Alanah Eriksen

Alanah Eriksen is the New Zealand Herald's property reporter, and assistant chief reporter.

Shane Jones: 'I started this race as an underdog'

Labour MP Shane Jones says the focus is now on taking on Key's Government. Photo/ Natalie Slade
Labour MP Shane Jones says the focus is now on taking on Key's Government. Photo/ Natalie Slade

Former Labour leadership contender Shane Jones has thrown his "unstinting support" behind new leader David Cunliffe.

Speaking from his base at the Manurewa RSA after his defeat, 54-year-old Mr Jones said he never expected to win.

"I started this race as an underdog. And I really had a slightly different mission, which was to jolt our party and begin to talk in such a way that we made ourselves relevant again, not just to party members but to voters who seem to have walked away from Labour.

"And if I've contributed to that narrative than I have no doubt that I'll be well regarded for that as time goes on."

He said he planned on calling Mr Cunliffe tonight to congratulate him and the other contender Grant Robertson to console him.

"It has been an invigorating race and the winner David Cunliffe will have my unstinting support.

I have not a doubt in my mind that unless we unify around our new leader, we run the risk of losing the momentum that's been built up through this race.

"I realise next year we have a bigger contest, and that's to take on Prime Minister John Key's Government."

Mr Jones said he would not throw his hat into the ring for the deputy leadership and would be keen to see a female party member take up the role.

A small group of about 20 people, including Labour MP Su'a William Sio, had gathered in support, helping themselves to drinks and nibbles put on by Mr Jones.

Dozens of family members were unable to attend, including Mr Jones' mother, because they were attending the tangi of his uncle in Northland, as well as the tangi of his partner Dot Pumipi's uncle.

The results were announced to Mr Jones via a phone call from the party's general secretary Tim Barnett about 2.43pm. Mr Jones told Ms Pumipi and long-time supporter Shane Te Pou before being given the green light to announce it publicly a few minutes later.

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Ms Pumipi, who was Mr Jones' campaign manager, said she was probably "more disappointed than Shane".

She hoped to have quiet time with her partner tonight and maybe go to a movie.

Former taxi driver Sam Pehi, 80, had travelled from Ponsonby to support Mr Jones, wearing his best suit, which was 40-years-old.

"When I found out he would be here, I shaved, shampooed and came straight here.

"Shane has a wonderful leadership style because he's been brought up amongst Maori and Pakeha. He has the relationship of both."

- NZ Herald

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