Jones denies National hand in resignation
STACEY KIRK, MICHAEL FOX AND VERNON SMALL
High-profile Labour MP Shane Jones is denying the National Party had a hand in his resignation, despite Jones crossing the political divide to take up a role specially created for him by the Government.
Labour was left scrambling to coordinate after news of Jones' imminent departure, from the party he's served since 2005, was broken on 3 News last night.
He said last night that he had been an MP for nine years "and I don't want that life anymore".
"To go on needs an enormous amount of energy and commitment . . . and I've reached a point that I really want to do something else with my life."
At 54 he could not commit to another term, which he said MPs should be able to do going into an election.
Jones is set to take up a government economic development role, focusing on fisheries, with Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully admitting last night that Jones had been headhunted for the job.
But Jones said this morning that ultimately, the decision was his own.
"In politics there's both a professional role to play, but also on a deep personal level you've got to be honest with yourself.
"The honest truth is the ebb and flow of Labour's fortunes have at the margin a bit to do with me, but at a deeper level have a lot to do with winning the hearts and minds of Kiwis, and to do that they need people who are dedicated ... I just admitted to myself that's not the space I'm in."
Jones' said he had had a discussion with McCully about the role this year, but it was on a parliamentary trip to the Pacific Islands a few years ago where he decided he would like to move to a role in that region should he depart politics.
Jones said he did not yet have a contract for the job but it was an area he had long been interested in and he felt he could contribute to it. He denied he had sprung his announcement on the party, saying there had been discussions behind the scenes.
But many of the party were gobsmacked by the decision when it was broadcast last night, with Jones' likely replacement, and close friend, Kelvin Davis unaware of his decision.
A number of senior MPs among the Labour Party were also unaware of last night's announcement before it was made.
The decision is a serious blow to Labour, which loses one of its strongest performers in election year and as it is struggling to make headway in the polls.
Leader David Cunliffe, who had a meeting with Jones last night at Waipu Hotel, said his departure was likely to be in about a month.
"He's a much valued colleague and he has made the decision that he needed to make for his own reasons. We respect that and we'll be sorry to lose him."
He said Jones conveyed his final decision yesterday morning.
This morning Cunliffe said Jones had made an "honourable" decision.
"The timing was a surprise to everybody we totally respsect Shane's reasons, which were personal, for making the decision; he didn't feel he could give a thousand per cent to the campaign and to the next three years so he's made an honourable decision to step aside.
"Having said that the timing was a surprise and of course he could have stayed through to the election," he told Firstline.
However Cunliffe hinted that the move by National to poach Jones was a Machiavellian one.
"It's interesting the National Party has offered an inducement to him, I guess they're going to run out of embassies at some point," he said.
"He's made this decision for personal reasons, he's made it in the context apparently of an offer from the National Party and you'd have to ask them for their reasons for doing that. Whether it's about Mr McCully in East Coast Bays, or the [UN] Security Council bid, or whatever it is."
McCully denied that suggestion.
"Nobody else is going to make Shane Jones' personal and political decisions for him, certainly not anybody whose part of the National Government.
"I've been very clear about the importance I place on this role. We sat down and made a list of the people who we thought could do it, and he was by far the top of that list," he said on Firstline.
McCully said discussions over a potential start date for Jones' new role had not been had, but he was keen to firm up the contract.
"Guys like him are going to have choices, so I don't consider this a done deal yet. I very much want him to pick up this role but all those questions now need to take place."
- The Dominion Post
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