Editorial: can Shane Jones save the Labour Party?





As most of us have figured out by now, it’s election year. Within six months, a fresh government team will be elected and the Groundhog Daily political cycle will begin again. Until then, it’s the silly season for the next 180 days as politicians adopt an ingratiating façade and do strange dance moves at community events because they’re stupid enough to be tricked into it by a TV journalist looking for laughs.

For Labour, it looks set to be a hard road. In the space of little more than five years the party has gone through four leaders, and its current incumbent David Cunliffe is risking a stranding in the shallow end of the support pool after a poll showing a monster drop to 29%.

For voters hoping to trust Labour with the reins of power again, the party machinery is doing nothing to help, with machinations that appear to herald an intake of Helen Clark-o-philes and social engineering candidates  at this election if successful.

There’s a sense, and there has been ever since Helen quit on election night (predicted exclusively in advance by this magazine’s digital newspaper TGIF Edition  a week before the 2008 election in a front page story entitled “Is The PM Planning To Quit?”), that the real power blocs that run the Labour Party have been putting up leaders  like glove puppets, who they hope will gain public traction while the real agenda continues unseen in the corridors and dark rooms.

It is this cognitive dissonance between what the Labour Party tries to say it is via its leaders, and what people suspect it really is via its actions and candidate selections, that leave voters unsure about the political chameleon seeking authority to govern.

If Labour were elected, on current polling it would take a landslide. Such a landslide would bring in the new blood the party has quietly been moving into position, and frankly you’d expect to see a social engineer to the left of Cunliffe elected as a new leader even after a victory. At least, that’s the nagging suspicion: the idea that what you see with Labour is not what you are necessarily going to get.

To get a victory in the first place, however, you’re frankly in ‘miracle’ territory already.

Although a week  is a long time in politics, the past six years have pretty much been one week to the John Key led National government. Despite presiding over deeply unpopular asset selldowns and locking the Labour/Greens anti smacking law into place (as ordered by the United Nations but likewise deeply unpopular with the public and responsible for a big uptick in verbal abuse of children),  National continues to touch record highs. It’s not so much that they are truly beloved, but more that we still don’t trust the Opposition.

Enter Shane Jones. Six years ago, this magazine wrote off Jones as a political aspirant and our coverage is understood to have had an impact even within the Labour caucus. But now, on reflection, Jones offers something that Labour just doesn’t have anywhere else: the common touch.

If there’s a politician in Labour remotely capable of uniting voters, Jones would appear to be it. The only problem: does the Labour Party that he represents still exist, or would he, too, become just another sock puppet of Labour’s lobby groups?