Bill English’s resignation

Bill English managed to keep secret the news of his resignation as National Party leader and from Parliament until just before he have a news conference announcing it this morning.

This isn’t really a surprise to me. English was reportedly considering resigning a couple of years ago but stepped up and stayed on when  John Key resigned. English went on to do a creditable job in the election campaign last year, and possibly also to his credit he didn’t concede enough to win Winston Peters’ support to form a Government.

The timing was initially a bit of a surprise, but it makes sense. If he stepped down too soon after the election the party would have not been in a good situation to consider a new leader – after losing power all National MPs would have benefited from considering their futures.

So English waited until everyone was settled into the first full year of the current term, and then made his announcement.

English has been one of the most influential politicians in new Zealand this century. He is widely applauded for managing the country through very difficult financial times, first taking over as Finance Minister as the Global Financial Crisis hit, and then managing our way through the impact of the Christchurch earthquakes.

Labour will be thankful to have taken over when the country’s books are in such good order.

And Jacinda Ardern seemed to genuinely applaud his achievements, as any good Prime Minsiter would:

Just heard the news that Bill English has decided to stand down. Bill has made a huge contribution through his time in office and to politics generally. I admire those who serve NZ in this place, and Bill did for a long time, and he did it well. My best wishes

So it’s a well earned political retirement for English, while National now has to deal with choosing a new leader, but that’s a different story.

UPDATE: Statement on Bill English

RT HON JACINDA ARDERN

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has today paid tribute to outgoing National Party Leader Bill English.

“Bill has worked tirelessly as Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, Finance Minister, and Opposition Leader among his many public roles. Very few serve for so long at such a high level, but garner the respect of many.

“He has always stood for what he believes in. He is a man of clear convictions who has always had a genuine concern for the well-being of New Zealanders, and gave a huge portion of his working life to serving on their behalf.

“The impact of public service on a politician’s family cannot be understated. In the 27 years Bill served as an MP, with the support of his wife Mary, his children were born, and grew up.  They have made great sacrifices so he could do his job to the best of his ability.

“I wish Bill and his family all the best for the future,” says Jacinda Ardern.

Interview: Bill English on his resignation

Green problems continue

A battered Green party seems to have taken another hit with one of their top staff stepping down and another either stepping or being pushed sideways.

Whatever the reason, a month out from the election this has to be disruptive and an indication of ongoing repercussions in the party after a damaging few weeks.

NZH: Top Green Party staffer resigns just weeks out from election

The Green Party has been hit by more turmoil after its political director resigned with just weeks to go until the election.

The resignation of communications specialist Joss Debreceny follows the departure of the party’s chief of staff Deborah Morris-Travers, although she will keep working for the Greens on a special anti-poverty project.

Responding to Herald inquiries, Shaw said he had reluctantly accepted Debreceny’s resignation.

“Joss has given tireless, loyal support and made an important contribution to the Green cause, and I am deeply grateful for that.”

Shaw said Morris-Travers’ move out of the chief-of-staff role was to take up a “special projects” role, including providing policy advice on ending poverty in New Zealand.

“We are keen to utilise Deborah’s expertise on the rights of children, as well as tapping into her past experience as a member of Parliament,” Shaw said.

“Joss and Deborah are superb operators. As these changes are operational issues it would be inappropriate to make any further comment.”

One could wonder how involved these two staff members were in the Metiria mission on poverty, and the handling of the PR disaster.

One could also wonder whether they are deserting a sinking ship, or if they have been thrown overboard.

Should Ngaro have offered his resignation?

Going by Lloyd Burr’s claims in Alfred Ngaro’s threat to Willie Jackson was worse than just a brain fart Ngaro was slow to comprehend or acknowledge the mistake he made in a National Party regional conference speech.

Alfred Ngaro’s threat that non-government organisations shouldn’t bite the hand that feeds is extraordinary.

Not just because of his complete lack of judgement, or the fact he did it on stage in front of hundreds of National Party members, or because it shows cracks in the party’s extreme culture of discipline.

It’s extraordinary because he didn’t back down from his comments until he was forced to.

It was much more than just a brain fart or a case of misspeaking.

Prime Minister Bill English and National’s campaign manager Steven Joyce were quick to activate damage control, downplaying the comments as “naive from a new minister”.

But before they could both get their hands on him and before the storm of bad PR hit, Mr Ngaro was still unapologetic when Newshub asked him to explain.

“It was actually about saying ‘look let’s be mindful about the working relationship we have’,” he told Newshub at the conference.

“It’s the context of saying that on the one hand we’re working together, and on the other hand too, if people are criticising, we just need to be mindful of that type of relationship, yep,” said Mr Ngaro.

NGOs being “mindful” of criticising the Government sounds strikingly similar to threatening them to watch what they say.

“If we’re going to have a positive partnership of working together, then it’s around having that, it’s talking about wider context but also all the things we are doing and working collectively together,” said Mr Ngaro.

“My comments was (sic) just to be mindful of the fact that if we are going to be able to have these partnerships, we’ve just got to be political, what you call sensitive, in that context, yep.”

All this was very embarrassing for National, not just the initial comments but on how Ngaro handled it. His subsequent apology was very lame too.

I’m sure Ngaro regrets what he said but this sounds like a ‘I’m sorry I got found out’ and then a switch to campaign politics sort of non-apology. It is nowhere near good enough.

Audrey Young thinks that Ngaro comments warrant the offer of a resignation

The stupidity of Alfred Ngaro’s judgment at the weekend was so gross it warranted at least his offer of a resignation from the cabinet to Prime Minister Bill English.

None was forthcoming, English confirmed at his post cabinet press conference.

But it was clear from English’s response that he was not looking for a resignation from Ngaro.

That may be because it would have signalled a misjudgment on English’s part in having promoted him in December from the backbench into cabinet.

English did admit, however, that Ngaro had apologised to the cabinet, adding to a long list of groups to which he has apologised.

I haven’t seen a decent apology yet – and this lack of an adequate response is as bad as the initial comments which sounded like insidious political threats.

The biggest reason English has been so forgiving of Ngaro is that he does not believe the junior minister would have followed through on his threat – and there is no evidence of it.

Ngaro has not yet had the opportunity to walk the way he talked. As a new minister, and Associate Minister for Social Housing, his work and decisions are closely watched by Social Housing Minister Amy Adams.

He would not get away with it.

Ngaro’s comments smack of an inexperienced minister trying to sound as though he was an experienced political operator by talking tough.

He showed the complete opposite.

It’s ironic that an inexperienced minister has portrayed his party as arrogantly misusing power after nine years of government.

Should MPs serve their whole terms?

I think that normally someone who stands for Parliament as an electorate MP or via a party list should be expected to serve the whole three year term. There must be a responsibility to do what they put themselves forward to do.

If an electorate MP resigns there is considerable cost involved in by-elections. There must also be quite a bit of disruption to workloads expected of both electorate and list MPs.

David McGee, ex Clerk of the House and Ombudsman, suggests Impose a bond on MPs to stop them quitting

In the early years of parliamentary government members often resigned their seats.

But, with the development of political parties, resignations became less common and had virtually disappeared for a century until the adoption of MMP in 1996.

Since then resignations have come back into fashion, especially among list members who are replaced by the next unsuccessful candidate on the party list (or even lower down the list if the party “persuades” the next candidate not to take up the vacant seat).

So far this term there have been quite a few resignations:

  • Mike Sabin (Northland electorate) – this wasn’t by choice
  • Russel Norman (Green list)
  • Kevin Hague (Green list)
  • Phil Goff (Mt Roskill electorate) – chose another political job
  • David Shearer (Mt Albert electorate) – chose to go back to the UN

A number of other electorate MPs have indicated they will stand down when they can avoid a by-election. This includes David Cunliffe and John Key. If they do this before the end of the term that leaves their electorates without an MP until after the election.

New Zealand has a three-year term for Parliament. This is short by international standards.

It is not unreasonable to expect that persons who are elected to Parliament will serve out the full term of this relatively short period. That is, after all, the basis on which they offered themselves for election in the first place.

I agree.

Yet, increasingly, membership of Parliament for a maximum of three years is seen as being at the convenience of each member perhaps more accurately at that of the member’s party, rather than as an obligation undertaken when elected.

Thus there has been a noticeable tendency for list members who are intending to step down at the next election to resign in the final year of the term (either voluntarily or at the party’s prompting) so as to make way for a candidate who is expected to have an ongoing interest in a parliamentary career.

It’s not so disruptive or expensive when list MPs resign mid-term, but it is still a failure to fulfil their commitment as an elected representative.

In this way, for many members, the already short parliamentary term becomes an even shorter one. For every member a parliamentary career is converted into something that one has the ability to leave costlessly in political terms at any time, rather than being a commitment to public service for the life of a parliament.

In my view this is deleterious to the institution of Parliament and to the sense of obligation that members should feel to it.

That is also my view.

Members in the final year of a Parliament can and should be expected to contribute to it’s work for the full term that they have signed up to regardless of their intentions to stand or not at the next election.

Another issue is MPs who seem to disappear after they announce they will stand down at the next election. For example what have Maurice Williamson and Clayton Cosgrove been doing this term?

Perhaps they have been beavering away tirelessly, Williamson at least has an electorate to look after.

A list MP like Cosgrove must also have a responsibility to serve the party that enabled him to have a seat and a generous income.

Consequently, there should be stronger disincentives both to members and to parties to prevent the early jumping of ship that has become endemic.

This is contentious.

In the case of list members, the remedy is quite simple: any vacancy occasioned by resignation should not be filled.

List members, whatever they may pretend to the contrary, are not elected to represent individual constituencies of a geographical or other nature.

Our electoral system allows the voter to make no such distinctions when casting a party vote.

So there can be no question of a denial of representation in leaving such seats vacant.

Not filling such a vacancy would largely eliminate list resignations as they are almost always promoted by the parties themselves.

They would cease to occur if this meant that a party’s votes in Parliament would be permanently reduced.

It would certainly be a deterrence, but is it fair? Would it be fair if someone had a genuine need to resign (compared to a better job offer)?

Not filling such a vacancy would largely eliminate list resignations as they are almost always promoted by the parties themselves.

They would cease to occur if this meant that a party’s votes in Parliament would be permanently reduced.

It would almost certainly be effective.

Electorate members, on the other hand, do represent constituents and it is unacceptable not to full such vacancies.

The present law allowing vacancies arising within six months of a general election to be left unfilled is inherently undemocratic and should not be extended.

Leaving an electorate without an MP for 6 months (out of 3 years) is an issue in itself.

Consequently, as a condition of being declared elected, electorate members should be required to enter into a bond to serve through the full term of the parliament.

The amount of the bond would not cover the full cost of a by-election (indeed, that would not be its intention) but it should be sufficiently high to provide a financial disincentive to resignation for the member and for the party backing the member.

Allowing for exceptional circumstances:

In the case of both list and electorate members, resignation without these consequences would be permitted on health grounds proved to the satisfaction of the Speaker or the Electoral Commission.

fair enough.

Membership of Parliament ought not to be a mere convenience for political parties, nor should it be a status that can be discarded lightly. It is time that this undesirable development was addressed.

But how can it be addressed? It would require commitments from parties that like the convenience of dropping and replacing MPs. Parties and increasingly MPs are selfish, and are unlikely to change something that suits them – at the expense of voters and taxpayers.

MPs are representatives of the people, and when they put themselves forward for election they should commit themselves to a full term. It should be in their oath.

Key to the Kingdom

Banned Standard author Te Reo Putake writes for Your NZ about how John Key’s shock resignation will revitalise Labour, the Greens and NZ First.


It’s been a great few days for the opposition. The Mt Roskill by election was a stunning win for Labour, the Greens have picked up a media friendly new candidate in Hayley Holt and Winston Peters has, well, I don’t know what Winston’s been up to, but I’m sure he thinks it was great.

And now John Key’s resigned to spend more time with his money. Good news for Barack Obama, golf’s no fun without a caddy.

John Key’s resignation opens the door for two, perhaps three new Prime Ministers in the next twelve months.

First, Bill English will take over, on Key’s recommendation. If the polls plummet, he’ll be shafted by Easter, to be replaced by whatever counts as budding talent in the National caucus.

Bennett? Bridges?

It won’t matter, really, because whenever the election is called, early or late, Andrew Little will win.

Hold on, I hear you saying, what about the polls?

The numbers have been heading Little’s way for months. No, really. His task is to maximise Labour’s vote, but more importantly, build the numbers for both his party and the Greens. Most recent polls have had those two party’s combined vote just short or just above the point at which a coalition with NZ First could form a viable Government.

That’s how MMP works folks. If only Roy Morgan could work that out.

National can’t afford to lose even a couple of percentage points next election. If they drop even slightly, Winston is their only hope of staying in power.

It’s important to remember that National have scraped through three elections on the strength of their leader and the supine support of their mini me’s in Epsom and Ohariu.

ACT will be back, but Dunne’s done.

The maori party will not be back next election either. They’ll be swamped by Labour this time round. And a good job too. Bye bye, brown tories.

Without Key, National will almost certainly have to do a deal with NZ First to retain power.

Now, I don’t kid myself that Winston Peters can be relied on to do the right thing and back a Labour led Government.

Indeed, the resignation of Key takes away one of my favourite arguments, which was that Peters wanted to be the one who brought Key down. He hasn’t forgiven the Nats for forcing him out of Parliament in 2008 and I always fancied that if NZ First had the balance of power post election, he’d make Key dance a jig to his tune for a few weeks, then go with Labour anyway.

littlepeters

I’m still convinced that Peters sees more scope to get his ideas over the line as part of a Little led Government. Have you ever looked at NZ Firsts policies? The vast majority could have been remits at a Labour party conference. Ok, rejected remits, but, hey, you get the idea.

The fly in the ointment for that arrangement is the Greens. Winston doesn’t trust them. He once told me that they’d sell NZ out for a snail. I laughed at the time, but if he does opt for the Nats post election, that’ll be the reason.

And what of the Greens? What do they get out of Key’s quitting?

Well, probably not much. This doesn’t have the same potential impact on their vote as it does for Labour.

However, there may be some Blue Greens who will shift their party vote their way. It’s noticeable in the inner city electorates that there is strong tactical voting by conservatives who have an environmental conscience. Maybe that’ll get them an extra MP or two.

And, of course, they’ll be part of the next Government, in some form or other.

Ultimately, it will be Labour that is the big winner here.

Kiwis have traditionally let governments run for two or three terms, then let the other fullas have a go. That’ll be the outcome next year.

Andrew Little may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but he is a genuine guy, hard working and honest. He’s distressingly straight laced and painfully awkward in front of the cameras.

You know why?

He’s no show pony. He just wants to do the work.

I think voters will grudgingly accept he’s the right person to take the country forward for a term or two.

And with Key’s bitter legacy of growing inequality, poverty, underfunding of health, education and cops, and the apparent end of the Kiwi dream of owning our own home Little will have plenty of good issues to campaign on and plenty of problems to fix when he’s in the hot seat.

Barring some other seismic political shock, Andrew Little will find himself Prime Minister this time next year.

And I reckon you’ll be surprised at how good a job he does of it.

John Key’s resignation speech

Notes from John Key’s office of his resignation speech:


Just a few days ago I marked the anniversary of my eighth year as Prime Minister and my tenth as leader of the National Party.

Such an occasion seems a fitting time to not only take stock of the past 10 years, but to look forward.

Being leader of both the party and the country has been an incredible experience.

Along with my Cabinet and caucus colleagues, we steered the country through the global financial crisis which was arguably the worst recession since the Great Depression.

We have stood with Christchurch in the wake of the earthquakes – the greatest natural disaster to hit our country since 1931, and we have mourned the victims of the Pike River Mine disaster; one of the saddest days our small nation has endured in recent times.

During my time as Prime Minister the Government has positioned New Zealand so that our economy could harness the opportunities offered by a burgeoning Asia and a more connected world.

Reforms have been far reaching, including substantial changes to our tax, welfare, planning and labour laws, not to mention the successful partial sell-down of state companies, the considerable overhaul of our Justice, Security and Corrections agencies and, of course, trade liberalisation.

Ten years since I first became leader of the National Party, I believe we can look back on advanced race relations and real momentum in the Treaty settlement programme.

We also have a more confident, outward-looking and multi-cultural New Zealand that competes and succeeds on the world stage.

Throughout these years I have given everything I could to this job that I cherish, and this country that I love.  All of this has come at quite some sacrifice for the people who are dearest to me – my family.

For my wife Bronagh, there have been many nights and weekends spent alone, many occasions that were important to her that I simply could not attend.

My daughter Stephie and my son Max have transitioned from teenagers to young adults while coping with an extraordinary level of intrusion and pressure because of their father’s job.

I thank them for their tolerance.  Bronagh and I are immensely proud of them.

My family has also had remarkable opportunities and experiences as we have met people and visited places from one end of our country to the other.

We have celebrated alongside fellow Kiwis in their happiest times, and wept with them in their saddest.

Simply put, it has, for me, been the most remarkable, satisfying and exciting time of my life.

But despite the amazing career I have had in politics, I have never seen myself as a career politician.  I have certainly never wanted my success in politics to be measured by how long I spent in Parliament.

The National Party is in great shape.  Bill English has told me that in all his years here, ours is the most cohesive Cabinet he has seen.  And I personally am humbled and gratified that after eight years as Prime Minister, my personal support from the public remains high.

I absolutely believe we can win the next election.

But I do not believe that, if you asked me if I was committed to serving out a fourth term, that I could look the public in the eye and say yes.

And more than anything else in my time here, I have tried to be straight and true with New Zealanders.

I also believe that leadership change, for the right reasons and handled well, is good for a political party.

For all these reasons, I today told my Cabinet and caucus colleagues of my decision to step down as Leader of the National Party and as Prime Minister.

It is my expectation that on Monday 12 December National MPs will hold a special caucus meeting to select a new leader and later that day I will tender my resignation to the Governor-General.

This has been the hardest decision I have ever made and I do not know what I will do next.

But for me this feels the right time to go.

It gives the Cabinet and caucus plenty of time to settle in with a new leader before heading into the next election with a proud record of strong economic management, a commitment to the most vulnerable in our society and lots of ideas to keep lifting New Zealanders up in the world.

It would be easy to say I have made this decision solely to rediscover the personal and family life I once had, and that is a factor, but it is one among many.

Over the years I have observed many leaders who, in a similar position, fail to take this step.

I can understand why.  It is a hard job to leave.

But, for me and the National Party, this is a good time to go. Party membership is high and the party is well-funded. The caucus is talented and eager to serve, and one of the achievements of which I am proud is having built with my colleagues a Cabinet team that is capable, committed and cohesive.

That is a great legacy for National’s next leader.

Just as I grasped the challenge of leadership so will a new leader.

Inevitably they will bring their own personality, emphasis and priorities to the role.

This is part of the process that allows a long-serving government to keep delivering.

For my part I am confident the caucus has a number of individuals who would make a fine future PM.

It is inevitable I will be asked who I will vote for at the caucus meeting on December 12.

Whoever the caucus elects will have my unwavering support, but if Bill English puts his name forward then I will vote for him.

For 10 years now Bill and I have worked as a team. I have witnessed first-hand his leadership style, his capacity for work, his grasp of the economy, his commitment to change and, most of all, his decency as a husband, as a father, as a friend, a colleague and as a politician.

Bill has, I believe, grown a great deal since he was last Party leader.

Fifteen years on he has more experience and the party and political cycles are quite different.

I believe that National, under Bill’s leadership, would win the election in 2017.

This is not the time to thank all of those who have made the past 10 years possible for me.

But nor can I stand here without acknowledging Bronagh, Stephie and Max who have sacrificed a lot for me to have been able to do what the job demands.

No person in this role can succeed without the support of an enormous number of talented and dedicated individuals.

I thank my deputy Bill English, the Cabinet and caucus for their loyalty and energy and, of course, my wonderful staff, so well led by Wayne Eagleson, who have done more than I ever could have hoped or expected.

I also wish to thank and acknowledge our support partners ACT, United Future and the Maori Party without whom the strong and stable Government we have delivered would not have been possible.

I have no doubt my successor will look to build upon these relationships.

Last but not least, I wish to put on record my everlasting gratitude to the people of Helensville for electing me, and to the New Zealand public for their support, faith and encouragement. It has been my privilege to serve you all.

I have always believed that the test of a good Prime Minister is that he or she leaves the country in better shape than they found it. Over time, others will judge whether I have done that.

All I can say is that I gave it everything I had.

I have left nothing in the tank.

Finally, while I intend to stay in Parliament long enough to avoid the cost and inconvenience a by-election would cause the good people of Helensville, I will at an appropriate time prior to the next election step down as an MP.

On that day, I shall walk from these buildings for the last time, a richer person for the experience and privilege of being here, and hoping and believing that New Zealand has been well served by the Government I led.

Thank you.

Leader’s responses

Andrew Little was quick to respond to John Key’s resignation announcement via Twitter:

That’s a gracious and respectable off the cuff reaction. And on Facebook:

Although we have our differences on policy, John Key has served this country generously and with dedication. I called him this afternoon to wish him and his family the best.

Metiria Turei put more politics and herself into her response.

A more considered response from Greens co-leader James Shaw:

Green Party statement on resignation of the Prime Minister

The Green Party wishes to extend its best wishes to the Prime Minister, following his resignation today.

“On behalf of Metiria, the Green Party MPs and the Party, I would like to thank John Key for his eight years of service as Prime Minister,” said Green Party Co-leader James Shaw.

“No matter your political allegiance, you have to respect someone who chooses to make the personal sacrifices required to be our country’s Prime Minister.

“I would like to pass along our best wishes to him for whatever his future holds, and to his wife, Bronagh, and children Stephie and Max as well, who I’m sure have made many sacrifices of their own.

“Being the leader of a major political party, and indeed the country, is not an easy job; Mr Key should be applauded for his commitment to public service and to New Zealand,” said Mr Shaw.

Māori Party acknowledges John Key

Marama Fox and Te Ururoa Flavell
Māori Party Co-Leaders

The Māori Party will always be grateful to John Key for making a space at the table of his Government for a kaupapa Māori Party.

“It has been under the leadership of John Key that the Māori Party has been able to secure gains for Maori and advance kaupapa Māori over the past eight years,” said Maori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell.

“We may not have agreed on everything but we’ve always maintained a respectful relationship with the Prime Minister and he with us,” said Mr Flavell.

“We’ve had some tough talks on many issues but at the end of the day, respect for each other prevailed and that’s why he has always seen us as a party that governments can work with,” said Māori Party co-leader Marama Fox.

“We’re all about whānau in the Māori Party, so we understand and support Mr Key’s call to return to his family and be with them more.”

Both co-leaders were confident that the new Prime Minister would continue the mana-enhancing relationship between the National Party and the Māori Party.

“It’s up to the National Party to decide who will lead them now. The Māori Party will work with anyone to advance kaupapa Māori.”

The Act Party:

And a press release:

ACT congratulates John Key

“The ACT Party congratulates John Key on eight years as Prime Minister, and the noble way he has bowed out,” says ACT Leader David Seymour

“Under John’s leadership, the Government has steadfastly maintained New Zealand’s policy settings.  As a result, we remain at the top of almost every international league table for good policy settings. In the long term, all Prime Ministers are judged for the policies they leave behind, and John will be judged well.

“It is a reality of MMP that ACT has played a vital role helping John to become and remain Prime Minister. He thanked me for that this morning. I’d like to thank him on behalf of ACT and its previous leaders for the constructive way we’ve worked together over the past eight years.

“We also extend our warmest regards to Bronagh as the Keys get their lives back after a decade of service to the country.”

Peter Dunne (United Future):

“I’m gonna miss him”.

“I got a call from the Prime Minister about 12.20 this afternoon to inform me and he gave his reasons, as I understand it family, time to move on, time to give a new leader a good chance with the run-in to the election next year etc.

“I admire him for having the courage to make that call, it would have been very easy if his mind was somewhere to have simply carried on for the sake of the party. It’s a huge decision and it’s one I think that no one in their wildest dreams would have imagined happening.

“The test will be just who the new leader is, how that beds down, and what the reaction of New Zealand is. I think most New Zealanders will take a day or two to absorb this, and then they will make a judgement based on what they see the likely new line-up looking like.”

Ex Prime Minister Helen Clark:

 “John Key has worked tirelessly to promote New Zealand and its interests over eight years as Prime Minister. I am personally highly appreciative of the support he has given me as a New Zealander in the international system. I respect his decision to stand down now and spend more time with Bronagh and his children, and I wish him all the best for whatever the future holds.”

Bill English:

John Key’s intelligence, optimism and integrity as Leader of the National Party and Prime Minister of New Zealand means he will be judged by history as one of New Zealand’s greatest leaders, Deputy Prime Minister Bill English says.

“On behalf of the National Party, the Government and New Zealand I thank John for his years of dedicated and outstanding service to our country.

“Through good times and bad, his strong leadership has been steadfast and this is a more confident, successful and self-assured country because of his contribution. He has truly made a difference.

“I thank Bronagh, Stephie and Max for the sacrifice they’ve made to enable John to be an extremely successful and effective leader.  We are deeply appreciative.

“While the gap he leaves is huge we understand and respect his decision to step down from a job from which there is no respite.  We wish John and his family every success with their life out of the public eye.

“Under John Key’s leadership the Government has worked alongside New Zealanders to ensure our country is one of the most desirable places to live, work and raise a family in the world.”

The National Caucus will consider the implications of the Prime Minister’s decision and how to ensure New Zealand stays on course to continue building a strong economy, increasing opportunities for our families and businesses, rewarding enterprise and effort, while protecting the most vulnerable.

“It is a tribute to the Prime Minister’s outstanding leadership that he will leave behind a united team with plenty of talent to take New Zealand forward and build on his legacy,” Mr English says.

The worst for last – Winston Peters:

Prime Minister John Key’s announcement today that he is to stand down cannot be credible , or for any reasons he has given, says New Zealand First Leader and Northland MP Rt Hon Winston Peters.

“The fact is that the economy is not in the healthy state that the Prime Minister has for so long claimed, and there are other issues which have caused this decision as well.

“The New Zealand public should have been informed of this a long time ago.

“Clearly the Prime Minister does not believe the superficial polls any longer.

“Contrary to certain perceptions the Prime Minister and his Finance Minister are unable to muddy the waters anymore.”

Is he just a bitter old twit, or does he really think that will attract support for NZ First?

John Key’s resignation

There’s already been quite a bit of comment on Open Forum etc on John Keys announcement that he would resign next week, but I have been otherwise occupied until now.

I heard about his announcement and was a bit surprised because it was news, but when I thought it through it doesn’t really surprise me much.

He has been in Parliament fourteen  years, and the last eight of those as Prime Minister, which has a huge workload with intense public scrutiny and in the modern age of the Internet a huge amount of abuse and vitriol.

So wanting to get out and live a more normal life must be quite an attractive proposition.

One week for National to find a new leader and Prime Minister seems a very tight time frame, but the caucus could decide to change that  if they want to take more time. It will depend on who wants to put themselves forward.

Key has already strongly endorsed Bill English should his current deputy decided to put himself in the reckoning. If English is keen he is in a strong position, as it seems he is one of the only if not the only one who knew about the impending decision – Key told him of his intention two or three months ago.

English failed badly in 2002 but I think he would be a good option for National, perhaps to take them through for another two or three years to a major rethink.

I doubt there are many MPs who would seriously want to put themselves into such a job, given how much it will expose them to attention.

Key has done a lot, as much as he feels he has the energy  to give, so good on him for going out on his own terms.

Little’s Labour leaking staff

The Labour leader’s office continues to leak staff.

In May Andrew Little’s chief press secretary left. She hasn’t been replaced yet.

Last week it was leaked and then confirmed that Little’s chief of staff, Matt McCarten, was moving sideways-ish to head am Auckland campaign office.

NZH: Matt McCarten set to move from Andrew Little’s chief of staff to Labour’s man in Auckland

Little said he would be spending a lot of time in Auckland and needed a base there. It would be formally announced at a Labour function for Auckland businesses, interest groups and movers and shakers on Wednesday.

Stuff: Little’s chief of staff to head new Labour office in Auckland

Asked if he had anyone in line to take over as his chief of staff, after McCarten shifted north, Little said: “That’s part of the detail that is to be finalised”.

A formal announcement is expected later this week.

I didn’t see any formal announcement reported last week. An informal announcement of sorts was made via Te Reo Putake at The Standard in Labour’s Auckland Push

Matt McCarten is to head a new Labour party office in Auckland. The party is going to take to fight to National in the city that decides the election. Yet another bold step from Andrew Little, who is looking more and more like the next PM.

Nothing bold has happened since then, unless that’s how two further resignations could be perceived.

Stuff: Labour leader’s staffing exodus continues with four key roles now vacant

On Monday the party’s finance and economic specialist press secretary Miles Erwin announced he was leaving for a role at Tourism NZ.

Soft media specialist Julie Jacobson is also on her way for a non-political media job, and chief of staff Matt McCarten is heading to Auckland to set up the party’s new base in the city.

That’s four key jobs – three from the seven person media unit – that need filling in short order.

They may all have coincidental and legitimate reasons for seeking employment elsewhere, but doesn’t look like future advancement prospects after next year’s election are aiding Little’s staff retention.

It may take more than boldness to stem the leaks in the Labour ship.

As well as this partner party Greens lost co-leader Russel Norman last year and Kevin Hague has just announced his resignation. Both see better futures outside of Parliament.

But: everyone’s having trouble attracting staff right now across Parliament, and I have a hunch it’s the uncertainty created by NZ First

That’s an interesting theory. The uncertainty created by NZ First (Winston Peters) is to a significant extent due to the continued weakness of Labour and the failure of the Labour-Green Memorandum of Understanding to rescue the badly listing left.

Weldon and Ralston on Barry’s resignation

The official word from MediaWorks boss Mark Weldon on Hillary Barry’s resignation:

“On behalf of MediaWorks, I want to thank and pay tribute to Hilary. She is a brilliant broadcaster, highly respected journalist and much-loved personality, who will be missed by myself, colleagues and audiences.

“She started with TV3 as a news reporter in Christchurch in 1993 and has become one of New Zealand’s favourite personalities on television and radio.
“This was a personal decision made by Hilary. We are disappointed to lose her but also acknowledge that, after 23 years, it’s very reasonable she might wish to make a change. So, we respect her decision, thank her for her enormous contribution, and wish her the very best.

“She leaves the company on a high, with Paul Henry and Newshub Live at 6pm both performing extremely well.”

Time will tell whether they continue to perform as well without Hilary.

NBR quotes Bill Ralston on the resignation:

Former TVNZ head of news and current affairs Bill Ralston tells NBR that Ms Barry’s departure “Is going to have a huge impact. She’s a superb talent. Probably one of the best newsreaders in the country if not the best and it’s a massive blow.”

He adds, “She’s the old TV3. She’s lost Mark Jennings who was her boss and a mentor. She’s lost a lot of friends from the current affairs show [3D] that basically got sacked. John Campbell, she was cut up about that when he went; I think she’d just had enough.”

This is from Speculation over Hilary Barry’s next move

Could Ms Barry turn up at TVNZ?

“I wouldn’t be surprised, but it’s a matter of where they put her,” Mr Ralston says.

“If they put her into the six o’clock news, that means they have to move Wendy Petrie and we could have a replay of the John Hawkesby thing. They could have her on the weekends as a way of easing her in.”

Who could replace Ms Barry on TV3 and RadioLive?

“Only Heather du Plessis-Allan,” Mr Ralson says.

“And that would leave a big hole in their seven o’clock show. So they’ve got a real problem there. They’ve got other news readers, but no one of her stature — and I mean that kindly, because they’ve got some good young news readers – but there’s no one of her stature to replace her from within.

“From without, I’m scratching my head to think who they could bring in.”

Why is news presentation apparently so reliant on the newsreaders? Should a change of newsreader matter?

The thing I liked about Barry was she was relatively unobtrusive and didn’t appear ego driven or self opinionated.

It shouldn’t matter that Barry is going from Newshub and from the Paul Henry Show.

What will matter (for Newshub) is who she is replaced with.

du Plessis-Allan is someone who likes to be more prominent in her presentations, she would have to learn to not be the focus of the news, as would anyone who replaces Hilary.

UPDATE: Duncan Grieve at The Spinoff on Why Hilary Barry’s resignation is the climax of TV3’s red wedding

The shock resignation of Hilary Barry from Mediaworks represents a bigger blow than any of the other high profile TV3 newsroom departures, says Duncan Greive.

Last night, just before 9pm, news broke that Hilary Barry had become the latest and biggest casualty of the Mark Weldon era at Mediaworks. It’s a cataclysmic event for the organisation, a multi-pronged nightmare with implications stretching from dawn to dusk and across all platforms.

Barry is the most universally beloved figure in New Zealand television, a woman who managed to embody everything TV3’s brand once stood for – smart, funny and relatable in a way that TVNZ’s slightly aloof figures have struggled to match.

Yet if the rumours of her recruitment to One are true – and it seems near-certain – then this is one of the most audacious and admirably ruthless coups in recent broadcast history.