United Future leader Peter Dunne is quitting politics, in a shock announcement made today.
Mr Dunne cited recent polling for his decision to quit politic after more than three decades.
The current political environment is extremely volatile and unpredictable,” he said in a statement.
“However, I have concluded, based on recent polling, and other soundings I have been taking over the last few weeks, that, the volatility and uncertainty notwithstanding, there is now a mood among Ohariu voters for a change of MP, which is unlikely to alter.”
Mr Dunne has held the Wellington electorate since 1984.
A 1 News Colmar Brunton poll released a little over a week ago showed Labour candidate Greg O’Connor 14 points ahead, with 48% of the vote compared to Mr Dunne’s 34%.
National’s Brett Hudson had garnered 14% of the vote, despite urging the party’s supporters to vote for Mr Dunne to ensure United Future got back into Parliament.
At the time, Mr Dunne declined an interview, but in a statement highlighted that this was just one poll, and there was still a long way to run until the election.
Mr Dunne has been an MP for 33 years. He was facing a serious challenge in Ohariu from Labour’s Greg O’Connor, the former Police Association president.
Prime Minister Bill English had explicitly told National voters to give their candidate vote to Mr Dunne rather than National’s candidate Brett Hudson.
In the latest twist to a chaotic election, Mr Dunne is the third leader in just three weeks to resign, following Labour’s Andrew Little and the Greens’ Metiria Turei.
Mr Dunne said he made his decision with “considerable reluctance”.
“But I have always understood that holding public office is a temporary privilege granted by the people, and can never be taken for granted.”
In his statement today he said the shift in voter sentiment was quite at variance with polling and other data he had seen throughout the year, on which he had based his earlier decision to seek re-election for a 12th term as MP for Ohariu.
“While I am naturally extremely disappointed after 33 years of service at this apparent change of feeling, I recognise and understand it, and respect absolutely the electorate’s prerogative to feel that way.
“I have therefore decided that it is time for me to stand aside, so the people of Ohariu can elect a new electorate MP. Consequently, after much consideration and discussion with those closest to me, I am announcing today that I will not be putting forward my nomination for election to the next Parliament.
“I am especially proud to have worked alongside successive National and Labour-led Governments in the collaborative environment of MMP, and to have had the privilege of serving as first an under-secretary and then a minister under seven different Prime Ministers for just on 15 years.”