Shane Jones to quit Labour

10:57, Apr 22 2014
Shane Jones
Labour MP Shane Jones listens as David Cunliffe speaks at the Pullman Hotel on March 14.
Shane Jones
Shane Jones was Te Ohu Kai Moana chairman in 2005.
Shane Jones
Shane Jones makes his maiden speech as a Labour MP in Parliament in 2005.
Shane Jones
Labour MP Shane Jones makes a toast to his whanau and supporters at the Manurewa RSA.

High-profile Labour list MP Shane Jones says he no longer wants the life of an MP, as he confirms he is to quit the party and Parliament soon.

Jones said 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 do 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.

His departure is a big blow to Labour which loses one of its strongest performers in election year and at a crucial time when it is struggling to make headway in the polls.

The party appeared to be caught flat-footed by the breaking story of Jones’ departure, and took some time to confirm it.

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Foreign Minister Murray McCully said Jones had been head-hunted for an ambassador-level role, but negotiations were not finalised.

Jones said he had not yet been offered a contract for the job, but that he was also said considering other offers.

But the first thing he needed to do was "clear the decks" and move on from his role as an MP, he said.

The fact he was clashing with some MPs within Labour over the direction of the party had not influenced his decision.

Moving on allowed the party to refresh.

He denied he had sprung his announcement on the party, saying there had been discussions behind the scenes.

Labour leader David Cunliffe praised Jones, once his opponent in the race for party leader.

"He's a much-valued colleague and he has made the decision that he needed to make for his own reasons," Cunliffe said.

"We respect that and we'll be sorry to lose him."

Cunliffe visited Jones in Northland last night and shared a meal with him at Waipu Hotel. They discussed his decision.

He said Jones conveyed his final decision on Tuesday morning about 10am. A departure date had not yet been set, but about a month from now was likely.

Cunliffe said he was "agnostic" about the departure date, and that it would be worked out to suit all concerned and after discussions with Kelvin Davis, the next candidate on Labour’s list.

The former MP was another strong Maori voice for the North.

"I'm sure he will be welcomed back with open arms," Cunliffe said of Davis.

Cunliffe would likely take over economic development and Clayton Cosgrove take up Jones' campaign on supermarkets.

He would not say whether it was a political  move by National to enter talks with Jones.

"Today I just want to focus on Shane and acknowledge the contribution he has made."

Jones has assured party leaders he will not be jumping to another party, despite rumours earlier this year that he was eyeing the future leadership of NZ First.

McCully said the ambassador-level role would deal with economic development in the Pacific. It would sit within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, but he denied that selecting Jones was a politically motivated move. The job would have a focus on fisheries and small island states.

“I have been talking to the ministry for quite some time about creating this role and early this year made the decision that I wanted to proceed with it. We sat down to identify suitable people who might be considered for it and Shane Jones's name was obviously at the top of the list," McCully said.

McCully confirmed he was waiting to hear from Jones but said they wanted someone in the role as soon as possible, before the Conference on Small Island Developing States in Samoa in September.

Jones said it was an area he had long held an interest in and one where he felt he could make a contribution.

Labour Party leader Moira Coatsworth refused to comment on the job, but said the often-controversial MP had kept her informed as he considered options outside of Parliament.

"Of course we'll miss Shane but we're also pleased that Kelvin Davis is returning to the caucus and I know that Shane Jones is particularly pleased with that as well."

Davis was one of the party's "rising stars," she said.

The decision about when to leave was Jones's, she said.

She thanked him for his contribution to the Labour Party, saying he was a man of "great mana".

"I wanted to thank Shane for the contribution he's made. He's a senior figure who's made a real contribution to Labour and I want to thank him and really wish him well as he moves forward." Jones had stepped up within the party as leader of its Maori caucus after former Labour MP Parekura Horomia died last year, she said.

Former Labour leader David Shearer said Jones told him of his decision yesterday afternoon.

Jones would be a "real loss" to the party.

"I've had a very good relationship with Shane and I respect him hugely. He's a natural leader and fantastic orator," he said.

Another MP said: "He is not everybody's cup of tea, but he has made the decision and he is going. It's gutting."

Jones missed out on Labour's leadership in last year's run-off and has set himself up as the party's strongest critics of a deal with the Greens this year.

But he has also made a splash with his allegations against supermarket chain Countdown, which has sparked a Commerce Commission probe.

Jones entered Parliament in 2005 after a stint as chairman of the Waitangi Fisheries Commission, a year completing a masters degree in public administration at Harvard, and working for what was then the Maori Policy Unit in the Ministry for the Environment and the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.

He served as minister for building and construction from 2007 to 2008 when he was re-elected as a list MP.

Recognised as a colourful orator and more recently as one of Labour's best-performing MPs, Jones is Labour's economic development, Maori affairs, forestry, and building and construction spokesman.

In 2010 he admitted using his ministerial credit card to rent pornographic movies.

Fairfax Media