PoliticsDecember 6, 2016

A beginner’s guide to the next prime minister of New Zealand


This time next week John Key will be jetting to Hawaii, while a replacement measures the drapes on the Beehive ninth floor. But who are the likely contenders to succeed him? A thumbnail introduction, by Toby Manhire

Amy Adams: Selwyn, 45

Pros: Unblemished by scandal, First on the alphabetical roll. New generation, signalling renewal.

Cons: Low public profile. Relatively untested. (Update: She’s announced she won’t run, which definitely is a con as far as winning is concerned. Deputy, though, isn’t impossible.)

Fun fact: During parliamentary recess she acts in Hollywood movies.

Could this be the next NZ prime minister?

She says: “I’d like to think that, at the end of the day – oh, I hate that cliche, sorry – I’d rather pass good legislation.”

They say: “Amy Adams is a competent young professional and a promising politician.” – A Green MP.

We say: Probably best shot is for deputy: could be her vs Paula B.

Odds: 100/1

Paula Bennett: Upper Harbour, 47

Pros: New generation, just about. Has held a range of portfolios, a kind of “finishing school” for leadership. Not seen as divisive in caucus. Would be first modern Māori prime minister.

Cons: The flipside of not being divisive is she arguably lacks a strong lobby within caucus. Struggled when housing (“challenge”) crisis was leading news agenda.

Fun fact: Big fan of Queen and Meat Loaf.

She says: “Zip it, sweetie.” And: “I’ve seen enough people in both history and in the present time that are so damned consumed with their next job that they don’t do the one they’re in now well enough. And they become bonkers.”

They say: “Short of bellowing ‘Paula for prime minister’ through a megaphone, Key probably couldn’t do much more to announce the fact that he has anointed Bennett as his successor.” (Tracy Watkins, last year)

We say: A very good chance of winning deputy alongside English, but still a stretch for the top job this time.

Odds: 40/1

Paula Bennett and Judith Collins discuss the succession.
Paula Bennett and Judith Collins discuss the succession.

Simon Bridges: Tauranga, 41

Pros: A genuinely modernising force, especially in transport. In many ways the truest “heir to Key”. Would be first modern Māori MP. The handsomest in the field.

Cons: Probably a bit too modernising for some colleagues. Do many people know much about him? Croaky voice. (Update: He’s announced he won’t run, which definitely is a con as far as winning is concerned. Deputy, though, isn’t impossible.)

Fun fact: Quoted Tony Blair and Winston Peters approvingly in maiden speech.

He says: “The diversity of my ancestry enriches my outlook, and deepens my empathy for all New Zealanders, no matter their race or background.”

They say: “simon is a traitor,like his mate john key” – some YouTube commenter

We say: A possible bolter. But probably not yet his time.

Odds: 80/1

Jonathan Coleman: Northcote, 50

Pros: Quietly, perhaps even ruthlessly ambitious. Has survived the health portfolio without any major scandal. Said to be good fun in a hospitality box.

Cons: Said to be good fun in a hospitality box. Coca-Coleman. Low public profile. Croaky voice.

Fun fact: Didn’t take fake cocaine at a school fundraiser.

He says: “I have always, always voted National. A big part of that is philosophical. It’s partly tribal. My grandmother was a huge Sir Robert Muldoon fan. National was the party that people in my family talked about.”

They say: “Coleman is North Shore aristocracy.”

We say: He’s confirmed he’ll be running, but realistically? Seems like a stake in the ground for a future challenge.

Odds: 60/1

Judith Collins: Papakura, 57

Pros: Ambitious, highly talented, where necessary ruthless.

Cons: Tarred by Oravida and Dirty Politics scandals. Polarising. Endorsed by Don Brash.

Fun fact: Possibly a replicant.

She says: “I was raised to speak out about politics and the world around me. I would do it whether I was in the public or not. It is the way I was taught. The American way.”

Sure about that? Sorry, different Judy Collins. Try this: “At its best, politics is the contest of ideas. It shouldn’t be about playing the game. It shouldn’t be about doing anything to win.”

They say: “Judith is a very kind and compassionate person.” (John Slater)

We say: Would have stood a better chance if Key had departed ignominiously and there was appetite for more of a “vision” leader. But she’s in the race.

Odds: 50/1

Bill English: List, 54

Pros: Endorsed by John Key. Much admired record as finance minister. A poll suggests he’s by far the public’s favourite. Only 54 – younger than Key and younger than you thought. Dependable. The continuity candidate.

Cons: The continuity candidate. Failed miserably in 2002, leading National to its worst electoral defeat ever. Is on record repeatedly indicating he doesn’t want the job.

Fun fact: His first name is Simon.

He says: “the Government will focus on what we can control and maintain prudent expenditure management …zzzzzzzzz.”

They say: “The most utterly loyal deputy prime minister” (John Key).

We say: He’s facing a challenge, against some predictions, but he’s the runaway favourite. It’ll be Bill. Probably.

Odds: 1/2

Steven Joyce: List, 53

Pros: Has been minister of everything. Only 54 – younger than Key and younger than you thought. Second to English in that poll, albeit by some distance.

Cons: Bit of a technocrat. Doesn’t really seem to want the job, and has pretty much said so, though hasn’t completely ruled it out.

Fun fact: Has his own emoji.


He says:Pretty legal.”

They say: “Steven is a bit of a political Sampson without hair.” – Winston Peters

We say:  Yeah, nah. Safe bet as finance minister under English, but. And he did take it well.

Odds: 120/1.

Winston Peters: Northland, ageless

Pros: Experienced. Wily as a coyote.

Cons: Not a member of the National Party caucus so ineligible.

Fun fact: His favourite film is Casablanca.


He says: “Smart Alec, arrogant, quiche eating, chardonnay drinking, pinky finger pointing snobbery, fart blossom.” (Re Gordon McLauchlan.)

They say:He is the Cheshire Cat, who Alice declared the ‘most curious thing I ever saw in my life’, the cat that ‘vanished quite slowly, beginning with the end of the tail, and ending with the grin, which remained some time after the rest of it had gone’.”

We say: In 2016, nothing is impossible.

Odds: 1000/1


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Mad Chapman, Editor
Aotearoa continues to adapt to a new reality and The Spinoff is right there, sorting fact from fiction to bring you the latest updates and biggest stories. Help us continue this coverage, and so much more, by supporting The Spinoff Members.Madeleine Chapman, EditorJoin Members

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