labour and Mr
Jones had not asked. "We didn't get into any kind of
conversation about inducements ... It's fair to say he was
clear headed and had made up his mind."
He did not recall Mr Jones telling him he would not work
under Dr Norman, but Mr Jones' views on the Greens were no
Mr Jones was likely to take up a job offer from Foreign
Affairs Minister Murray McCully working across the Pacific
but said he would not have stayed on until after the election
even if that job had not come up.
Part of the reason for his departure was because he decided
in 2005 if he had not made it to either Labour leader or the
finance portfolio within nine years, he would cut his losses
and leave. He had come to terms with the knowledge Labour
would not elect him as its leader and he would not have asked
for the finance portfolio because David Parker was a close
friend of his. "I'd never try to take sharp elbows to David
Mr Jones confirmed his decision was also partly because of
personal issues. He has had some bouts of ill health in
recent years, including ending up in hospital at one stage
last year. His cancer has not returned, but the impact of his
job on his health was concerning his friends and family.
Finances were possibly another incentive. The median base
salary for an ambassador-level position at MFAT is $180,000
but the most senior positions attract up to $250,000 plus
allowances. As an Opposition MP, Mr Jones' salary is
Mr Jones said he had intended to tell Labour's caucus of his
decision after Anzac Day but TV3 got wind of it earlier,
forcing him to show his hand.
- Claire Trevett of the New Zealand Herald