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Labour leadership contest turns sour

Published: 9:50AM Tuesday September 10, 2013 Source: ONE News

MP Shane Jones has opened fire on one of his caucus colleagues as the Labour leadership roadshow is about to wrap up in Christchurch.

Mr Jones, one of three contenders for the leadership, has told ONE News that in a Labour Party he leads, Dunedin South Labour MP Clare Curran would be so far on the outer she would be sitting with independent MP Brendan Horan.

Mr Jones is fuming at what he sees as a breach of the code of conduct for the contest which had been fought cleanly since it started 11 days ago.

The contest has now got nasty with Shane Jones lashing out at his fellow MP, Ms Curran.

"Either the moon in Dunedin was in the wrong phase or she's casting around for a new job," he told ONE News.

Mr Jones' anger follows Ms Curran taking to Twitter to accuse leadership contender David Cunliffe's camp of fuelling questions about New Zealand's readiness for a gay prime minister. Rival candidate Grant Robertson is openly gay.

And that has Mr Jones openly doubting Labour's ability to lead the country.

"What happens in David Cunliffe's camp or Grant Robertson's camp ought not to be fed via the Twitter, then exponentially spread up and down New Zealand, only to confirm that the Labour caucus is unfit to govern," Mr Jones said.

But while Clare Curran's future would be bleak under Jones' leadership, Grant Robertson is backing his backer.

"I think she's been a very capable spokesperson in the ICT and broadcasting areas that she's worked on, and she's got a lot to offer," Mr Robertson said.

However, David Cunliffe, the New Lynn MP, has taken a harder line on his campaign manager, Jenny Michie, for contributing to the gay commentary.

"Jenny's comments pre-dated her time on the campaign team. But I made a decision on balance that in order to protect the perception and the party, that the right thing to do was to ask Jenny to stand aside," Mr Cunliffe told ONE News.

Mr Jones said: "Now that she's been stood down, and now that we've had a comment from Clare Curran who is our technology spokesperson apparently, it doesn't fill me with glee at all."

ONE News political reporter Michael Parkin says the row is a sour note for the final showdown between the Labour leadership contenders.

Clare Curran says she stands by her comment. She says she does not believe someone who speaks their mind should then be punished by the party. Parkin says that is "slightly ironic given the way that this all kicked off".

But Parkin said Shane Jones' opinion of her probably does not matter that much as he is still the rank outsider in the leadership contest.

The new Labour Party leader will be announced on Sunday following the election by Labour MPs, paid-up party members and the party's five affiliated unions.

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