Superstar of breakfast radio, All Black captain and owner of a world-class duck face, John Key is one hell of a hard act to follow. But is the PM-designate really that boring? Toby Manhire crushes forever the Dull Bill English myth.
Guyon Espiner: Are you excited?
Rt Hon Bill English (most unexcited voice in history of world): Yes. I am.
Espiner: That’s good.
A few minutes later, Guyon Espiner posed the big question on the nation’s lips …
Espiner: Are you boring?
English: No, I’m not, but talking about GDP all the time can tend to give people that impression. I like to think I’m steady, Guyon.
I turned the radio on to listen to the Bill English interview, 2 minutes in and I fell asleep…he should bottle his boring & sell it…
— Bounder (@DawgBelly) December 8, 2016
Is Bill English’s announcement that he’s standing the most boring 5 10 15 minutes of politics this year? Make it stop someone #nzpols
— Simon Wilson (@simonbwilson) December 5, 2016
Bill English is literally the most boring person ever, can’t believe he’s going to be our next Prime Minister
— Mitch (@MitchKinney) December 8, 2016
Bill English is boring.
— Josh G. V. (@_OUA_) December 8, 2016
She’s a hard road to find the perfect leader to follow the most laid-back-entertainer prime minister the country has ever seen.
National MPs who have honed their parliamentary craft speaking nothing but Key patois now must prepare to learn – and I’d like to apologise for this, but I’ve started so I’ll finish – English as a second language.
And that language, it has to be said, is kind of dry. The um-ah-ah-um filler, for example, bears an uncanny resemblance to the sound of a corpse being dragged down a gravel path.
But for all that, the “Boring Bill English” refrain seems just too easy. Surely there is more going on.
Today the Spinoff fearlessly bucks the “boring” bores, and unearths evidence that Bill English may not be that boring after all.
He has fathered six children
And that is restrained compared to his parents, who had 12.
He once read a poem aloud in parliament
Including the lines “I suckled you / with potent milk” (yes, it was a David Cunliffe work).
He once got beaten up in a boxing bout
Or beaten, anyway, by an old friend of his. He was nicknamed “Raging Bill”.
He’s a grinder.
In a North and South interview after Key assumed the prime ministership, English said, “I’m a stayer, he’s a sprinter. I grind away, John just bounces from one cloud to another.” He caught a bit of flak for that, but he’s proved a stayer after all, outlasting that cloud-bouncing show pony.
Forgiveness, mercy, sinfulness, worship
Bill English is a Catholic, and say what you like about Catholicism, it aint boring. He once said he likes to spend at least an hour a week in Mass “hearing language like forgiveness, mercy, sinfulness, worship – none of which you hear about in day-to-day political life”. He has refused in the past to say whether he believes in transubstantiation, the virgin birth or the trinity.
He was a member of the Brat Pack
Alongside the likes of Emilio Estevez, Rob Lowe, Judd Nelson and Molly Ringwald, he starred in a number of seminal coming-of-age films in 80s.
Update: Turns out the Brat Pack he was a member of was alongside the likes of once-young National MPs Tony Ryall, Roger Sowry and Nick Smith, who arrived in parliament in 1990, and starred in at least one homage to an earlier MP posse.
(By the way, of all those actors listed above, only Molly R is younger than Bill E.)
He actually answers questions
One former current affairs producer told me not that long ago that while most politicians were infuriating in their constant evasions, he could listen to Bill English all day, simply because he engaged with the questions he was asked.
He has coached under-7 grade rugby
— Helen McC (@Helzie) December 8, 2016
Mike Hosking really seems to hate him
He and Cameron Slater hate each other
The man who runs the Whale Oil website – anyone know if it’s still going? – used to have a good text-centred relationship with his m8 John Key, but that’s not especially likely with Bill. “I don’t like the guy,” he said, devastatingly, during the Dirty Politics flamenco.
His mind was corrupted at Victoria University
In what may have been an enrolment administrative error, he studied English (honours).
Um. He likes a mug of Milo!
Media scrum with Finance Minister Bill English and his cup of Milo pic.twitter.com/smHBqhxwyD
— Jo Moir (@jo_moir) October 12, 2016
So there’s that.
And there’s the bulldog home, obviously
Erm, he was integral in the development of the computer mouse.
He has won acclaim as a jazz drummer.
And he played Joel in the American comedy television show Cavemen
Which was named among the “25 least funny sitcoms of all time”
Anyway, what’s so wrong with a bit of boring?
OK so maybe Bill English is kind of boring.
But is that such a terrible thing?
After the palpitations of Donald Trump, of Brexit, of our last Peak Cray election, after eight years of bish-bosh honk-honk how’s-your-father leadership, isn’t a bit of boring welcome medicine? If English vs Little scores low on the comedy-revue scale and high on policy debate, shouldn’t we celebrate?
Yes, we should. But first, stockpile.
The Spinoff politics section is made possible by Flick, the electricity retailer giving New Zealanders power over their power. With both spot price and fixed price plans available, you can be sure you’re getting true cost and real choice when you join Flick. Support us by making the switch today.
The Spinoff Weekly compiles the best stories of the week – an essential guide to modern life in New Zealand, emailed out on Monday evenings.