Stacey Kirk: Shane Jones - a prophetic jester with an eye on the throne. But which one?
OPINION: The Jones Boy is back.
And he's wasted no time in sewing the seed for a "second King in the north".
In politics' worst-kept secret, the former Labour MP and diplomat has announced he's returning for another campaign.
Shedding his red coat for a black NZ First cap he had specially made, Jones vowed to turn around the fortunes of the Northland electorate of Whangarei.
He's got a hurdle to overcome - National's Shane Reti won the seat by more than 13,000 votes in 2014, and National took just over 50 per cent of the party vote.
But NZ First leader Winston Peters made fine work of National's complacency in Northland in 2015, and has been laying foundations to replicate an upset in Whangarei. A Jones win is remote, absolutely - but not totally out of the question.
When he delivered an oddly prescient valedictory speech - turning his back on Labour in 2014 - he perhaps knowingly laid out his own rules for competing in the "great game".
Well now, the great game looks to be almost upon us.
VERBOSITY IS KING (AFTER WINSTON):
Jones (wisely) paid tribute to Peters at his departure.
"Winston and I are comrades in arms in terms of the Tai Tokerau and coming from the north. The notion that upon that political pew two halos could be situated would invite an unwanted comparison to a double-yolk egg.
"But I will tell you what, though. Had that happened, there would have been a great contest in terms of Shakespearean quotes, but I would never have beaten Winston in that quote from Richard III: 'A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!'"
In the context that Jones was scarpering from Labour just before the party was lead to its worst election result in history, Labour may have found this cut close to the bone, in retrospect.
But goodness, imagine those two in full verbose-flight at a NZ First caucus meeting. As a way to drown out Deputy Leader Ron Mark - Jones' likely rival as the eventual successor to Peters - it's a tactic. No one else would get a word in.
ALL HAIL THE KING OF SELF-PRESERVATION:
"Cash is king, brother — cash is king."
Some sage words uttered to his incoming replacement at the time, Labour's Kelvin Davis. Loosely translated to: "Don't rack up hotel porn on your Parliamentary credit card".
Words everyone can live by.
NO KING LASTS FOREVER:
"We had our leadership contest, which was probably the most liberating thing that I personally did as a member of the Labour Party. I had the ability to be paid and wander around for 6 weeks saying whatever I liked about whomever I liked in my own party, and I thoroughly enjoyed it."
There's no leadership contest in NZ First, while Peters is around. And when Peters departs, the only competition is to be one he anoints.
But clearly, as he told Parliament in 2014, Jones fancies the leaderly lifestyle. Jones could make a very effective MP for Whangarei, but that's not the throne he has his sights on.
That is the one behind Peters' desk.
No one can say politics is less entertaining for the return of Shane Jones.
- Sunday Star Times