Shane Jones Is the Next Kingmaker

Don’t make me laugh…

I have talked before about Henry Cooke. As political writers go, I’m sorry mate… you are way out of your depth. You really need a good editor to pull your sillier ideas into line. These days, just about every article is an opinion article, and editors don’t seem to worry too much about truth any more. They can write what they want, free rein, and it just gets published… no matter how silly it is. 

And Henry Cooke’s latest article is silly… as silly as it can possibly be. 

There are some ministers in this Government who struggle with five-minute press conferences. Jones is not one of them. 
In a dark and crowded room in the bowels of Bowen House on Thursday he faced 90 minutes of continual grilling across two of his ministerial portfolios – infrastructure and regional economic development – armed only with two officials he barely consulted and a “KiwiRail Shane” cap.
The select committee performance was a good reminder of why Jones is probably the man best placed to replace Winston Peters as leader one day. He is a competent minister who has already been through the worst kind of media scrutiny possible, well-connected across Parliament and the media, and a s…stirrer of the first order, which earns him plenty of headlines. Yet his path is not guaranteed.

His path is not guaranteed, Henry Cooke, because he is a rogue and a bully. Just think of the way he has treated some of our biggest companies since this government came to power. Air New Zealand? Poof! Fonterra? Meh! No one is too big or too important for Jones to have a go at… even if he is undermining our entire economy as a result. He completely ignores any attempt the prime minister makes to bring him into line (which admittedly is not much). He thinks he can do whatever he likes, and to a point, he can, thanks to the quirks of the current administration, but that does not make him leadership material. He is too much of a maverick for that.

Succession confusion can ruin historical legacies. King Henry VIII did more to shape and bring together the modern United Kingdom than most monarchs, but all we really remember him for is continually failing to have a son. Much like a king, it seems nothing but death or a serious health-scare will get Peters out of the job.

We are comparing Winston Peters to Henry VIII? For goodness sake, Henry (Cooke), get a grip. Henry VIII changed the course of British history, and he is remembered for much more than the fact that he didn’t have a son. (He did, actually… he was Edward VI of England, but don’t let the facts get in the way of a good fantasy, will you?)

By comparison, Winston Peters has stayed in parliament for 40 years as a minor politician… and is currently the deputy prime minister, thanks to the quirks of a voting system that gives all the power to a small party. Yes, it is MMP, but no one can say that it is democracy at its best.

When the leadership race comes it could be remarkably short. There is no consultation with the country on this one – the rules of the party simply state it is up to the party’s MPs to select a leader, and these contests can happen quickly, as former deputy leader Ron Mark learned last year when Fletcher Tabuteau rapidly replaced him.

You do realise that Winston calls all the shots within NZ First, don’t you Henry? Winston is the one with the support that keeps the party in parliament. Once Winston is gone, so is NZ First.

Indeed, as Judith Collins traded smiling barbs with Jones in the select committee it was very easy to imagine them around the Cabinet table together one day soon. Jones isn’t the only one who knows what he is doing.


Judith could work with NZ First, but it won’t be Shane Jones in the big chair. If Jones becomes the leader, all of NZ First’s support will be gone. Even if Winston is still at the helm at the next election, the party may not make the 5% threshold and may be history anyway.

I think it is very sad though that writers like Henry Cooke seem to accept that the decision as to who runs the country will always be made by the leader of a party that barely registers in the polls, and only just makes the 5% threshold. This does not seem like a democratic system working very well to me. Maybe that is the reason why smaller parties seem to be losing traction these days. It is one thing for voters to desire all parties to have a voice in parliament, but it is quite another for a minor party to be calling all the shots… and to be acting in complete defiance of what the majority of the voters want, as happened in 2017.