Shane Jones appeared on TV3s The Nation over the weekend to ramp up his attack on Countdown. (And seems to have overstepped the mark in a Winston Peters-esque fashion with his accusation that Countdown had sent a threatening letter to members of Parliament’s commerce select committee. Jonathan Young, head of the select committee, has denied that such a letter was received, and Countdown’s communications manager, Kate Porter, has stated, “We have asked the select committee for a record of what was said at their recent meeting because it affects our business. Anyone is able to do that.”)
Of course, along with an obligatory question about whether Mr Jones is intending to jump ship to NZ First (I say again, respect, Mr Hooton!), Patrick Gower quizzed Jones about his vendetta against the Greens. Mr Jones’ response was interesting. He certainly didn’t resile from his ongoing criticism of the Green party, and in fact hinted that he had the thumbs up from the Labour leadership to continue putting the boot in.
His approach to the Greens was explained fairly simply – Jones belongs to the Labour party, and his job is to grow the Labour party vote, not the Greens’, New Zealand First’s or Mana’s respective vote shares. One can certainly see where he’s coming from. At the end of the day, the higher Labour’s share of the vote, the more MPs they get and the more Parliamentary funding and staffing. More MPs equals more presence on the ground. And the higher Labour’s share of the vote compared to the Greens or NZ First, the fewer Ministerial roles that have to be given away, should they be in a position to form a government.
Of course, the issue is that Labour can’t govern alone. It needs the Greens, and it will likely need NZ First (and possibly even Mana). The voting public are well aware of this and want to see a left wing bloc that looks coherent enough to form a stable government. Labour party attacks on the Greens don’t provide a picture of left wing stability.
So, does Mr Jones has carte blanche from Cunliffe and McCarten to continue his anti-Greens rhetoric? Is he a licensed vigilante? Or can he simply not help himself when a camera is thrust in his face?
If he’s received a dispensation from on high, Labour are obviously banking on Jones’ pulling power over centrist voters outweighing the damage caused by swing voters staying away from a fractious-looking potential coalition. That seems a relatively zero-sum game for Labour, but maybe they’re seeing something in their internal polling that hasn’t yet flowed through to the major public polls.
Or perhaps it’s a desperate move by Labour to simply take votes from the Greens. If Labour loses 2014, but gets a decent mid-30s share of the vote, then Cunliffe might just hold onto the leadership through till 2017. But I can’t see Jones being in league with Cunliffe to that extent…
One still gets that sneaking suspicion that it’s all about Jones. If I had to bet, I’d say that he hasn’t been licensed at all – he’s just a vigilante. And if that’s the case, how far is Cunliffe able to go to rein Jones in?