For the last several days National Leader and Leader of the Opposition Bill English, has been keeping a low profile, as has his Deputy Leader Paula Bennett. With sore and embittered M.P.’s itching for action against the new government, and no clear leader to co-ordinate the attack, this is surprising.
So soon after losing the Prime Ministership, Mr English is taking a risk. There are a number of Members of Parliament that Mr English needs to keep a wary eye on. But these ones are not on the Government benches. They are in the ranks of his own National Party.
One can understand every now and again, the Leader of the Opposition taking time off to see family or to have a quick breather. But so soon after the election, with sore M.P.’s still adjusting to the cold reality that they are no longer in power and being on the Opposition benches entails a completely different set of skills and tasks, Mr English is conspicuously absent.
Mr English has several ambitious Members of Parliament in his party who probably quietly want his job. Although they were all unified in support of him when he lost the Prime Ministers job to Labour leader Jacinda Ardern, it would not have been lost on any of them that this was the second time Mr English has lost the election. Perhaps though, this should not be so surprising, because despite the polls on Stuff, One News and Newshub, the public support for National-A.C.T. and United Future had definitely soured. Worsening environmental, mental health, crime, education and social welfare problems were finally becoming – after nine years of simmering in the background – a conflagration that could no longer be ignored.
His ambitious members include Judith Collins who was cultivated by Prime Minister John Key and was active as a Minister of Justice and Minister of Police – two portfolio’s she strongly believes in. Ms Collins was undone by the well known Oravida scandal and and many members of the public judged her as corrupt. Another one is Amy Adams, a work horse Minister who held a range of portfolio’s during her time in Parliament. Although she has never shown a great desire, Mrs Adams is smart, respected in what she did in Parliament as Minister and could be playing a long term game.
Also dangerous to Mr English’s future are Simon Bridges, Nikki Kaye and – although she too has been in hiding of late – Paula Bennett. Mr Bridges, a senior member and M.P. for Tauranga held a number of portfolio’s including Minister for Energy and Resources. He sits at 6th spot and is Shadow Leader of the House. Ms Kaye, who was diagnosed with breast cancer last year and has since returned, is the Spokesperson for Education. At age 37, she is the same age as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. She has potential and also appeals to the more left-wing parts of the National Party.
Paula Bennett has been keeping a low profile of late. However her seniority as Deputy Leader of the National Party, Deputy Leader of the Opposition and Spokesperson for Children, Women and Social Development. Ms Bennett’s combative approach could potentially make enemies and hand the Government ammunition.