Senior Labour MP and former leadership candidate Shane Jones has confirmed he will not stand again for Labour at the September 20 election and looks set to accept a role offered by National Foreign Minister Murray McCully as a 'Pacific Economic Ambassador.'
The news broken at 6 pm by 3 News' Paddy Gower appeared to catch David Cunliffe's office completely off-guard. Political commentators said the shock showed Labour was in disarray and in crisis.
It was only confirmed by Labour officials late in the evening and has yet to be mentioned on Labour's website.
Kelvin Davis, who is next on the Labour list and will replace Jones, described the news as a "bolt from the blue."
Trading on iPredict drove the contract measuring the chance of a National Prime Minister at the next election up by 3 points to 74%.
Jones appeared to have revived his political career after a spirited bid for the leadership last year and his headline-grabbing claims under parliamentary privilege (see video above) earlier this year about the 'Countdown shakedown' sparked a Commerce Commission inquiry.
However, he had recently been reprimanded by David Cunliffe over his 'mollyhawk' attacks on Green MP Gareth Hughes.
"Over Easter I just had a deeply introspective time and was truthful to myself. I don't want to do it any more," Jones told the Herald.
"The leadership had a bit to do with it, but I'm 55 this year and I just want to go and do something else. I'm not able to give to Labour the 100 per cent that I ought to be giving. They need a team to stay for the long term and I'm not in that space," he said.
Cunliffe told various media Jones' decision to go had nothing to do with Cunliffe or Labour, and he wished Jones well.
In an almost as surprising twist just hours before Jones' retirement, the Herald's Claire Trevett revealed that Sir Wira Gardiner , who is close to the National Party and is Hekia Parata's husband, had donated NZ$1,000 to Jones' leadership campaign.
John Key said he was shocked and surprised and that the donation "sounded like a 'waste of a NZ$1,000."