Heather du Plessis-Allan is a columnist for the Herald on Sunday

Heather du Plessis-Allan: Hey Peter Dunne, what do you stand for?

Is Peter Dunne a man whose run is nearly over? Photo / Getty Images
Is Peter Dunne a man whose run is nearly over? Photo / Getty Images

Former prime minister David Lange once described Peter Dunne as "a man whose life is so boring that if it flashed past he wouldn't be in it".

If it was meant as an insult, it shouldn't be taken as one.

Lange may never have imagined what an appetite voters have for boring.

Dunne has served in more governments than most millennials have lived through.

He holds the record for the longest unbroken stint in Parliament.

He may also hold some record for code-swapping; trading in Labour for Independent, swapping that for Future, upgrading to United NZ, renaming that as United Future, supporting a Labour government and then defecting to support a National government.

It's been 33 years and 11 elections and, if I was Peter Dunne, I'd say that's enough. I'd call it a day.

One good reason is that the looming election may be the one the United Future leader finally loses.

In Ohariu, Dunne's up against his most formidable opponent yet in former Police Association boss Greg O'Connor with his decades of public profile.

He's up against a united Left, with the Greens standing aside to help Labour's O'Connor win.

He's getting no help from National, who won't cut him a break by standing down their man in turn.

He's done little to win headlines in the last few months other than by telling us he's delegating his own duties, palming off to bureaucrats life-changing decisions on applications for access to medicinal cannabis.

And he's running out of reasons to be in Parliament.

This week, he fired out an email explaining why he will win Ohariu again.

He called the "breathless hype and exaggeration" from those who say he'll lose mostly "wildly inaccurate, ridiculously sensational, and so devoid of any factual basis that it could not even be described as 'alternative' facts".

And yet the crux of his argument is that Ohariu will vote for him because a vote for any other candidate "will effectively be a vote to change the government".

Dunne's self-declared entire reason for existing is to prop up another party in government.

Hardly a reason for his more than $200,000 pay packet.

Dunne may be right, the commentators may be wrong.

Last election his career was apparently "in tatters" after he resigned as a minister following an information leak scandal.

Still, he scraped through. He crossed the line with a majority of 710 votes in a seat where he once commanded a lead of 12,000 plus.

And yet, what's the point?

Even if he defeats the odds, he may only return to Parliament to serve out his three years staring at the carpet.

If the Nats lose even a little ground in this year's election - and they probably will - they'll need Winston Peters and his NZ First hangers-on to cobble together a government.

Peters is shooting for the stars this time.

He even wants a go at being prime minister.

That doesn't sound like a man willing to share what few Cabinet posts are set aside for coalition parties.

And so, Peters may demand the Nats dump their ragtag coalition of ACT, United Future and the Maori Party for his single bigger party.

Of course, things might change in the seven months between now and the election.

In just a week, politics can twist itself into career-ending scandals and vote-winning issues.

A TV channel might redeploy the worm in a live debate and Dunne might once again - like he did in 2002 - ride that worm to electoral highs.

Or he might end up alone in Parliament with nothing to do, slowly bleeding what small majority he has left, proving David Lange right.

- Herald on Sunday

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Heather du Plessis-Allan is a columnist for the Herald on Sunday

Heather du Plessis-Allan is a thirty-something living between Auckland and Wellington. She has more than a decade's experience hosting and reporting on TV and radio. Heather's worked in Parliament's Press Gallery, covered the 2012 London Olympic Games, and reported from as far afield as Antarctica.

Read more by Heather du Plessis-Allan

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