Labour MP Shane Jones appeared on TVNZ's Q&A show over the weekend to debate with Gareth Hughes over plans for a Ross Sea marine reserve.
Despite not being Labour's spokesperson on conservation or fisheries (he's not the party's spokesperson on any issue, after being stood down pending the Auditor General's investigation of the William Yan matter), Jones appeared to endorse the government's approach to the marine reserve issue. He made no attempt to distance his own views from the official Labour position.
Labour hasn't actually determined its position on the issue. So why did Jones appear at all? Did he get clearance from David Shearer before appearing?
Nowadays it seems the only time we hear from Jones is when he is sticking up for his fishing industry mates. He publicly attacked Gareth Hughes over Hughes' copyright bill, despite Labour supporting it, after taking exception to Greenpeace's parody of a Sealord ad. And now he has created further awkwardness for his party over fishing issues.
David Shearer's leadership of Labour would be looking a lot stronger if his MPs were performing well and behaving with discipline, and not opining openly about issues they have no business being involved in. Nothing pisses off the faithful more than listening to their party's MPs going off-message. Politics may seem complicated, but political communications shouldn't be. It's about working out what you have to say and then saying it again and again and again, and being relentless and focused about it. It's something National has been very good at, and this is why there are so few stories about National MPs putting their feet in their mouths (recent PM brain-fades excepted).
Labour needs a leader who will bring wayward MPs into line, because the voting public will not enthuse over a party that does not have a clear and consistent message. If some MPs won't accept that then they need to be encouraged to consider their futures.
Perhaps Jones has already decided on his future. It might explain his recent utterances.