I was planning on writing a long article today on the prospects of the frontrunners to replace Phil Goff as leader of the Labour Party, especially in light of recent indications by Shane Jones that he is ambitious to step up, take charge, and become New Zealand’s first Māori Prime Minister in 2017. But frankly, with the Labour Party in free fall I have began to question the need for any great analysis of the leader of the movement. The Party has problems that go far beyond its leader, although that in itself is problematic. Simply put, Prime Minister Key is seen as a genuine, good Kiwi guy and Labour’s negative politicking is being roundly punished by the electorate. John Key is the goofy Uncle who makes you laugh and cringe at the same time, whereas Labour comes across as the grumpy next door neighbour who is always yelling at the kids to get out of his yard. In a sporting sense, they are Quade Cooper – sometimes flashy, but often dropping the ball, and lacking the requisite humility to be at least respected, if not supported, by both sides.
Given the problems facing Labour, it is no surprise that Shane Jones has come out and made a clear statement of his intent to contest the leadership after the election. Having learnt the art of humility after the pornography scandal, yet possessing the strength to weather such a storm and come through relative unscathed, he possesses the unique characteristics required of the leader of one of the two major parties. What is most interesting about Jones’ recent musings is his non-committal to remain an MP should he fail to win Tamaki-Makaurau from Māori Party Co-Leader Pita Sharples. This is a very risky, and very brave move by Jones. He is sending a clear message to the voters of Tamaki-Makaurau that he is serious about representing them and the mana that will come from un-seating the current Minister of Māori Affairs will make him the frontrunner for the Labour Party Leadership. His cause will be helped immensely by Andrew Little’s likely loss to National Party back bencher Jonathan Young in New Plymouth. Even if Young is only keeping the seat warm for Peter Tennant’s eventual election to Parliament, he should still retain what is a very National seat.
And if not Jones, then how long will we have to wait to finally see a Māori elected as Prime Minister in this country? It would say a lot about the state of race relations in this country if not only a Māori, but a MP holding a Māori Electorate Seat was elected Prime Minister. As far as I am aware, no indigenous person has been elected as Prime Minister/President of any country still dominated by the colonisers. That is a shameful indictment on British Colonisation. The rise of Shane Jones might put an end to that. However, he must first overcome Dr. Pita Shaples – a task that might prove to be next to impossible in itself.