Will it be a two-horse race?

Kapi-Mana News - - OPINION/NEWS -

The­o­ret­i­cally, with Na­tional and the Greens now fo­cused purely on the party vote, the Ohariu elec­torate should be a two-horse race: Labour’s Charles Chau­vel ver­sus the in­cum­bent, Peter Dunne.

How­ever, as I dis­cov­ered years ago dur­ing a brief stint ad­vis­ing the Green Party, politi­cians of­ten don’t do as they’re told.

Vot­ers can be even more con­trary. At the 2008 elec­tion, 10,000 cen­tre-right vot­ers picked Na­tional’s Ka­t­rina Shanks, even though Na­tional leader John Key had asked them to sup­port Dunne.

‘‘I’ve al­ways thought it was go­ing to be a two-horse race,’’ Dunne told me. ‘‘ Does it [the deal with Na­tional] change things? No, not re­ally.’’

Well, could Dunne win Ohariu with­out the re­cent en­dorse­ment by Na­tional? ‘‘Oh ab­so­lutely. In fact, our polling over the last year has shown us in a far stronger po­si­tion.’’

Spare

a

sym­pa­thetic thought in pass­ing then for Ka­t­rina Shanks. Not only is her own leader pre­fer­ring some­one else en­tirely – but is the ben­e­fi­ciary of Key’s en­dorse­ment re­ally say­ing that the sac­ri­fice isn’t nec­es­sary?

‘‘ We will never know whether it was nec­es­sary or not,’’ Dunne replies. ‘‘ But on the ba­sis of the [polling] ev­i­dence we saw, we were in a very good po­si­tion and have been for more than a year.’’

Has he ever felt like telling the Na­tional Party – don’t worry, I’m OK? ‘‘We had some pretty ro­bust dis­cus­sions. But I must con­fess the an­nounce­ment last week [by Na­tional] took me by sur­prise. I wasn’t ex­pect­ing it at this time.’’

Dunne has a novel ex­pla­na­tion for the de­cline in his ma­jor­ity in 2008. ‘‘ We suf­fered, be­cause we had been associated with the pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ment.’’

So, rather than cap­i­tal­is­ing on 2008 be­ing the high tide for the cen­tre right, he feels he was tainted by as­so­ci­a­tion with Labour? ‘‘Yes, I think so.’’

His prior ‘‘ loy­alty’’ to Labour cost him dearly. ‘‘ I think peo­ple saw me as a min­is­ter in a Labour-led gov­ern­ment. I think they saw that as a neg­a­tive.’’

Quite a dif­fer­ent story, this time around.

Part of Dunne’s brand is his Mr Rea­son­able per­sona. Not that he could ex­er­cise any mean­ing­ful re­straint on Na­tional – but is there any­thing in its likely sec­ond term agenda that Dunne could not sup­port?

‘‘Whole­sale pri­vati­sa­tion,’’ Dunne says. ‘‘The sheer, com­plete sale of state as­sets for the sake of ide­ol­ogy. A very puni­tive regime [of wel­fare re­form] that said for in­stance, wel­fare pay­ments were time lim­ited and af­ter that, you’re off the cliff. If the wel­fare safety net was be­ing pulled back to say it would be for a par­tic­u­lar pe­riod only and in cer­tain sit­u­a­tions only, that would be clearly a step far too far.’’

And Dunne wouldn’t vote for it in Par­lia­ment? ‘‘No. If we got a re­turn to Richard­son­style eco­nom­ics, that would [also] be a step too far.’’

De­spite the por­tents, los­ing in Novem­ber is not some­thing Dunne has se­ri­ously con­sid­ered.

Still, if this elec­tion does turn out to be his last hur­rah, Dunne won’t be lack­ing in in­ter­ests be­yond pol­i­tics: such as fam­ily his­tory, sail­ing, tak­ing classes in lan­guages, art ap­pre­ci­a­tion.

For now though, sur­vival in Ohariu is his full­time concern.

Gor­don Camp­bell is an ex­pe­ri­enced po­lit­i­cal jour­nal­ist and colum­nist who has writ­ten for The Lis­tener and Scoop.

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