A Dishonourable Departure, Labour’s not a dirty word

One time Labour leadership contender Shane Jones has announced his decision to quit parliament and his party for a job in Pacific economic development. While John Key bleats that the position was not politically motivated, he pours drivel over the press – that Shane Jones is showing with his feet that the government is on the right track. While not an inaccurate conclusion to draw I will not allow the most powerful person in the country to claim disinterest while at the same time droning on about how great his government is. No part of this is apolitical, politics is everywhere.

Consider a student flat with a lease of one year. The flatmates are friends and by and large have a great time together. One of them sees an opportunity to move to a nicer flat halfway through the year and walks out on their flatmates and their agreement. They leave for entirely selfish reasons, and as thousands of students can tell you a flatmate that does this is a flatmate from hell. This is what Shane Jones has done to Labour. A man like that has no integrity and little personal honour – I’m very glad he did not become leader last year.

All major media outlets wrote suspiciously identical lines about how Labour was scrambling after the news broke on Tuesday, members expressing their shock before a suppression order was issued from the leaders office. How is this even worthy of note? The overblown turncoat didn’t forewarn most of his colleagues (although John Key and Murray McCully seemed to have been aware for some time), and the caucus is now dealing with an unexpected crisis. I would be very alarmed if the reaction was uniformly considered and weighed.  

On another note the Judith Collins saga revealed another sleazy tactic on the part of the Prime Minister – at least before the Shane Jones turd hit the proverbial fan. Key said repeatedly that Labour was ‘labouring’ the point on the Oravida scandal, a rather dull instance of his wit, but an attempt at something that could be very dangerous. He is trying to poison the heart of Labour’s brand. This tactic will only work if he persists with it and Labour fails to respond, and their response could sweep John Key’s re-branding aside with ease if done right. I am imagining a big media event in which David Cunliffe makes a speech about how the government thinks ‘labouring’ is bad when the result of the best meaning of the word labour is new life. Then a segway into how the government will only grudgingly support motherhood, how the Labour Party is the champion of women, and will aggressively fight for them. An aside about the smug assumption behind the name of the National Party, how it claims the support of the overwhelming majority, and seeks to minimise the work of government until the individual is entirely supreme.

I have read some articles and letters to the editor criticising Labour for its focus on the Judith Collins affair, rather than on policy. To those sympathetic to this view I would ask quite candidly to do some basic research into our political system. They will find that one of the fundamental pillars is the existence of an institutionalised opposition, a government in waiting whose function is to scrutinise the government and be a check on the power of the executive. Vital to this role is the questioning of ministers on matters of policy and business, if a minister has a conflict of interest it is the oppositions job to find it and publicise it. To those that think that Labour should abandon this job I say you are woefully ignorant of politics, and your opinion is not entitled to respect.   

As I have followed the political happenings over the past few weeks I have been struck by the note of assumption; even hubris in the Prime Minister’s behaviour. Even through his smiling pronouncements that the election result will be close, he seems to be winking at the cameras and saying “This is in the bag.” Jim Bolger apparently said the same thing just before the 1993 election, and his majority shrank from over a dozen to about three. Ruth Richardson said of that instance of overconfidence something that I think is quite relevant today, “no sunshine, we’ll let you get back, but we’re gonna put you on a short leash, damn right we are.” 

Shane Jones, a man constipated with his own self importance, good riddance.

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