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John Armstrong is the Herald's chief political commentator

John Armstrong: Resignation couldn't have come at a worse time

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Shane Jones may have seen himself ending up as a paralysed economic development minister in a Labour-Greens coalition. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Shane Jones may have seen himself ending up as a paralysed economic development minister in a Labour-Greens coalition. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Shane Jones' shock decision to quit as a Labour MP will lead voters to draw one conclusion and one conclusion only: that he thinks Labour cannot win the September general election.

His departure is close to an unmitigated disaster for Labour. For starters, unlike the bulk of his colleagues, Jones could reach into segments of the vote - especially blue-collar males - who have switched off Labour. He was in the process of switching those traditional relationships back on.

Read more: Jones shocks Labour by quitting

He was a major weapon in helping Labour to win back more of the Maori seats.

Perhaps of most significance, Labour has lost the one man who would have acted as the essential go-between in securing Winston Peters' signature on a post-election coalition or co-operation agreement between Labour and New Zealand First which enabled Labour to govern.

Jones, however, may have seen himself ending up as a paralysed economic development minister in a Labour-Greens coalition which saw him having to constantly battle on behalf of any project with environmental repercussions.

Sure, there have always been questions about Jones' commitment to national politics. He has previously long pondered whether to stay in Parliament or cut his losses and return to the world of commerce, thus ending what has been a political career marked with a few highs, but definite lows.

The great tragedy for Labour is that the highs had been easily outnumbering the lows since the last election. Jones had visibly flowered and exuded confidence and authority following him putting himself forward for the Labour leadership last year after David Shearer stood down from the job. Labour cannot afford to lose MPs of such huge calibre and drawcard charisma. Neither can it afford to lose someone who talks political sense in a no-frills way.

His departure is a blow to those on the party's right who question the wisdom of Labour's perceptible drift to the left under David Cunliffe's leadership.

He might not have intended it, but his leaving is also a massive blow to Labour's morale at one of the worst possible times - just five months before election day when the party is endeavouring to motivate its membership to go door-knocking to get out the Labour vote.

The best that can be said is that Cunliffe will now not be overshadowed by anyone from his own side during the formal election campaign. That was always going to be a danger when Jones was around.

Regardless, the winners from Jones' going are John Key and the Labour left, unusual bedfellows to say the least.

Debate on this article is now closed.

- NZ Herald

John Armstrong

John Armstrong is the Herald's chief political commentator

Herald political correspondent John Armstrong has been covering politics at a national level for nearly 30 years. Based in the Press Gallery at Parliament in Wellington, John has worked for the Herald since 1987. John was named Best Columnist at the 2013 Canon Media Awards and was a previous winner of Qantas media awards as best political columnist. Prior to joining the Herald, John worked at Parliament for the New Zealand Press Association. A graduate of Canterbury University's journalism school, John began his career in journalism in 1981 on the Christchurch Star. John has a Masters of Arts degree in political science from Canterbury.

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