Awanui's Labour list MP Shane Jones sees David Cunliffe as the front runner for the Labour Party leadership following David Shearer's resignation, but if the party wanted to win the next election, he said yesterday, he was the only chance it had.
"We need someone who can resonate with New Zealanders, and I'm the only one who can do that," he said.
(The leadership will also be contested by Mr Shearer's deputy, Grant Robertson).
Mr Jones said he had come to his decision to seek the job on Friday, while he was mowing his lawns. Touted by commentators from the outset as a potential candidate, albeit a long shot, he said he had no doubt that, unlike is opponents, he could attract blue-collar workers back to the Labour fold and take on "the $50 million gorilla," Prime Minister John Key.
His style of "smoko room" politics and debating ability were the best way to beat National and get working-class voters to turn to Labour, which he said had lost its relevance.
His skill as an orator, his Maori heritage and his common touch are also regarded by his supporters as strengths that would serve him well in the election process, and as party leader.
Mr Jones acknowledged that one or two missteps in the past could reduce his chances, but he had done his penance and had a clear conscience.
"I'm not running to be the Pope. I'm running to be the leader of the Labour Party," he said, adding that he had years of experience of debating on marae and in politics, and had no fears about facing Mr Key in Parliament and election debates.
He also believed that his ability to focus on basic issues that mattered to voters would attract support.
"The Labour brand is a proud and true brand. Unfortunately we have allowed that brand to become irrelevant in how a whole bunch of New Zealanders see their personal circumstances," he said.
"The 800,000 who didn't vote last time need to see Labour as relevant to what they need to help bring their kids up. It's simple stuff: jobs, income, security, sport, life."