Labour MP Shane Jones has indicated he is weighing up his future in politics if he does not get strong endorsement from Maori voters in November's general election.
Mr Jones said on Te Kaea on Maori Television he wanted to win the Tamaki Makaurau seat - currently held by Maori Party leader Pita Sharples - and if he did not he would "reconsider my options".
Asked to clarify his comments by the Herald yesterday, he said winning the seat would give him a strong platform for "future developments" in his political career.
"If that doesn't come to pass, a whole bunch of other factors have to be weighed up. If I don't win the seat, then I'll assess what happens - whether or not I stay on and look to play a more meaningful role in politics, or whatever."
Mr Jones has not been restored to the front bench since he was disciplined for his credit card use. He is almost certain to return as a list MP regardless of whether he wins the seat.
His comments suggest he believes winning the seat back for Labour will be a crucial factor in his party rewarding him with senior roles, including the possibility of becoming leader. It would bolster the argument that his rehabilitation was complete in the eyes of the voters.
This is a most interesting comment from Shane Jones, and suggests that there is a bit of post-election manouvering at play. Since MMP was introduced, Don Brash has been the only leader of National or Labour to be a list-only MP. So we can't help but wonder if he sees securing the Tamaki Makarau seat as pivotal to future leadership aspirations.
So is this early notice from Shane Jones that, subject to winning an electorate seat, he will be putting himself forward should Labour's leadership be up for grabs after 26 November? We reckon that it is.
It might also be that Jones is trying to "do a Hone", and convince the electors of Tamaki Makarau that Pita Sharples will be in Parliament anyway, so they will get two MP's for the price of one. But that one won't wash; the Maori Party probably needs to win electorate seats to ensure that its MP's are elected, as it cannot draw in the party vote to a degree where list MP's are a sure thing. And it might backfire on Jones; smart TM voters might decide that Jones will get in anyway, and vote for Sharples whose links to the electorate are far stronger than Jones'; his whanau is from Te Tai Tokerau.
But it's a fascinating story nonetheless, and we're picking that in coming weeks, Shane Jones won't be the only self-promoting Labour MP. And it may well be that there is an element within the Labour caucus and the wider party that isn't ready to forgive Jones for his movie-buff indiscretions, and that his ultimatum may come back to bite him on the bum.