For Pete’s sake, look what the Herald has done to Dunne – it has dented his nerdy visage

"This could take some time, Pete - I'm looking for a glimmer of a sense of humour."

“This could take some time, Pete – I’m looking for a glimmer of a sense of humour.”

Dunno if you can put this in the political smear category.

But it’s a revelation and it’s seriously image-shattering.

The NZ Herald has damaged popular impressions of Peter Dunne by saying:

Peter Dunne says people aren’t always aware of his sense of humour

This is in the same league as “Crusher Collins says people aren’t always aware of her sense of fair play” (a headline Alf suspects he will not see in his lifetime).

People aren’t always aware of Dunne’s sense of humour, of course, because finding a glimmer of it requires the sort of drilling operation that is apt to have the Greenies mounting an environmental protest.

The Peter Dunne with whom Alf is familiar (but not as a drinking mate in Bellamys) is well described in the article by a Herald political hack.

He writes of the 60-year-old MP for Ohariu:

He tweets articles from French and German-language newspapers, and often has Radio New Zealand’s Concert station playing in the background in his office.

Dunne is much too prim and prissy for Alf’s liking (although in the spirit of his contribution to the arrangement that enabled we Nats to govern for the past three years Alf would never say this publicly).

Let’s note that Dunne was interviewed at a rugby match in which his home team of Tawa took something of a hiding.

At one stage of the grim on-field proceedings, the Tawa captain yelled: “This is bullshit, guys.”

Dunne grimaces a little.

“I must say, when I was a player I always thought that [swearing] was over the top. It’s great to win. But it’s only a game.”

How can Alf be expected to hob-nob with someone who disapproves of words like “bullshit”.

The article goes on:

We stand in silence for a while. I ask whether he is pigeon-holed because of his appearance – the bow-tie, the hair. Did he suggest a rugby game as a counter to the public perception of him as fusty or boring?

A little exasperated, he shoots back. “I am pigeon-holed. I have been for a very long time. I am the original Mr Boring and I have never worked out why.

“The fact that I wear a bow-tie makes me some sort of eccentric, which I would have thought negates the first point.

“The other thing I’m pigeon-holed for is that I have a fair head of hair. It is not quiffed. It is not coloured. It is not styled. It is entirely natural.

“My hairdresser said to me the other day ‘Your hair is like a river. It changes its own course and goes its own way and there’s not much we can do about it’.”

He pauses for a moment.

“But I never ever try to let that stuff get to me. I just find it very amusing and if anyone took the time to get to know me better they’d know all of that stuff was nonsense.”

If it takes time to know him better, it is likely Alf will never drill down to the real Peter Dunne.

Then the article mentions some of his stunts – planking on a television show, taking selfies, pulling a duck-face? Is this a bid to shake this “boring” image?

“Yes and no. I do it because that’s the sort of thing I’d do anyway. I’ve got a reasonably zany sense of humour and I quite like the absurd from time to time. Those sorts of things aren’t stunts. They are just part of me.”

Hmm. Alf is bound to wonder if these stunts really do show much of a sense of humour, zany or otherwise.

The next bit of the article shows Dunne could have given us all a laugh.

Sadly, he chose not to take it.

The occasion was years ago, when a funeral director asked him to have his photo taken in a casket as a promotional stunt.

“There was no suggestion of political malice involved. But in an election year, I’m not going to have a picture of me lying in a coffin.”

But Alf did get a laugh when the Herald says Dunne had been at a Royal New Zealand Ballet performance the night before the interview.

“I made a couple of comments to people about how I was going to the ballet. And I was surprised that that was still reacted to as a bit odd.

“I thought we’d moved on from that. But I think it’s still ingrained in New Zealanders, a sort of wariness of the arts, a sense that people who like those things might be a little bit putting on airs and graces, presenting themselves as superior.”

He won’t say what the reactions were. Later on, I check his Twitter feed. Dunne had written that he hoped his flight landed in time for the ballet.

“Just leave your man card at check-in,” one tweeter replied.

But whoa.

Let’s give him credit for recognising himself for what he is.

“Today, I’d be described as a nerd,” he says, noting that he began ordering copies of parliamentary debates when he was 14. Did he ever want to be anything but a politician?

“I wanted to be a sea captain, I suppose. I always fancied myself in a uniform on the bridge of a flash ocean-liner.”

Is it too late to help him achieve that ambition?

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