Labour leadership hopeful Shane Jones has lost the opportunity to demonstrate his ability to go toe to toe with Prime Minister John Key in Parliament after the party went back on its plan to have all three contenders ask questions in the House yesterday.

Instead, the trio were to have travelled to a union rally in South Auckland yesterday against employment law changes but the plan changed again after it was decided their presence would be a distraction.

Mr Jones, however, attended the meeting anyway.

The two other contenders David Cunliffe and Grant Robertson put questions to Mr Key during Tuesday's session in Parliament, while Mr Jones questioned Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce.


All three were to have asked questions yesterday and the Herald understands Mr Jones was to have taken on Mr Key. However, Labour whip Chris Hipkins said "we had a number of other issues that we wanted to pursue at question time".

"For us at the moment we either put all of the leadership contenders up or we don't."

He said it was up to MPs including the three leadership contenders which Government minister they wanted to question and it was Mr Jones' decision to go up against Mr Joyce rather than the Prime Minister on Tuesday.

With Prime Minister John Key rarely in Parliament on a Thursday, Mr Jones will not have the opportunity to question him in the House today. Next week all three contenders will be absent from the House as they go on a roadshow as part of the leadership contest which winds up with an election on September 15.

Mr Cunliffe didn't believe Mr Jones had been treated unfairly by being denied the chance to test himself against the Prime Minister.

"The procedures process we've used has been fair to all candidates and we've all been offered the same opportunities."

Meanwhile, during Prime television's Back Benches programme last night, Mana Leader Hone Harawira endorsed Mr Jones while his mother Titewhai backed Mr Robertson.