Audrey Young

Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

United puts message on rebrand to AGM of 20

Peter Dunne. File photo / Wayne Drought
Peter Dunne. File photo / Wayne Drought

MP Peter Dunne was expecting a small annual meeting for his United Future party at the weekend - but not quite as small as 20 people.

That was about the size of the crowd that turned up at the Martin Hautus Institute in Onehunga to hear the leader's address.

He told the Herald last night he hadn't been mortified by the turnout, but would have preferred more. "It was an AGM. It wasn't really a conference. That's why the numbers were light."

He had been in Government for three of the five MMP Governments and, despite being the party's only MP for the past two terms, said United Future had been the most successful support party under MMP.

Mr Dunne pointed to the go-ahead for the Transmission Gully bypass north of Wellington, the establishment of the Game Animal Council, and the national medicines strategy.

He also used the AGM to begin a rebranding exercise aimed at winning the support of British immigrants to New Zealand who identified with the Liberal Democrats.

Last night he expanded on the bid to present the tiny party as a Liberal Democrat party. "What we're talking about is support of a free, open, competitive, economic environment but accepting the state has very clear responsibilities in education, health and welfare."

A third strand was supporting community-based solutions to problems. The values weren't new to the party but he had been thinking a lot about how to get his message across.

Many people had made comparisons between United Future and smaller parties in Germany and Britain. He said his party was in the same mould as the Free Democrats in Germany, who had often held the balance of power, and Liberal Democrats in Britain who were in coalition with the Conservatives.

"If there are people who relate to the sort of messages those parties might promote and understand their place in the spectrum, and have to go hunting to find us, we thought let's be a little less coy about drawing parallels."

United Future wasn't the New Zealand branch of the Lib Dems but it was a "parallel" party.

In the past, United Future has formed allegiances with Christian groups, ethnic groups and hunting and fishing enthusiasts.

- NZ Herald

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