Meet Damian Light, United Future's new leader

United Future's new leader wants to pull the party back towards Labour because it has "more of a social conscience" than National.

Damian Light took over from Peter Dunne two-and-a-half weeks ago, following the veteran Ohariu MP's shock decision to retire.

The 34-year-old had never done a TV interview before appearing on The AM Show on Thursday morning. He says most voters won't even realise United Future still exists, blaming the media instead for "covering the Jacinda effect".

"We put out a press release, but it's one of those things - it's been one of those crazy elections," he told host Duncan Garner.

Mr Light was inspired to get into politics after seeing Mr Dunne's memorable debate appearance before the 2002 election, where he infamously turned the worm and brought another seven MPs into Parliament.

Peter Dunne in 2002, with 'the worm'.
Peter Dunne in 2002, with 'the worm'. Photo credit: TVNZ/Te Ara

"I thought, this guy's great, I like what he's talking about," said Mr Light.

Fast-forward 15 years, and Mr Light - now United Future president - suddenly found himself being voted in by the party's board as Mr Dunne's replacement.

"I'm the president, so I'm the chairman of the board. I didn't make the decision. The board made the decision to appoint me. I was number two on the list anyway, so it kind of made sense that I would step up."

In the unlikely situation he manages to wrest the Botany seat off National's Jami-Lee Ross, Mr Light would like to push ahead with drug reform.

"Peter's been moving National slowly towards drug reform. National is dead against it, and so Peter's managed to drag them towards it. If we had a different Government, then perhaps it would have moved faster. But we've managed to make a lot of progress despite National's reluctance."

So if he does make it into Parliament, don't expect United Future to stay in the blue column.

"National's... more of the same, which isn't bad. Labour's talking changing and improving things... I personally lean more towards Labour - more of a social conscience than perhaps some of the others."

Mr Light says the party is in good shape, and only two candidates decided to step down after Mr Dunne quit the race. They definitely have enough members - unlike in 2013, when the party was deregistered by the Electoral Commission after failing to prove it had the required 500 members.

"We only had that issue once. We actually had the numbers, but we couldn't prove it. Our membership list was in a shambles. At the time, I wasn't the president."

United Future registered 0.1 percent in the latest Newshub-Reid Research poll. Despite this, Mr Light will take part in the TVNZ minor party leaders' debate on Friday, while TOP leader Gareth Morgan is going to court to fight for the right to appear. TOP is on between 1 and 2 percent.

Newshub.

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