Hard road ahead for United Future?

United Future had a meeting/conference sort of thing in Auckland on Saturday. Not many people attended (I was one of ‘less than twenty’). Not much media bothered to turn up. Subsequent coverage has given fair emphasis:

United Future says big challenges ahead

At the United Future party annual conference at the weekend, president Robin Gunston told our political reporter Clare Pasley that Peter Dunne’s party is rebranding to a liberal democratic identity.

United Future looking for big backers ahead of 2014

The United Future President, Robin Gunston, says the party will need financial backing if it is to be successful in 2014, especially if the MMP thresholds are changed and it can no longer bring in MPs on the back of the leader, Peter Dunne.

Dunne concedes hard road ahead for United Future

The newly liberal democratic United Future party’s leader talks about the hard road ahead to the next elections after last weekend’s party conference.

Three reports from Radio NZ suggest that United Future is sort of like a Lotto dream party, hoping to win something to change it’s fortunes.

NZ Herald didn’t attend but have belatedly added a small report:

United puts message on rebrand to AGM of 20

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.”

It’s easy to see in this reporting that the party is struggling to survive. It is struggling to survive. Which is a shame, it has potentially a lot to offer a lot of people, but not many people have any inclination to do anything about it.

The party is rebranding as Liberal Democrat, which is a reasonable exercise internally and to promote to the media and political watchers.

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.”

But it’s a label that will have little resonance to the wider public. I don’t see or hear a clamouring for a New Zealand Liberal Democrat party.

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.

The third strand is the key if United Future is to do more than have a solid policy platform (which it has) and one MP flying the party flag (which it has) amidst flagging support (which it has).

United Future has not been a populist party. It doesn’t look likely it will win a Lotto of support, because it doesn’t offer glitzy illusions of prizes.

But it is a party with a very sound framework.

It is a framework that could easily support a community-based solutions approach to problems.

People want to be listened to. Communities want to be listened to. They want to play a part in finding, prioritising and implementing solutions that are appropriate for their own communities.

All United Future needs to do is provide the framework for communities to achieve this.

It needs to rebrand as more than a political label. It needs to be a party for people. Not just for MPs. Not just for members. A party that provides a framework for everyone in New Zealand’s communities to be heard, and to enable them to work on their own solutions.

A party as a road, allowing people to do more of their own walking.

4 Comments

  1. It was a good day Saturday. I got to meet people I hadn’t before; got to bounced some ideas around in my own head about how we could have a successful outcome for the 2014 elections. Aside not being nominated to the UF Board this time, I was encouraged to continue to work on projects as the Board requests.

    The re-branding will take a lot of work – I’m ready – here’s a link for the Liberal International website that was talked about on Saturday:

    http://www.liberal-international.org/

    This will give you more of an idea of UF is aiming for. I am encouraged by your commitment Pete, to see this through.

  2. Martin Gibson

     /  August 28, 2012

    Good on you for getting up there to fly the flag for those who would like to see a political party which has a local advocate taking local issues to Wellington again, rather than the sheep in wolves’ clothing who climb up the list by being loyal to the party and grandstanding on issues that might advance their national profile.
    The barrier to this ever happening for United Future remains the same: the lack of democracy and flair within the party politburo.
    Look up Russell Judd — he ran for United Future in Rotorua in 2005 and got a very respectable 7 percent of the vote. 40-something father and lecturer on energy efficiency. Great candidate, but where is he now? I suspect he just got tired of his suggestions receiving enthusiastic pats to keep him campaigning, but disappearing without trace when it came time for the unelected board to design the policy according to where they thought the funding and support might come from.
    If United Future is not finding candidates like Russell, and pitching at GenX they are doomed, even if they find another name to inhabit without embracing.

    ps: Quentin: a post carbon world? Not great for carbon-based life forms like us bro!

    • This is a good part of the electoral cycle to look at building party cells that are based on their regions. If enough people do it and enough regions do it then regions will get more voice. I see enough signs within the party to accommodate this, but it will only happen if people make it happen. A bottom up regional approach needs to grow from the bottom up. The party has the policy framework, the history, and an MP. The rest is up to all of us out here in the regions.

  3. Martin: Not sure what you mean about Post-Carbon? It was a by-line I used in a blog if that was what you mean but here???

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