Audrey Young 's Opinion

Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

Audrey Young: Shane Jones and Labour's power struggles

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Labour Party MP Shane Jones. Photo / Doug Sherring
Labour Party MP Shane Jones. Photo / Doug Sherring

The subterranean power struggles going on inside the Labour Party caucus were exposed at the weekend during Shane Jones' interview on The Nation.

Jones let his guard down in the interview with TV3's political editor, Duncan Garner, and revealed his feelings towards "Camp Cunliffe," supporters of finance spokesman David Cunliffe, a potential rival for the Labour leadership.

It promises to be a tense Labour caucus meeting tomorrow.

It's the first caucus since leaked reports that leader Phil Goff offered to step down at a meeting of the front bench.

It's the first caucus since a leaked report that Goff was criticised by MPs at a caucus meeting for his handling of the SIS briefing issue.

It's the first caucus since MP Clare Curran apologised after being pillioried for suggesting on the Red Alert blog that the Greens were encroaching onto Labour territory.

It's a caucus where the pressure is starting the build and it's starting to show.

"Camp Cunliffe" is being blamed for leaks about Phil Goff's supposed offer to his front bench to step down.

Jones was asked on The Nation if Cunliffe had leadership qualities. And this is what he said:

"Well what he needs to do at the moment for all of us, and that's what he's promising he's going to do for us, is go and sell our economic policy.

" I understand David to have said on numerous occasions he's a team player and he's going to tautoko or support Annette King and Phil Goff.

"Now what happens in the future we need to talk to him about that, but there's really no - there's no scope for this fratricide or there's no scope for feeding the media's appetite in wanting to turn this election into a Labour Party leadership fight, it's a joke."

What Jones seems to be saying is that while Cunliffe professes to be a team player, he isn't being one, and right now he needs to focus on selling the economic policy, not the future leadership.

Asked about the leak on what Goff said at the frontbench meeting, Jones said "when you are trying to win votes and to read in the newspaper such a story, it causes my Slavic blood to boil.

"There's no way that story should have ever got into the public. And if there is someone who has made that leak, then they should be made to pay the price."

Goff's offer to step down was apparently more along the lines of Goff telling the front bench to speak up if they didn't like what he was doing as leader and no one did.

But that sounds serious enough.

It suggests that Goff was frustrated with the lack of support he was getting from some of his frontbenchers and if they had a problem with his leadership, they should speak now or forever hold their peace - at least until election day on November 26.

Cunliffe has always pledged his public support for the Labour leadership as any MP properly must.

And no doubt he will again tomorrow if his colleagues accuse him of white-anting the leader.

Cunliffe and Goff's relationship may be under some strain given, among other things, the growing role Goff has given David Parker in the finance area.

Parker, himself a leadership prospect, has played a more assertive role since settling down leadership jitters in the caucus at the time Goff's handling of the Darren Hughes affair caused internal upheavals.

Camp David and Camp Cunliffe are seen as the two leading contenders in any post-election leadership spill.

(My colleague Claire Trevett reported last week that the figures associated with Camp Cunliffe include Lianne Dalziel, Moana Mackey and Charles Chauvel.)

Jones himself made it clear on TV3 he still harbours leadership ambitions, which would be improved if he won Tamaki Makaurau from Pita Sharples though Jones hastened to say his ambitions were "at a very low ebb."

He wasn't sure if Labour's feminists regarded him as rehabilitated after blowing his ministerial credit card on porn moves.

"You'd need to ask them bro," he told Garner. "I think with the public I'm pretty popular and you know I'm a person who's very optimistic."

* The Nation screens at 10.30 am on Saturdays, TV3.

- NZ Herald

Audrey Young

Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor, a job she has held since 2003. She is responsible for the Herald’s Press Gallery team. She first joined the New Zealand Herald in 1988 as a sub-editor after the closure of its tabloid rival, the Auckland Sun. She switched to reporting in 1991 as social welfare and housing reporter. She joined the Herald’s Press Gallery office in 1994. She has previously worked as a journalism tutor at Manukau Technical Institute, as member of the Newspapers in Education unit at Wellington Newspapers and as a teacher in Wellington. She was a union nominee on the Press Council for six years.

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