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Goff: Bring back Shane Jones

Thursday 14 Oct 2010 3:59 p.m.

Labour MP Shane Jones was trapped in the mine - but it's time for Goff to pull him out

Labour MP Shane Jones was trapped in the mine - but it's time for Goff to pull him out

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By Patrick Gower

Watching the miners in Chile, I can't help but think of the Labour MPs - stuck down a dark hole, with an incredible effort needed to get them out.

It’s leader Phil Goff's job to get them out - now he's finished burying Chris Carter.

And one man who needs a lifeline is Shane Jones.

This call is never going to resonate as much as "Bring Back Buck". But someone has to say it - Goff should "Bring Back Shane Jones".

Jones has hardly been seen since he was snapped spending taxpayer cash on blue movies. That was a shocker.

But he's on the way back: expect to see him seek Labour's nomination to stand in Tamaki Makarau against Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples.

There's always been talk he'd go for George Hawkins' plum Manurewa seat. But nominations for that close on Friday - Jones' name won't be there. He'll keep his carpet-baggers parachute stuffed in the cupboard.

Goff's having a reshuffle of the Labour caucus soon - it needs it.

And he needs to give Jones a meaningful role.

I'd say Maori Affairs. Put him head-to head with the Maori Party, in the House, and on the streets of Tamaki Makarau with Sharples. Jones won't win, but it'll give him street-cred if he takes him on. Jones will be parachuting in there too, but because it’s not a safe seat, it doesn't matter so much.

Jones is a lot like the brilliant rugby player in your school team who didn't turn up for training so the coach dropped him to the bench.

Put someone who tries harder on. That works OK for a week or two - but not if you're losing the game like Labour is.

You need to get the best guy back on the park.

The best thing for Goff is that the ‘blue movie’ controversy has finished off Jones' leadership hopes - he's not a risk.

So bring him back. Bring Jones out of the hole and let him help get some of Labour's other miners out.

And just like the brilliant player who didn't want to train, you need to keep him busy, with a decent job.

Jones has the credibility and knowledge to take the Maori Party on over issues like the Foreshore and Seabed.

The National-Maori Party "solution" is looking increasingly like a mess from all sides.

I went out and had a look at how it might work on the ground at Shipwreck Bay in Northland.

It's a red-button issue Goff had a crack at it in his infamous "Nationhood" speech. He went too early, got panned by the media. Then the liberals like Andrew Little and Grant Robertson got all anxious - and Goff ended up chickening out.

Jones has the ability to criticise both sides of the foreshore debate. I've seen him say Maori are getting too much and aren't getting enough in the past fortnight. Some might say that's a flip-flop. Others will say its clever, because its reflects how nobody's happy with the "solution".

Some in Labour just want the foreshore to go away. But If Labour don't get in on it - then Winston Peters will make all the mileage.

Jones doesn't need to be bumped up the rankings. Just give the guy a job, massage his ego a bit.

He's one of the sharpest guys in Parliament, he's funny, and he carries the trait that so many politicians crave - he's normal.

It would be good for Labour and Goff for him to have some prominence.

And this is a two-way street. Jones' big problem is he's lazy. This is his last chance. He needs to make something of this, or just be known as "blue movie man".

Like with any reshuffle, politics will get in the way. Even if Goff wanted to make Jones Maori Affairs spokesman, what does he do with Parekura Horomia? You need to keep Horomia sweet - without him on board you may lose Ikaroa-Rawhiti. They need to find a way round this.

And what other miners should Goff save first?

Kelvin Davis: like Jones, he's normal. He can connect with real people. He's got a story to tell. He did well in the real world as principal of Kaitaia Intermediate. He's got a story to tell. I give him the title of "possible future leader".

David Parker: Ambitious, and on-to-it. Needs to be given greater responsibilities.

Grant Robertson: promoted already, doing well. As Tertiary Education spokesman, has clearly given up on "free education", which he spent the best years of his life pursuing. What a waste of youth - but it shows he's got the pragmatism to get ahead in politics.

Jacinda Ardern: Set to become heroine of urban liberals. Will be high-profile in the so-called "Battle of the Babes" in Auckland Central against Nikki Kaye.

Phil Twyford: I don't think Goff likes him much. But he's worked hard on the super city and made it an issue.

Carmel Sepuloni: New Pasifika face. Tough.

Stuart Nash: Working hard, financially literate.

David Shearer: Goff's mate. He helped Goff out big-time in Mt Albert. A lifetime in battlezones: now he's in Parliament with the Science portfolio. I'm constantly surprised that every time I see him that he's actually awake. Give him more to do.

Labour's locked in a hole that's covered over at 32%. Fresh faces will help them get out of it.

And who'll be the last out of the hole?

Chris Carter said there's 17 MP's who discussed getting rid of Goff with him.

I'm sure there was: even if it was just off-hand remarks. What that shows is that it’s an unhappy ship down in Labour's hole.

They'll be 17 slightly red and worried faces at Labour's Party conference this weekend.

The same faces will be starting to lobby for the reshuffle.

There's a bit of room being made for the reshuffle with Winnie Laban, Lynne Pillay, George Hawkins, Pete Hodgson, and Chris Carter leaving.

But even so, when someone goes up, others must go down. There'll be more uhappy people in the hole.

I expect the reshuffle to be in December - so the losers have the Summer to get over it.

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