Clockwise from left: Amy Adams, Nikki Kaye, Simon Bridges, Judith Collins, Paula Bennett
Clockwise from left: Amy Adams, Nikki Kaye, Simon Bridges, Judith Collins, Paula Bennett

PoliticsFebruary 13, 2018

Who will replace Bill English? The contenders for next National leader, power ranked

Clockwise from left: Amy Adams, Nikki Kaye, Simon Bridges, Judith Collins, Paula Bennett
Clockwise from left: Amy Adams, Nikki Kaye, Simon Bridges, Judith Collins, Paula Bennett

Once ’twere inevitable, ’twere best done quickly, and so it has passed. Bill English is leaving the National leadership and leaving parliament.

That departure triggers a period of intense electioneering within the National caucus – unlike the expansive processes in Labour and the Greens, for example, only National MPs get to vote on their leader. Who is likely to be in the frame to take on the task of opposition boss? Below, our runners and riders – as things develop we’ll add a tick to those who have declared themselves in the race, and a cross by those who have ruled themselves out.

10. John Key ❌

Please don’t email. This is included as a “joke” entry, to take the list up to 10.

9. Winston Peters ❌

Peters ticks two of the crucial boxes being touted as essentials for the next leader: the need to embody a generational change, and the need to get on with the NZ First leader. Could he return to National as leader, merge the party with New Zealand First and rule forever as prime minister? No he couldn’t.

8. Jonathan Coleman ❌

Very slightly more plausible than Winston Peters or Nigel the heartbroken gannet becoming leader of the National Party is Jonathan Coleman becoming leader of the National Party. Coleman put his name forward with a puff of hubris after John Key exited, but quickly withdrew.

7. Mark Mitchell ✔ / Todd Muller ❌

The “Four Amigos” (the others being Alfred Ngaro and Chris Bishop) may throw one of their amigo names into the hat, but probably only with the amigo future in mind. Could well seek to stitch up a ticket of some kind, with an amigo offered as deputy to another candidate, and bringing the amigo votes that candidate’s way.

6. Steven Joyce ✔

The pulsing frontal lobe of the National caucus is a longshot – he’s tied to the leaderships past and he’s never, after all, stood for a constituency seat. A chance for deputy, maybe.

5. Nikki Kaye ❌

She’s beaten Jacinda Ardern in tightly fought races for Auckland Central. Twice. Smart, liberal, able to reach across the partisan aisle. Having recently returned to full-time work after surgery for breast cancer, however, she may decide the time is not right.

3= Paula Bennett ❌ for leadership; ✔ for deputy

Not long ago she’d be right up the front of the pack, but for all that she has begun the year looking rejuvenated, there is reported disgruntlement in the National caucus at her campaign performance as deputy.

3= Judith Collins ✔

A true political survivor, if the National caucus is in the mood for ideological steel, then JuCo is their woman.

2. Amy Adams ✔

The compromise candidate. The continuity candidate. The – gulp – Phil Goff candidate? A consistent and respected politician, with the added advantage of an always funny name confusion with an award winning Hollywood actor.

1. Simon Bridges ✔

Early post-election efforts in the house have signalled an appetite for further promotion, proving there’s mongrel beneath the Brylcreem. He’s young, he’s Māori, he shows flashes of wit. In 2008, he won the seat of Tauranga, defeated a rival candidate by the name of Winston Peters. “I respect you in this campaign,” Bridges said then. “I have learned a lot from you where we have jousted. A young man cannot but help but be impressed by your experience in a debate.” Peters’ assessment: “A bright young guy.”

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