The Soap Box: Consequences of Dunne's departure

Barry Soper,
Publish Date
Tuesday, 22 August 2017, 5:59AM
Dunne has had an incredible, if not lucrative, political ride over the past 33 years. (Photo \ Getty Images)
Dunne has had an incredible, if not lucrative, political ride over the past 33 years. (Photo \ Getty Images)

The worm has turned for Peter Dunne.

The last time it did that it was on television during the minor parties' leaders debate back in 2002, when Dunne's silver tongue had the worm shooting through the top of the screen. And that pulling power lasted until polling day when the United Future Party managed more than six percent of the vote bringing in seven somewhat bewildered MPs, along with Dunne.

So bewildered was one of them that she had to step down because it was discovered she wasn't a New Zealand citizen.

Ironically the party's success came in the same year that Bill English took National to its biggest ever crashing defeat, securing just 20 percent of the vote.

But now the worm has turned again, burrowing its way beneath the political surface and with little hope of seeing the light of day with Dunne essentially conceding defeat. He's the sort of person who doesn't like losing. He did it to the electorate before they did it to him.

Dunne has had an incredible, if not lucrative, political ride over the past 33 years, serving first as an undersecretary and then as a minister under seven Labour and National Prime Ministers spanning 15 years.

His decision to quit creates a headache for beleaguered Prime Minister Bill English, who's seen his political fortunes diminishing in the wake of Jacindamania, which continues unabated. Polling in the mid forties, English needs all the coalition help he can get and Dunne could be counted on. That is, until Labour put up the high profile Greg O'Connor and the accommodating Greens pulled out of the race in his now highly marginal Wellington seat of Ōhāriu.

The National list MP in the electorate could be compared to Paul Goldsmith in Epsom. Brett Hudson's been out telling the voters to cast their electorate ballot for Dunne but give the party vote to National. At the last election he was very effective. The party pulled in more than ten thousand votes ahead of its nearest Labour rival.

Hudson's suddenly found himself telling his supporters to give National both their ticks and this electorate has shown that it knows how to vote tactically, which is what Bill English is now praying for.

Perhaps that's why O'Connor was treading carefully when he responded to the shock move by Dunne. He said the game's changed and he'll now be looking at what it actually means.

The former Police Association boss will know it could mean the electorate's obvious liking for National could possibly transfer to their own candidate now that their long time loyalty to Dunne, as opposed to his party, is no longer required.


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