Patrick Gower: 12 reasons why Shane Jones can win Whangarei
OPINION: Shane Jones will today be declared New Zealand First's candidate in Whangarei.
This is how he could beat National and join Winston Peters as a 'King of the North'.
The Jones effect
Shane Jones is bombastic, high-profile, experienced and exciting. The 'Jones Boy' has everything to fight for, including his personal destiny. However, he is also incredibly lazy. He has never ever won anything in politics. This one is on him. He could easily bomb and blow the whole thing. The only thing that is certain is it won't be boring.
The Winston effect
Winston Peters wants this to happen. That's half the battle right there. It is a bit like Game of Thrones: "If Winston wants a second King of the North, there shall be a second King of the North."
Winston Peters set up an electorate office in Whangarei soon after he got back into Parliament in 2011. New Zealand First has been on the ground for nearly six years. His place at Whananaki is just 40 minutes away, Peters has been working the place hard, the base is there for Jones to exploit. Jones lives up in Kerikeri but has been in-and-out of Whangarei and used to have an office there when he was with Labour.
The maverick effect
Voters up north love a maverick. Always have, always will. John Banks was MP for Whangarei in his heyday. Northland has had John Carter and Winston Peters. Te Tai Tokerau has had Dover Samuels and Hone Harawira. Jones will fit on this list nicely.
The Northland effect
Northland and Whangarei overlap. So do all the issues. Peters and Jones know what makes these voters tick. Northlanders feel left behind. They want a voice. They gave Peters the tick for that reason, now Jones is asking voters to do a 'Northland II'.
Because of MMP, Whangarei voters can still go for National or Labour with their party vote. They can vote for a National Government - and get Jones as an add-on. Or a Labour-led Government - and get Jones as an add-on. He will likely be in Government with whichever side wins, a powerful message for voters.
New Zealand First has a strong history in Whangarei. Back in 1996, Brian Donnelly nearly beat National's John Banks - losing by just 313 votes. New Zealand First's party vote in Whangarei has been quietly building over the last three elections: 6.2 percent in 2008, 9.7 percent in 2011, and 13.5 percent in 2014. That's a good base for a challenge.
Shane Jones can get the moolah for a good campaign. He has plenty of rich mates who will put up the dosh for every pamphlet and sign he needs.
The Shane Reti effect
National MP Shane Reti is in trouble in the 'Shane Wars'. Nice guy, but not a man of the people. One of National's most senior MPs has even told me he thought Jones would win and Reti would lose.
National don't care if Jones wins
National don't really care if Jones wins. Losing Whangarei won't lose it the election. He is probably the only person in New Zealand First they want to work with. I don't think the National chiefs will try very hard to save the seat if Jones gets a head of steam up.
National's Shane Reti got 18,503 votes last election - a majority of 13,169.
On paper that is a big haul for Jones to overcome. If you look at the party vote last time National got 50.2 percent, while the change-the Government parties got 41.1 percent (Labour 17.9 percent/NZ First (13.4 percent)/Green (9.8 percent). However, Jones appeals to National voters. The Labour guy won't win so he can count on many Labour voters giving him a tick. And of course he gets NZ First. So he can appeal to more than 80 percent of the electorate. Green voters hate his guts though.
The mana and the glory
Winning an electorate would give Jones huge mana in the Parliament. He would undoubtedly be Winston's number two and get the best pick of a Cabinet spot. He would be the de facto deputy whether Ron Mark liked it or not. Even if he didn't get deputy he would be next-in-line to the throne. Plenty of motivation - unless lazy Jones can't be bothered and just slugs in on the list and tries to chance a ministerial spot. Who knows which Shane Jones will turn up? This all comes down to whether he gets off his butt or not.
Patrick Gower is Newshub's political editor.