Editorial: Murray McCully now finds himself in the exquisitely satisfying position of issuing public assurances that luring Shane Jones out of Labour's ranks really isn't the truly majestic piece of political sabotage it so strongly resembles.
OPINION: The Pacific development job that McCully created as Foreign Affairs Minister wasn't set up with anyone particularly in mind, see?
It was just that when they squinted good and hard at the vacancy they realised - and imagine their surprise - that it turned out to be Shane Jones-shaped.
So that's why he was shoulder-tapped, then.
And as for the fact that this also represents a beautifully timed kick to the very loins that Labour was girding to fight the elections? Just another example of it being funny how things sometimes turn out
It's not a particularly easy message for McCully, and Prime Minister John Key, to sell. But it's one of those occasions, not half as rare as they should be, where politicians know that even if they aren't believed, people might still find themselves feeling more impressed than deceived.
For that matter, Labour leader David Cunliffe's description of Jones having made an "honourable" decision might, itself, not ring all that true for sincerity either.
If things get more honourable in his party, it's stuffed.
Jones' departure might, by the way, have panned out more or less as the Nats portray.
In which case they will hardly be able to believe their own luck, given the strong sinking-ship message it sends about Labour's election chances.
There's no getting around it that Jones' blokey and business-friendly appeal isn't widely replicated elsewhere in the Labour caucus.
It's the timing, far more than the fact, of his departure that has Labour reeling.
The party could scarcely have feined surprise if he had left after the campaign, having come third in last year's leadership battle.
He was rumoured to have been considering a move to New Zealand First, and even the Internet Party, having been, by his own most recent account, feeling chained-up within Labour.
But as his campaign against Countdown showed, he may have been strongly problematic in some areas, but he was also a strong performer in others.
The consolations for Labour, such as they are, have been widely acknowledged.
Jones' antipathy for key Labour ally the Greens was always going to be profitably explored during the election, to the point where he would most likely have detonated in honest detestation or imploded from the effort of suppressing it.
And at least the replacement next in line for promotion from the party list is Kelvin Davis, who also has considerable blue-collar regional appeal.
Jones himself portrays the decision as coming from a contemplative Easter reflection during which he was truthful with himself that his commitment had waned.
He even used the phrase "It's not the space I was in".
- The Southland Times
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