Mr Sensible seeks partner

“For years, Dunne has been willing to hitch his little engine to whatever chain of wagons is available, before chugging off in whatever direction is most likely to deliver him the goods.”

Somewhat patronisingly, Gordon Campbell sums up Peter Dunne’s approach to the pursuit of power in introducing his interview with “Mr Common Sense & Reliable”.

I’d like to say it’s been fascinating watching Mr Middle of the Road’s progress through the years, but, well, he’s much too bland and sensible to be all that interesting. Winston Peters without attitude, you might say.

I was there at the beginning. In a fit of enthusiasm I can’t now explain, I attended all of the candidate meetings for the Labour nomination in Karori in 1983. There were some interesting candidates, including one said to be the designated head office choice. And then there was this awkward chap in a plain grey suit, strikingly ill-fitting and outsize shirt cuffs, odd hairstyling with a painfully earnest manner.

But the funny little man learnt fast. He honed his material and his delivery with every outing . By the final meeting he came from behind to take the nomination. The rest is history. An assiduous electorate MP in his naturally National-leaning seat, Dunne split with Labour in 1994. After joining with other parliamentary refugees and gathering various ethnic minority groups around himself in the 1990s, Dunne joined up with the christian right in the 2000s.

Dunne has always remained faithful to his natural constituency, the “overtaxed, politically ignored middle classes” — to the extent that someone polling 1.2% in a recent poll can be said to have a natural constituency.

In turn, they have returned the favour when looking for a counter to a potentially radical government. Thus, Dunne’s finest hour was the rampaging worm of 2002, when TVNZ’s audience response monitor picked up the degree to which the voice of moderation struck a chord. The share of the vote received from the second quintile was twice that from the top quintile that year (here).

Inevitably, Campbell’s interview is moderately revealing. Couldn’t be anything else really, could it? Still, it’s worth a look.

It is interesting to read Dunne’s thoughts about his erstwhile partners from the christian right:

“Well, we were never really in [the prayer meeting phase]. I certainly wasn’t. But we had some people who imagined that United Future could become New Zealand’s version of the Taliban… And they’ve now thankfully left to pursue their course to oblivion.”

Obviously there can’t be many fundamentalist christians in Ohariu.

Dunne decries the extremism of ACT and outlines a position on abortion that seems remarkably mainstream for a Catholic. also discusses immigration, tax, National Health Insurance, and Kyoto.

He is quite matter of fact about his role in NZ’s political life. He picks up voters moving from one “major” to the other; “Our place in life is to be the repository of those voters, as they make that journey.” But mostly, his role in NZ’s political life is to act as ballast.

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3 Responses to “Mr Sensible seeks partner”

  1. Steve Withers Says:

    Dunne was my local MP in Karori / Ohariu (electorate moved North as I did) from 1984 to 1996, when I moved to Kapiti. He’s a very reasonable person who thinks things through before commiting himself on almost any issue. I was happy to hear he wants helth outcomes rather than profits for insurance companies as I’m fairly certain National have it the other way around. They certainly did in 2005…..and they aren’t telling anyone what they stand for this time around.

  2. jafapete Says:

    Hi Steve, Agree with all you say. I should have mentioned the other topics covered in the interview, but felt the post was getting a little too long. Will amend. Thanks for your comments.

  3. peterquixote Says:

    I personally like having individuals in Parliament.
    If they have some party machine .. then that is as it may be..
    Imagine NZ Parliament without Peters, Dunne, or Hide.
    These people retain their seats because Voters wish for personality, rather than the Political machine.
    On another subject God is great. Helengrand is dying.

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