Wanted: New Leader of the National Party

After 27 years in Parliament, including 8 as Treasurer under Prime Minister John Key as well as one year as Prime Minister, Bill English resigned today. His resignation will take effect on 27 February 2018 and he will leave Parliament on 01 March 2018.

Simon William English entered Parliament in 1990 when National won the F.P.P. election under Jim Bolger. He stood as the candidate for Wallace in 1990 and 1993 before it became Clutha-Southland in 1996. Under the Jim Bolger and Jenny Shipley led National Governments Mr English held Health. After the party’s defeat in 1999, he was shadow spokesperson for Finance and then Leader of the National Party and thus the Opposition, which lasted until 2003 when Dr Don Brash took over. He was reassigned to the Education Spokesperson role before John Key became Leader of the National Party in 2006, whereupon he was restored to the Finance Spokesperson role.

In 2008 Mr English became Treasurer of New Zealand and would hold this role until 2016 when the then Prime Minister John Key stepped down. He gained a reputation as a solid keeper of New Zealand’s finances and when his resignation was announced yesterday there were words of respect from all parts of Parliament about his time as Treasurer.

Shortly before Mr Key resigned, Kaikoura was struck by a large magnitude 7.8 earthquake which caused widespread damage to the town, surrounding regions and transport links. One of Mr English’s first acts as Prime Minister was to announce that the road and railway links would be rebuilt in full. Mr English remained popular, well ahead of his opposite number, Labour Leader Andrew Little until he resigned in August 2017, to pave the way for Jacinda Ardern to lead Labour and now New Zealand.

Mr English’s personal future in Parliament was always in question following the decision of New Zealand First Leader Winston Peters to cast his lot with the Labour Party and the Greens to form a centre left Government. Although he and his National Party presented a united front and lost no time in getting cracking as the Opposition of the 51st Parliament of New Zealand, let there be no doubt that the loss of the Beehive would deeply hurt everyone in the party of Robert Muldoon, Keith Holyoake and so forth.

With Mr English’s departure from Parliament altogether scheduled for later this month, the National Party are in internal election mode sorting out the serious contenders for his job from the fakes. It is widely thought that there are four candidates for the job:

  • Former Minister of Justice Amy Adams
  • Former Minister of Social Development Paula Bennett
  • Former Minister of Health Jonathan Coleman
  • Former Minister of Police Judith Collins

Two outside contenders also exist in the form of Nikki Kaye who was former Minister of Civil Defence and Simon Bridges, former Minister of Energy and Resources.

Former Minister of Justice Amy Adams is viewed as one of the more left-leaning member, which may attract votes from the centre part of the National Party’s political spectrum. Mrs Adam is M.P. for Selwyn, which is a solid blue Canterbury electorate.

Paula Bennett is known as a “westie” because she originally stood for the Auckland electorate of Waitakere. Before Mr English took over, she was Minister for Social Development under Mr Key, where she earnt a reputation for being out of touch with social issues.

Jonathan Coleman was Minister of Health after Tony Ryall left Parliament. During this time a consistent inability to accept an exploding mental health crisis in New Zealand despite a number of high profile cases, the Christchurch and Kaikoura earthquakes and other causes causing record demand for mental health services.

A vote for Judith Collins is a vote to support the core rural constituents of National. Ms Collins was at the centre of the Oravida scandal and was made to walk the plank – some still view her as corrupt, which may tarnish her credibility.

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