Bridges versus Bennett continued

The current state of the race to the deputy prime ministership as recorded by Claire Trevett:


More at the Herald:

Paula Bennett is on the cusp of becoming Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand, but may have to lobby for a few more votes over the weekend to secure the job.

Based on publicly declared votes, Bennett has 23 National MPs on her side, though numbers are changing often. Simon Bridges trails behind, having secured the support of 10 MPs. A candidates needs 30 votes to become deputy to Prime Minister-in-waiting Bill English.

If no clear winner between her and Bridges is found by Monday – when a caucus vote will be held – it is understood both candidates will give speeches to the party before a private ballot takes place.


‘Secret ballot’ by social media drip feed

It seems quite odd to me that what I thought was supposed to be selection of a Prime Minister and a deputy Prime Minister by secret ballot next Monday have instead been a procession of pronouncements through the week by social media.

I guess National MPs can do their selecting and their voting however they like, but does anyone know if they have ever selected their leaders so publicly before?

Who remembers how John Key’s selection as National leader and leader of the opposition in 2007?

This is all the National Party constitution says about leadership selection:


81.The Parliamentary Section of the Party shall consist of the members of the Party elected to the House of Representatives. Should at any time a member of the Parliamentary Section cease to be a member of the Party he or she shall cease to be a member of the Parliamentary Section. Leader

82.  (a) The Parliamentary Section shall appoint its Leader as soon as practicable after each General Election.

(b) If at any time the leadership of the Parliamentary Section falls vacant, the Parliamentary Section shall appoint a Leader to fill such vacancy. Notwithstanding Rule 82 (a), the Parliamentary Section may at any time between General Elections confirm or change its Leader.

(c) The Leader of the Parliamentary Section shall, upon receiving the approval of the Board, become the Leader of the Party. The Board shall consider such approval as soon as practicable after the appointment by the Parliamentary Section of its Leader.

Maybe the secret ballot idea is incorrect and the National caucus just selects it’s leaders however they feel like at the time.

From the Herald:

If no clear winner between Bennett and Bridges is found by Monday – when a caucus vote will be held – it is understood both candidates will give speeches to the party before a private ballot takes place.

Labour’s turn?

There has been unrestrained glee from Andrew Little and the Labour camp at the resignation of John Key, but they need to be careful.

Labour have long seen Key as the thing stopping them from having their turn in Government again. They have persisted in trying to batter Brand key, without much success.

Labour came away from last weekend’s Mt Roskill successful by-election with confidence, and Key leaving looks like the icing on their general election campaign cake.

But they should be wary of becoming overconfident and thinking that they can now cruise to ‘their turn’ in Government.

A change of Prime Minister doesn’t fix Labour’s problems.

Little has shown glimpses of confidence and less impersonal parrot approach over the last week but he has a way to go to look like a possible Prime Minister.

Labour ranks still don’t look strong. Their most prominent MP over the past year, Phil Twyford, has raised a few eyebrows over his behaviour. He publicly attacked journalists (who aren’t likely to return the favour with favourable coverage) and has done some odd things on Twitter.

Twyford is heading Labour’s campaign team.

Labour have to earn the trust of voters. One of their weaknesses for years is their sense of ownership of votes, their assumption that when National has done their dash Labour will automatically benefit.

I don’t think Labour is seen yet as deserving of ‘their turn’.

Little has to improve his public performances. He has to appear as better informed about issues and he has to appear has himself more, not as a reciter of political platitudes and PR.

And it would help if a few other Labour MPs stepped up markedly. While signs of friction have diminished there are few signs of a team working together that is capable and confident.

Winning an election is not just a matter of people warming to Little when they see he looks like a decent well meaning guy.

Labour still have to portray themselves as worthy of running a government and managing the economy – so Grant Robertson has a lot to do if he wants to contribute.

Labour as a party has to look capable, but they also have to appear able to be the real deal alongside Greens, who they have become co-dependant on.

And they also have to convince voters they could manage a coalition with both Greens and Winston Peters.

The prospects have improved for Labour, a little bit.

But ‘their turn’ won’t fall into their laps next year. Whenever the general election is it will be as much a challenge for Labour as it is for National with a new leader.

I’d currently rate Little 6/10 at the moment, and Labour 5/10. They have to get closer to 8/10 to earn a victory.

The next election?

It’s fascinating to contemplate when our next election will be. It could be anywhere from March to November.

Will Bill English want to get another budget done and dusted before an election? Or will he seek a mandate first?

If David Shearer resigns as seems likely, will they go for a by-election and then a later general election?  If there is no by-election there will have to be a general election within 6 months, which would make it mid year (winter time).

English won’t have fond memories of the winter election in 2002 when he led National to a horrible result of 20.93%.

The options look like:

  • General election as soon as possible, say March
  • General election mid year, June/July
  • By-election in My Albert, then a general election in September/October

Key and English will already have known about Shearer’s possible resignation and are likely to have already considered these scenarios.

key would probably like an early election now he has decided to go, as would David Cunliffe and possible others who have decided not to stand again.

Given National’s reliance on polling it may come down to whether their support holds or drops in the short term.

If their support drops quickly National may prefer to try to build it back up before going to an election.

If their support holds up they are more likely to go to an early election.

The public won’t get to see much polling over the next month or two.

Bennett versus Bridges

Now Bill English has been confirmed as New Zealand’s next Prime Minister – he will be sworn in early next week – attention has turned to the deputy spot, being contested by Paula Bennett.

Bennett has been groomed by National and English in particular for a rise in their ranks, and was briefly acting Prime Minister a couple of months ago when John Key, Bill English and Gerry Brownlee were all overseas.

Bennett would tick Auckland, female and Maori boxes.

She is 47 and has been an MP since 2008, now for new electorate Upper Harbour, and is currently ranked 5th in the National Cabinet. Her responsibilities:

  • Minister of Climate Change Issues
  • Minister of Social Housing
  • Minister of State Services
  • Associate Minister of Finance
  • Associate Minister of Tourism

It’s notable that she has been working under English in Finance and under Key in Tourism.

Bridges has been talked about as a leader of the future for quite a while and some have said he has tried to model himself on Key.

He is 40 and has been MP for Tauranga since 2008, and is currently ranked 9th in the Cabinet pecking order. His responsibilities:

  • Deputy Leader of the House (under Brownlee)
  • Minister of Transport
  • Minister of Energy and Resources
  • Associate Minister of Climate Change Issues
  • Associate Minister of Justice

While a deputy needs to be loyal to their Prime Minister both Bridges and Bennett presumably have an eye towards an English retirement which will leave the top job open.

3 days versus 93

In the first leadership change in ten years, since John Key took over from Don Brash on 27 November 2006, the National Party took 3 days to choose their new leader, Bill English.

On Twitter Peter Dunne as described it “as quick and slick a contest as I can recall”.

In contrast Labour have had four leadership contests that have taken a total of

Helen Clark stood down on 8 November 2008, immediately after losing the general election. Phil Goff took over unchallenged 3 days later, on 11 November.

Goff announced he would stand down as Labour leader on 29 November 2011, 3 days after losing the general election. David Shearer won leadership contest against David Cunliffe and took over on 13 December, 14 days later.

During Shearer’s time as leader the Labour party changed their rules on leadership contests, stipulating a voting arrangement involving a mix of caucus (40%), party members (40%) and unions (20%). This has extended the time taken to choose leaders.

Shearer resigned as leader on 22 August 2013. After  contesting the leadership against Grant Robertson and Shane Jones, Cunliffe became leader on 15 September, 24 days later.

After Labour lost the next election Cunliffe resigned as leader on 27 September 2014.  After a contest against Grant Robertson, David Parker and Nanaia Mahuta, Andrew Little took over on 18 November, 52 days later.

That’s a total of 93 days of leadership contesting in a decade, but the time taken has become increasingly long

Going effectively leaderless for a month or two stalls progress while in opposition but they can get away with it. If Labour get back into Government and have a contested leadership under their current rules the time taken to change Prime Ministers could be more of a problem.

Greens also have a membership vote in their leadership contests but they have co-leaders so don’t go rudderless, and they are not likely to have a Prime Minister.

Which may be just as well – Russel Norman announced he would stand down as co-leader on January 2015, and James Shaw eventually won against Kevin Hague on 30 May, over 4 months later.

NZ First and United Future have never had their leaderships contested.

Rodney Hide resigned as leader of the ACT Party on 28 April 2011, and Don Brash was appointed leader by the party board 2 days later.

When ACT did poorly in the 26 November 2011 election Brash resigned on election night.  As their only MP John Banks was de facto leader until being appointed officially by the board on 16 February 2012.

Who’s out and who’s up?

We know that John Key is on the way out. So is Hekia Parata. Who else is past their use by date?

Murray McCully, Gerry Brownlee and Nick Smith must be on the outgoing short list too, and some Minister slower down the ranks must be wondering if they have a future.

Who will rise under Bill English’s leadership?

Vernon Small speculates in Snakes and ladders with Bill English: Who climbs the Beehive’s steps and who will take a tumble?

1. Bill English: Prime Minister and likely to take national security and intelligence as Key did.

2. Paula Bennett: Deputy Prime Minister and could be given another big role, like health.

3. Steven Joyce: Already anointed as finance minister.

4. Jonathan Coleman: He has in the past expressed an interest in foreign affairs and would be a good fit if Murray McCully goes.

5. Amy Adams: Justice, State Services. Good well-regarded performer.

6. Simon Bridges: Maybe keep transport and spread his wings in associate finance and pick up the plum economic development role vacated by Joyce.

7. Judith Collins: Police, Corrections. It’s her patch.

8. Chris Finlayson: Too useful as Attorney-General and on treaty issues to be moved.

9. Anne Tolley: Social Welfare and doing a sound job.

10. Nikki Kaye: If her health is on the mend, and Hekia Parata is leaving, why not give her education?

Who else deserves to rise, and who is best to look for another pastime?

The current Cabinet:

  1. John Key
  2. Bill English
  3. Gerry Brownlee
  4. Steven Joyce
  5. Paula Bennett
  6. Jonathan Coleman
  7. Amy Adams
  8. Chris Finlayson
  9. Simon Bridges
  10. Hekia Parata
  11. Anne Tolley
  12. Nick Smith
  13. Murray McCully
  14. Judith Collins
  15. Nathan Guy
  16. Nikki Kaye
  17. Michael Woodhouse
  18. Todd McClay
  19. Sam Lotu-liga
  20. Maggie Barry
  21. Craig Foss
  22. Jo Goodhew
  23. Nicky Wagner
  24. Louise Upston
  25. Paul Goldsmith


Woe is WO

It’s fairly ironic to see Cry baby of the week on Whale Oil today in amongst these posts:

There seems to be some whale sized tears being shed over Bill English’s success in becoming the next Prime Minister, at the expense of Cameron  Slater’s favourite, Judith Collins.

Bill English’s bullying of MPs has worked, he has the numbers to become leader of the National party. As a result Judith Collins has quit the race.

Funny to see Slater accusing someone of political bullying, given that is how he made himself infamous through Whale Oil.

He has threatened MPs still waiting on selections that they would be rinsed if they didn’t declare, he’s promised others jobs, and now the retribution will start.

That’s otherwise known as horse trading, something that’s very common in political power struggles. As Slater should know.

A great many bridges have been burnt with John Key’s petulant quitting and there exists now deep divisions inside National.  

I expect Bill English to follow form and begin purging those who dared to have an opinion that differed from his. It is likely that both Collins and Coleman will be removed from their ministerial portfolios as Bill English has promised far too many people positions. He may even have to extend the ministry to 25 to accommodate the promises.

I’m sure that Coleman and Collins knew the risks they took challenging English. Both promised to support English fully when they withdrew.

Crying in advance without knowing what English will do is a bit pointless.

For my part I can no longer support the National party that is led by Bill English. I expect an immediate tanking in the polls.

He has already said he doesn’t support National. Slater threw a hissy fit when Key took him off his contact list.

It is a sad day for the National party, and even though I am not a member of any party I can no longer support the National party.

He would have supported it if he had got what he wanted, he hissy fits when he doesn’t. A bit more petulant threatening won’t cause many worries in Team English.

Unfortunately, it appears that John Key’s legacy will one of wrecking a successful government, but I will write more on that later today.

Bill English will make Andrew Little look dynamic.

Slater has had a grudge against English for years and has often wailed about him. He continued smattering his tears through comments.

Bill English will tank the party. Mark my words. I cannot support any party with Bill english as leader.


I dunno about being divisive or bullying, how else BE would be persuading caucus? Also BE in 2017 is quite different than BE in 2002.


No he isn’t. He’s exactly the same. He sent out Jami-lee Ross and Hekia Parata to do his dirty work. Threatening MPs with selection issues, bullying them with job threats…leopards don’t change their spots.


Bill English will tank the party. Mark my words. I cannot support any party with Bill english as leader.


He is churlish and self-serving.

Plenty of irony here. And:

One day you guys might start listening to me. John Key never cared about National, it was simply a vehicle to build his CV…job done…move on. Bill English is the same. He is in the twilight of his career. He went List only last election because he wasn’t sure National could win. He is still planning his exit and a year or less as PM is still PM on his CV so he can rush off to some cushy overseas job.

National’s caucus have picked a man who has 27 years as a MP…at best he has three years left in his job, mostly likely it is less than a year. Well done muppets…your vote for the future is a vote for disaster.


Bill English is a nasty vindictive man who holds grudges for years. He gets others to do his knifing and smiles like he knew nothing about it.

He was a disaster last time and will be a disaster this time. I couldn’t care less that he is Catholic, he is a nasty vindictive man. If you only knew what has gone on the past couple of days then you would shocked.


I would be personally better off with the opposition. Labour may be led by a fool but he isn’t evil or inherently dishonest. Bill English is both.

He has directly attacked me and my family and has been a major blocker of anything I do or did for the National party. He doesn’t want me, and I don’t want him.

I’m better off not being involved.

I suspect that English will be quite happy for Slater not to be involved. I doubt there will be much communicating between the Prime Ministers office and Whale Oil. ‘Dirty Politics’ of the Hager definition is history.

I don’t really care. I have more contacts in other parties than in National.

Nicky Hager has finally won.

This blog will get stronger with a Labour/Green/NZ First government.

It isn’t what I want, but I am telling you that is what you will get. A greatly diminished National party.

I’ve never been a sycophant and I won’t start now.

That’s just from one of his posts. He even dumps on Jami-Lee Ross in one of the others:

Jami-lee Ross had a big problem though. He was doing the numbers for Bill English and he’s the one who fed Patrick Gower the bullshit number of 45 votes, which we now know was rubbish.

Can that be right? Gower said it was a ‘senior MP’. When Ross pledged support for English it was obvious that Collins had no chance.

Slater achieved a lot in building Whale Oil, but his heavy handed approach and his relishing the dirtiness of his political approach has taken it’s toll.

It was obvious that Slater wasn’t even in the loop with Collins’ bid for the leadership. Whale Oil weeps from the sidelines these days with copious bile about others being bullies.

In another of his posts he responds to some of his comment feedback:

This blog will find itself in a pretty shit position from the point of view that it will not support an English-led government.  My readers will go ape-shit because undermining Bill risks a Labour-led coalition sneaking in after a photo finish.

They will probably at least get tired of ten posts a day attacking English.

I will be the first to write a public apology to Bill English if he manages to bring home a National-led government where National still poll with a 4 in front of the party vote.

I hope someone remembers that.

English to be Prime Minister

In what Peter Dunne as referred to as “as quick and slick a contest as I can recall” Bill English was confirmed as the next Prime Minister this afternoon as endorsements from National MPs kept rolling in through the day, and then Judith Collins conceded early this afternoon, followed by Jonathan Coleman late this afternoon.

So it is confirmed that English will take over from John Key, presumably as planned early next week.

His deputy is still to be decided by the National caucus, possibly by vote on Monday, but it looks like his heir apparent Paula Bennett will get that spot.

English has already indicated that Steven Joyce will take over from him as Minister of Finance.

There will be a lot of interest in who English names in his Cabinet, with special attention on whether Collins and Coleman will retain or improve their rankings or get demoted, and how the carrots get dished out to supporting MPs.

National should benefit from having been seen to have at least some semblance of a contest rather than an uncontested passing of the PM batten, but this was a quick and ruthless leadership change.

Soon Parliament will shut down for the summer break so that will give English and his new team (which may contain more than a smattering of same old)  to sort themselves out ready for an election year.

With a likely by-election if David Shearer leaves for a UN job in South Sudan talk of an early election has increased, but I suspect English will be wanting to take advantage of improving financial conditions and get a budget under his Government’s belt.

Time will tell how well the National caucus works with their new leader.

English favourite but not confirmed

Last night Patrick Gower called English as the next Prime Minister, citing a ‘senior MP’ claiming 45 MPs backed English.

I’m very sceptical about this – anonymous sources with vested interests in leadership contests, trying to push a majority five days before the caucus vote takes place, shoukld be viewed with extreme caution.

Yesterday afternoon:

Ok, no mucking around, Paddy Gower will name the new Prime Minister tonight on live at 6.

And Gower went full bore on his big scoop of 45 for English. Matthew Hooton has just called this ‘a big lie’.

RNZ is more factual and feet on the ground in Bill English appears front-runner in National leadership contest:

So far 14 MPs, including Mr Key, have publicly declared they are putting their weight behind the finance minister for the top job.

That’s about half what English needs – but there is no guarantee they will all stick with that public position.

National Party MPs will meet at Parliament on Monday to vote for a new leader and deputy.

It’s a secret vote.

Barry Soper remembers some history involving English in Support for English could easily become daggers of defeat:

Ironically it came when they were doing the numbers after his disastrous election defeat of 2002 when the dapper doctor Don Brash was sharpening his knife the following year.

Holmesy asked me if English was a dead man walking and I said no, more like a twitching corpse. Within minutes the phone was ringing and the invective flowed. When the torrent eased, he was told the numbers for him holding on to the leadership were stacked against him, but for a man who is obviously good with numbers, he insisted they weren’t telling him the same thing.

Later that day Don Brash was installed as leader and Bill English rightly felt cheated, he’d been lied to by some of his colleagues, and gave serious thought to calling it a day and going back to the farm.

The point is, those running for a political job determined by their colleagues can never know for sure of the support they’ve got until the scrutineers do the count, and even more so if the winner’s in the position to determine their future, like a Prime Minister contemplating his Cabinet.

More than half of National’s caucus are looking for favours, they haven’t had the call up for Cabinet and they’ll be sounding out the candidate who can offer them the most.

So it’s not a done deal until the votes are counted next Monday.

English is the front runner for sure, but there’s time for back bench discontent to grow, especially away from Parliament over the weekend.

There could be a backlash over what looks like a jack up – English as Prime Minister, Paula Bennett as deputy and Steven Joyce as Finance Minister looks like a small cabal at the top of National manipulating the leadership.

While they would probably be a competent rearrangement of the same old minus Key it is hardly a fresh new look.

And Brexit/.Trump – there is growing discontent with the political establishment in other parts of the world. Is there any chance of rebellion in the National caucus?