This afternoon, veteran MP and my local representative, Peter Dunne, announced he was hanging up his boots, after over 33 years of parliamentary service.
And yet, few will be sad to see him go. That’s what you get as a political drifter. When you work with/for both the left and the right, you impress nobody. For most of his career, he’s simply between a worker bee for the government of the day.
Near the end of his career, his liberal democrat principles certainly became more pronounced. He did a 180 on drug policy after preventing any progress in the last Labour government (though he blames his initial opposition on the extinct Christian faction of the party), and is now a consistent advocate for drug reform, he successfully saved the environment from the National Party’s harmful RMA reforms (until the Māori Party unfortunately ceded), and he’s been a decent defender of civil liberties. Heck, he resigned his ministerial position for it. As Russell Brown said, “Peter Dunne did both less than he could have – and far more than many people think”.
But they certainly weren’t pronounced enough. Only between voting for what the government wants him to support did these principles ever come through. Throughout the last decade, he’s simply been National lite. And at that point, what was the point of these principles in the first place? It’s no wonder almost nobody loved his presence in our parliament.
Yet, he’s lasted 33 years. Bill English may be a rock, but Dunne was too. At least, a painted rock.
For the paint, I am grateful. But it’s still a rock.