Bill English – Leader of the Opposition. For now

It wasn’t all about him.  He had a lot of other people to look after.

Three weeks after he led National to a strong election result Bill English will take his party on the hard road back to Opposition after NZ First and its leader Winston Peters cast their decision in favour of a Labour-led Government.

That decision will have caused heartbreak for English after a 27-year career in Parliament and is the first time the party with the highest share of the vote has not formed the government.

There is no heartbreak from Bill.  He’s feeling mighty righteous.  

On election night, English stood on the stage at the National Party event with his arms aloft, celebrating the result he had secured for the party. It was a stark contrast from the night of the 2002 election when English broke down in tears after taking the National Party to 21 per cent.

On September 23, English had also claimed the result gave him a “moral authority” to have first go at forming a government – although Peters later rejected that claim.

That result of 46 per cent (58 seats) later shrank to 44 per cent (56 seats) but National was still ahead of Labour and the Greens’ combined tally – albeit by just two seats.

The result followed a gruelling campaign as English, 55, tried to counter what he described as the “stardust” of Labour leader Jacinda Ardern by pushing his own record of strength and stability and hammering at the uncertainty around Labour’s tax policy.

It was yours to take Bill.  You had beaten the stardust.  But then you had to face up to one of your political skeletons.  And you just couldn’t take one for the party, or for the country.

As John Key’s hand-picked successor, you both have left a very average legacy.


– Claire Trevett, NZ Herald


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