Look at that, Peter Dunne is interesting again. The man from Ohariu could have a fair bit of sway in the next couple of years
Almost 30 years into his parliamentary career, you could argue Peter Dunne has never been more relevant. Although this is a terrible over-simplification, he's effectively the man with the man with the casting vote. Not just this term, but possibly come 2014.
Dunne, as leader of United Future, has copped a lot of flak recently for his support of the mixed ownership model. He's been entirely consistent in his views – partial sales ok, so long as they're not TVNZ, RNZ, KiwiBank or water rights. There's no suggestion of u-turns. But what's new is that his decisions are starting to count for a lot more.
That means a man who has made a career, in recent times at least, quietly trimming and tweaking our tax systems is suddenly in the spotlight again. It'll be interesting to see how he copes. He says he'll be consistent with United Future policy... but of course the party doesn't have policy on every single issue. It's thorough for a minor party, but not all-encompassing. So it'll be interesting to see how his thinking evolves.
For Dunne, everything relies on Ohariu (he's unlikely to add more MPs any election soon), so for all his insistence on policy stances, survival suggests the politics will have to rule him at some point.
We've got alcohol reform, and on Q+A he made it clear that Labour's amendment was dead in the water; but perhaps he'll propose an amendment of his own? He's in the sort of position to dictate terms on such things, if he has the gall.
Then there's the SkyCity pokie deal, which he seems certain to support. Essentially, anything National can cobble together to be politically acceptable he'll be able to back. In reverse, anything that's too hard for him to vote for will be too hard for the Nats as well.
But it's another issue that could hurt him. His line has been that so long as the number of pokies nationwide is declining, he's not fussed where some extra pokies pop up. SkyCity? No worries.
But is he really saying he's ok for the number of pokies to rise in our largest city so long as there are fewer around his patch and the small towns of the land? That seems incredibly impolite to the likes of Len Brown, who want to see the number of pokies in Auckland keep declining.
To say "geography doesn't matter" is also at odds with reality. Surely the concern about pokies is how much money they suck out of people who can't afford it. Money that should be spent on shoes and the like.
Well, the average pokie machine nationwide swallows about $47,000 a year; the average in SkyCity is $140,000. That means much more "harm" per machine.
I assume assurances have been given to Cabinet, but it'll be interesting to see how he responds to the pressure.
Of course, if John Banks winds up in trouble with the police, he becomes even more vital to this government.
Then there's the 2014 election. Dunne ruled out working with his old mate Phil Goff, but won't do the same in regards to David Shearer. Interesting.
Shearer and Goff are both seen as on the right of Labour, so what's the difference? Perhaps the fact that Labour had no shot of offering him a job in 2011, but a real sniff in 2014?
Dunne has said the he wouldn't rule out a Labour-Greens-New Zealand First-United Future coalition, but added "that composition might just have too many differences".
He called it a "smorgasbord", but any new government in 2014 is likely to be a bit of this and a bit of that. What's the alternative he might otherwise back? A National-New Zealand First-Conservative-United Future-Maori Party coalition? Is that any less of a smorgasbord?
There's a long way to go, but 2014 could be tight. Many are commenting on Winston, the Maori Party and others as the balance of power figures. But if it's as tight as it can be, Dunne may yet have a say in the matter. Yep, the power of one could matter over the next two and a bit years.