Tracy Watkins writes:
Dunne manages these things with surprisingly few ripples. Having served in more government’s than probably any other MP he is the master of MMP politics – the tortoise to NZ First leader Winston Peters’ hare.
But United Future’s parlous stage – dependent on the goodwill of Ohariu voters to survive – is a constant reminder of the fragility of Dunne’s legacy.
At the last election it polled fewer than 6000 votes. That followed the ignominy of being deregistered over a question mark about having the necessary number of party members.
That has sparked a period of soul searching, with the party hierarchy asking its members “what do you think we should be about?”.
Dunne says while that provoked some “sneering” from his opponents and the media it proved to be a useful exercise.
“We had a couple of hundred detailed responses and they lined up quite well with here we should be. “
The next step would be refining those core values to two or three key philosophies.
“I guess I learned a very valuable lesson at the last election to my cost. We thought we were going to be different by producing policy and we produced a great thick manifesto and all that stuff. That was to be our point of difference and it just went nowhere. People said ‘you want to talk bout policy? We want to talk about Dotcom’.”
So next time, while United Future won’t be “junking policy” it will go into the election with two or three “key ideas”.
The task now was to decide: “What are those messages, what are those things that for a party our size and place where we can say we will make a difference?”
But Dunne admits he is also grappling with the other dilemma facing small parties – succession planning.
“Do I have an answer to it at this stage? No. But it’s something that all small parties [have to think about]. Do they have some sort of strategy? We’ve got some people who are putting their hands up at the moment, the big challenge for us is how do you get those people up and give them the profile to be taken seriously? There’s no lack of enthusiasm. There’s just that practical reality of ‘how do you get people to notice?'”
So long as Dunne retains Ohariu, United Future’s lifeline remains intact – but as Dunne himself acknowledges, that is not the full picture.
Dunne has won Ohariu 11 times since he won it off Hugh Templeton in 1984.
His majorities have been:
- 1984 – 1,371
- 1987 – 4,492
- 1990 – 783
- 1993 – 1,065
- 1996 – 8,513
- 1999 – 12,557
- 2002 – 12,534
- 2005 – 7,702
- 2008 – 1,006
- 2011 – 1,392
- 2014 – 710
But of perhaps more importance is where his electorate votes are coming from. Below is what % of Labour an National party voters gave Dunne their electorate vote
- 2002 – Labour 47% National 57%
- 2005 – Labour 34% National 52%
- 2008 – Labour 16% National 44%
- 2011 – Labour 13% National 57%
- 2014 – Labour 9% National 59%
Dunne used to get significant support from both Labour and National voters. Since 2008 his electorate support is overwhelmingly from National voters.