Greens links rankled with Jones

Shane Jones.
Shane Jones.
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 role.

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 transplant."

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 secret.

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 Parker."

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 $148,000.

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

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