I'm not leaving Labour - Jones

STACEY KIRK
Last updated 08:30 21/03/2014
Shane Jones
Fairfax NZ
SHANE JONES: Denies he is planning an exit from Labour.

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Labour MP Shane Jones denies he is planning an exit from Labour, but accepts his chance to be leader had "come and gone".

Right wing commentator Matthew Hooton claims Jones' recent behaviour was not an attempt to establish himself as viable alternative to leader David Cunliffe.

Rather, Hooton claims Jones is baiting party leadership to expel him, or give him a reason to leave.

Jones has been in the headlines recently for his attacks on Green Party members - Labour's natural support partners.

He stepped up his rhetoric against the Greens in the past few weeks, branding them "too activist" to be part of a Government, and calling mining and oceans spokesman Gareth Hughes a "mollyhawk" – likening him to an "immature squawking bird".

After receiving a public dressing down from Cunliffe over the comments, Jones went on to brand Greens co-leader Russel Norman as "too Australian" to be able to lecture him on conservation.

Cunliffe has had to deny repeated questions over a possible rift forming between Jones and the party leadership.

Hooton's column today in the National Business Review, speculated that Jones was positioning himself for a switch to NZ First under leader Winston Peters.

"The goal would be to indisputably hold the balance of power between National and Labour/Green," Hooton said.

"The most likely short-term outcome would be for Mr Peters and Mr Jones to serve as ministers in Mr Key's Cabinet.

"More significantly - assuming Mr Jones could win the support of the party's caucus and board - Mr Peters, who will be 72 at the 2017 election, would pass the NZ First leadership to Mr Jones, who would be 59."

Jones today confirmed the opportunity for him to ever become leader of the Labour Party had come and gone, but said Hooton's comments were intended to be divisive.

"It'll be a long day in hell before I ever take my political advice from Matthew,' he said on Breakfast.

"His whole agenda is to create divisiveness and mischief on our side of politics."

But Hooton said Jones had reached as high as he could climb in the Labour Party.

"One thing is certain: Mr Jones is never going to achieve anything in Labour," he wrote.

"If Mr Cunliffe became prime minister, Jones probably wouldn't have the caucus support to be elected to the Cabinet.

"Even if he did, he would be given a carefully fenced but irrelevant sandpit."

When asked if he would be in the Labour Party at the next election, Jones said "absolutely".

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