Shane Jones on fire in 2014

WILLIE JACKSON
Last updated 05:00 21/02/2014

The Labour Party's Shane Jones made an outstanding start to the political year after he accused Australian owned supermarket Countdown of extorting payment from New Zealand suppliers in a way that amounted to corruption, racketeering and blackmail.

Jones said that some firms had been told that their products would not be placed on the shelves of supermarkets unless they made back-dated payments and offered remuneration as compensation for losses.

Jones has cleverly used Parliamentary privilege to put his allegations and his performance has been stunning.

He described Countdown's behaviour as repugnant and the culture of Countdown as something that Tony Soprano would have been proud of.

Former National Party Minister and now Food and Grocery Council chief executive Katherine Rich supported his view and Labour knew they were on to a winner.

And doesn't Labour need Jones at the moment? Their leader David Cunliffe has made a weak start to the political year in direct contrast to his opposite John Key who has started the year firing on all cylinders. Cunliffe totally botched Labour's baby bonus policy when he said more than 59,000 families with newborns would receive their best start investment of $60 per week. It turned out he got all his figures wrong and then floundered when trying to explain the details of the policy.

He then looked stupid when it was found that he was part of the Shane Taurima group who attended a meeting at TVNZ.

It seems unbelievable that Cunliffe would not have thought for one second that attending a Labour meeting at the state broadcaster's headquarters was not wrong. Unlike Jones' start it's been a nightmare beginning for Cunliffe.

Jones' virtuoso performance in the house has kept Labour and, maybe even more importantly, him in the limelight.

It's no secret that he is not held in high regard by the strong women and rainbow factions. As well, despite him being far and away the most outstanding Maori Labour MP, he cannot lay claim to leading the Maori caucus.

Despite his tremendous performance in the Labour leadership race he was still seen as vulnerable in terms of getting a high list position by some of his detractors within Labour but his latest performance should silence that lot.

He has taken the side of the underdog. Kiwis hate bullies, particularly Australian corporate bullies of the Tony Soprano style.

Labour are still relevant only because of him at the moment and if Cunliffe continues with his mediocre performances Jones should be seen as the only alternative as Labour Party leader.

Editor's note: Countdown has denied Shane Jones' allegations.

- Manukau Courier

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