Shocked MPs to fight on
After the sudden resignation of Shane Jones from politics, Labour MPs in the Waikato were back on deck to push policy.
Just months out from the general election, commentators described the move as a disaster for Labour and an admission that Jones believed the party could not win in September.
Hauraki-Waikato Labour MP Nanaia Mahuta was shocked with the news that Jones would be lost from the party ranks. She said it came without warning. "He's obviously thought long and hard about his decision and he's come to the point where he thinks it is time to move on," said Mahuta.
Jones was seen as a leader in Maori circles before his tilt into politics but Mahuta denied his loss would halt a return of the Maori seats to Labour.
"I don't think that it is purely dependent on one politician. I do think it is dependent on the policies that Labour will front going into the next election," she said.
"There are some bread and butter issues that have not been delivered on by the Maori Party which leads people, and Maori especially, to turn back to Labour."
Hamilton list MP and chief whip Sue Moroney said politics was harsh and Jones made a personal decision to leave but the policy work continued.
Jones' policy area of regional economic development would be taken over by Labour leader David Cunliffe which would give it more prominence, she said. Talk that Labour had been left gutted by the resignation was an "over-reaction".
"Shane is part of our Labour family so when any one of our team departs that has an impact on us, but the reality is we are a team and we've got strong policies and we continue our work on that," she said.
Jones' departure opened the way for former Tai Tokerau candidate Kelvin Davis. Moroney confirmed that being next on the Labour party list, he would return to parliament.
Hamilton East MP David Bennett said last year's lost leadership bid and Labour's shift to the left was at the heart of Jones' resignation.
Despite Labour's loss, Bennett still expected the general election to be a tight race "and I don't think this will influence it too much".
- Waikato Times