Exit Right Shane Jones, What a Week!

SHANE! SHANE! SHANE! DON’T COME BACK! I can’t resist adding ‘don’t’ to the last line of the 1953 tearjerker western Shane starring Alan Ladd. Ladd makes a drippy hero even when playing the character of a retired gunslinger and is in no way an ordinary red-blooded bloke like Shane Jones. I surmise Jones was named after said hero. For the record the hero eventually shoots the villain (the wonderfully villainous Jack Pallance) and rides off into sunset while the little boy he mentors cries out for him to come back.

Our media mainly thinks Labour (and the rest of us?) should be mourning Jones’ departure. Are the majority of them part of a posse of ordinary blokes riding out for National? Let me remind them that women now have the vote! I, for one, hope never again to bear witness to such childish petulance, combined with a young adolescent’s obsession with body parts they’re busy experimenting with, in a grown and not far off elderly man.

For me voting Labour has been taboo since 1984. I’m in an electorate that causes no strategic angst. I don’t envy the self-restraint and huge effort put in by those who stayed loyal to Labor’s original vision and have striven to develop to sound economic policies to replace the freemarket madness. I’m inclined to admire it. Rebuilding an egalitarian ethos remains the big challenge.

Jones’ reckless outbursts had the effect of scuttling any Labour momentum. He can’t claim to have not have known it was an election year. No evidence has come to light showing he was forced to walk the plank. Nor was there evidence of Labour climbing in the polls in response to his ordinary bloke allure. He is now shimmying off to a job created for him by National’s Murray McCully. McCully’s action is constitutionally questionable.

Labour MPs held their tongues so long in response to Jones taunts they must have been in danger of choking. Did the mainstream media cane him for the damage he was doing? They he told us was talented, had skills Labour was short of. He handled the Countdown issues well. Pity his hubris was out of control. Insulted colleagues celebrated his departure on social media. Mainstream commentators promptly caned them. Come on, they’re human, real men, real women. That excuse was good enough for Shane!

I don’t think Labour needs to be told to shove the bung back in and move on smartly. Nor do I think they need to be reminded that their main concern should be the basics: jobs, housing, health, education. Nor, as others have pointed out, should they feel ashamed of supporting human rights, minorities. David Parker is out of the blocks and impressed the media with his explanation of Labour’s economic policies, monetary approach. Matt McCarten is a brilliant organiser but walked into a minefield laid by, in theory, a friendly footsoldier. With the rubble cleared and cooler heads, a more conciliatory approach to the Greens (and more cautious approach from them?) Labour should be able to claw back lost ground.

Jones’ successor in Te Tai Tokerau, Kelvin Davis, is a welcome relief and a courageous man. He is a friend of Jones but made it clear he does not agree with him on some issues, you can work out which ones.

Media Issues: Meddlers or Fixers

Shane’s partner has revealed there was something of a lovefest between Shane and the media and that he worries about experiencing withdrawal symptoms. An editorial suggested most Labour MPs were inadequate ‘courtiers’ (my word). This again raises the disturbing question of who are the real powerbrokers now: an unelected media, politicians or their public relations managers who are often ex-journalists. Tony Blair’s invasion of Iraq set the alarm bells clanging. Here National seems to have an echo chamber/outliers not just in the blogosphere but also in the supposedly non-partisan media.

Party polling identifies swinging voters, those ‘in the middle’. Pandering to those identified by focus groups such as ‘ordinary blokes’ can be divisive. Outliers in publicly owned media who call themselves ordinary blokes, thus identifying with John Key, break the rules? Of interest is the sudden substitution of the ‘ordinary bloke’ as game changer with the term ‘blue collar worker’. I didn’t think there were many of the latter left in New Zealand or the west generally. I can’t wait to hear Mike Hoskins, Paul Henry et al describe themselves as blue collar workers. I checked one night (29 April), they were both sporting a blue shirt. I rest my case!


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