English: I’m not going anywhere
Prime Minister Bill English has confirmed he has been re-elected to lead the National Party and has committed to challenging for the 2020 election as National leader.
Speaking to media after the party’s first caucus meeting after the general election, Mr English revealed he was unopposed in his leadership bid this afternoon.
His deputy, Paula Bennett, was also re-elected and will remain on as deputy leader.
Jamie Lee Ross was re-elected as the party’s senior whip.
Earlier in the day, political commentator Matthew Hooton said Helen Clark made a major mistake in abruptly leaving following Labour's defeat in 2008. It sowed the seeds of chaos that resulted in years of chopping and changing. Even if he wants to leave, Mr English should stay on for at least a year to stabilise the party and ensure a smooth leadership transition, Mr Hooton says.
Mr English reiterated comments he made in his concession speech on Thursday night that his National-led opposition will be “the strongest opposition” New Zealand has ever seen.
“We will go into the House with more seats than the Labour, NZ First coalition government,” he says.
On the type of opposition he will lead, Mr English says it will be one that “makes sure the benefits New Zealanders have been working hard for are not just preserved but are continued to improve.”
It did not take long for him to take his first shot at the new government, saying the policies he’s seen from the incoming government would “fritter away” all the work National did of maintaining a strong economy.
“We will hold them to account on the high expectations they have created – for instance, incomes will rise faster and significantly better progress will be made on some of the more challenging environmental and social issues.”
He says looking at the new government’s policies, they are looking expensive.
“So we will be tracking closely the impact on the government’s books and also the impact of the significantly increased expenditure and whether it achieves results.”
Mr English used the word “positive” numerous times during his press conference this afternoon.
“We will be an opposition campaigning for a positive platform for the New Zealand economy," he says.
“It’s interesting to note that, as we head into the changeover of government, the National opposition has a more positive view about New Zealand’s prospects than the incoming government.”
Speaking after signing the coalition deal with Winston Peters, Ms Ardern slammed National for its track record in the regions, saying there have been “nine years of neglect.”
Mr English disputed this.
“That’s just wrong,” he said when asked for his reaction.
“I think even they were surprised when they went to the regions in an election year to find how well most of them were doing – a shortage of labour, low unemployment, rising house prices, businesses that were confident and aspirational.
“Part of our job is to make sure the new government doesn’t get in the way of the success of our regions.”