The United Future party is very deliberately a party of the middle class. Its leader, Peter Dunne, was determined to establish such a party since the early 1990s when he broke away from the Labour Party. [Read more below]
When he departed from Labour to set up his first new party, Peter Dunne claimed then that this would target ‘middle New Zealand’, which he defined as families, mortgage-holders and those struggling to pay for education and retirement (Edwards and Boyd, 1995: p.7). He told David McLoughlin that it would represent the ‘overtaxed, politically ignored middle classes’ (McLoughlin, 1994a: p.41). Also, according to Sheppard (1997c: p.9), Dunne believed his party could represent National’s traditional small business constituency.
The Future New Zealand component of United Future was previously in the Christian Coalition – a party that appears to have been relatively class-neutral. According to Perry and Webster, the support of the Christian Coalition was ‘rather evenly spread, with little variation across classes’ (Perry and Webster, 1999: p.29). The main exception in their 1998 survey was amongst the category of ‘unskilled manual’ labour, from which the Christian Coalition received 4.3% support, compared to their overall support of 2.1% (ibid p.28).
Colin James noted that, ‘Socioeconomically, the occupations listed for the Christian Democrats’ board of reference paint a picture of small businesspeople, with a sprinkling of professionals and bureaucrats… plus a few ministers of religion’ (James, 12 May 1995: p.13). One of the leaders of the Christian Democrats party (which became part of the United Future party) was Brian Pankhurst – the former chief executive of Whitcoulls group and former chairman of the Auckland Crown Health Enterprise (Heeringa, 1995: p.79). The 1995 party president, David Brown, was ‘a former chief executive of the Amuri Corporation and now owner of Christchurch-based architectural firm The Design Team’ (Heeringa, 1995). The then vice-president, David Harrison, was a ‘former chief executive of insurance brokers Marsh McLennen and now owner of the Wellington-based Centre Consulting Group’ (ibid).
When Future New Zealand and United merged and stood at the 2002 general election, the new party picked up most of its votes from former Labour and National voters. Although United Future won 6.7% of the party vote, the Herald-DigiPoll showed that the party received the support of only 4.7% of those New Zealanders in richest fifth of the population, but 9.6% of the next-highest fifth (Collins, 2002).
[This blog post will be updated with new data - any feedback and information is appreciated]