COMMENT:

The Prince of the Provinces Shane Jones is taking a few days off to study the Cabinet Manual, the rule book that's meant to apply to ministers' behaviour.

Well that's what hopeful Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's telling us. It's presumably her way of delivering a rebuke to him for his outburst at a forestry conference last week where his message was: vote for him or run the risk of missing out on the billions he's handing out from the Provincial Growth Fund.

But reading the manual is hardly likely to tame this self-professed "retail politician, a son of the north" who reckons you're never going to take the politics out of the politician.

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Over the weekend he doubled down on his message, hitting back at those who accused him of bribery, describing them as "lost and lonely, snake in the grass Kiwi executives, operating for foreign forestry companies". He won't tolerate it, he fumed, saying they've walked into a war zone and they'll find he's more than capable of responding with withering fire.

Indeed since the accusation was made he claims scores of people have read the news and know forestry "has a champion in Shane Jones" and they're pledging their support for him.

Certainly doesn't sound like a man who's going to follow Jacinda Ardern's direction and read the Cabinet rules and abide by them.

When it comes to New Zealand First, the Labour leadership appears to be impotent, as it most certainly is, when it tries to pull them into line over what is becoming a repetitive problem.

In March last year, the party's newbie MP Jenny Marcroft told National MP Mark Mitchell to pull out of a group representing a river restoration project in his electorate and to stop questioning Jones over the $3 billion provincial fund or the project wouldn't get any money from it.

Winston Peters made her apologise to Mitchell for any misunderstanding she may have left him with.

Defence Minister Ron Mark. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Defence Minister Ron Mark. Photo / Mark Mitchell

But then a year later, Defence Minister Ron Mark was accused of using his ministerial clout, threatening to cut funding to a veterans' organisation if its members didn't support New Zealand First. He told them polling showed him the Defence base didn't support them at all. Mark calculated if the Defence Force threw their party vote his party's way they'd probably get up to 16 per cent support, before reminding them he personally got the vets the government funding.

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There's nothing new in politicians pointing out to the punter that their vote's needed if they want their policies to continue.

But this has taken it to a new level, threatening to cut funding unless a vote's put their way is a step too far - and does little to debunk the critics' view that the PGF is a political slush fund.