Growing number of National MPs publicly declaring support for Bill English as PM; outcome of Monday vote may be fait accompli later today; Paula Bennett seen most likely choice as deputy; Collins focused on back-benchers

Growing number of National MPs publicly declaring support for Bill English as PM; outcome of Monday vote may be fait accompli later today; Paula Bennett seen most likely choice as deputy; Collins focused on back-benchers
National Party leadership contenders Judith Collins, Jonathan Coleman and Bill English talking to reporters on December 7. Photos by Lynn Grieveson for Hive News.

By Bernard Hickey

Bill English is set to be selected as the National Party leader and become New Zealand's 39th Prime Minister in an uncontested vote next Monday.

Contenders Judith Collins and Jonathan Coleman pulled out of the running on Thursday afternoon after it became clear that English had won the support of more than 30 of the 59 National MPs who will vote in the secret ballot.

Public displays of support from National MPs surged through the morning. High profile back-benchers Todd Muller and Chris Bishop announced their support around mid-morning, adding to a list of cabinet and junior ministers who have also expressed support for the Deputy Prime Minister to step up to the top job.

Paula Bennett and Simon Bridges will contest a separate vote in the meeting on Monday to be Deputy Prime Minister. English has said he could work with either.

But it's clear the contest has opened up a fault line over the issue of tax cuts and a sense of impatience on the back-bench about the long-running dominance of John Key's 'kitchen cabinet' of English, Steven Joyce, Gerry Brownlee, Murray McCully and (latterly) Paula Bennett in policy decisions.

Debate over tax cuts

Both of the other leadership contenders Judith Collins and Jonathan Coleman came out against using the growing surpluses for plain tax cuts, and would instead prefer a more targeted family package and more health spending respectively. Both have talked about the need for generational change and of the back-benchers' eagerness to get more involved in the big decisions.

Collins was specific in pointing out back-benchers outnumber the cabinet in a caucus vote where each vote is equal. "I think the back-bench vastly outnumbers the cabinet and I think that for most people in the back-bench this is their very first time involved in a leadership contest. I think many of them are very excited by it," Collins told reporters yesterday in Parliament.

"And I also think many of them are actually very unsure because it's their first time," she said.

The issue of how to spend the fast-growing surpluses will be in even sharper focus later today when Treasury's publishes its Half Yearly Economic and Fiscal Update (HYEFU) at 1.30 pm.

Debate over iwi and RMA

Collins also referred to caucus unease over RMA reforms that would give iwi more of a say in consenting decisions.

"I think iwi have a right, as does anyone else, but I think this country needs to think very carefully about the economic results of being able to say that one particular group can stop anything," she told Isaac Davison in an interview published in the NZ Herald.

Bennett favoured for deputy

Elsewhere, the field narrowed with Simon Bridges and Paula Bennett both indicating their willingness to go for the Deputy Prime Minister role, with Bennett seen as having the inside running to be English's deputy.

"He's a Southland farmer and I'm an Auckland city girl and I think we would make a great combo," Bennett said.

"I think we've got a nice difference in personalities, if you like. I've got my strengths and I've got my weaknesses and he does as well, and together we would make a great team," she said.

Some have suggested there is a chance English could appoint Judith Collins as deputy, but that's very unlikely.

English openly criticised Collins in the wake of the publication of Dirty Politics in 2014.

(Updated with Coleman and Collins pulling out)

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TINA ...... There Is No Alternative .

Crusher Collins cooked her goose a few years ago with the Whaleoil fiasco

Dr Coleman is simply to quiet and introverted and has never been a contender that has put himself out there

I kid you not. Week before last I told the troops we were going goose this Christmas. Got the social media to prove it.

http://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/goose-recipes/spiced-roast-goose/
Merry Chrimbo Boaty.

I think it is time for National to open the decision making process beyond the so-called "kitchen cabinet"; backbenches need to feel that they add value. In addition, it's time for Judith Collins, Gerry Brownlee, and Paula Bennett to move one - maybe retire at the next election. Collins comes across as a sociopath and Bennett as just plain thick. I think Amy Adams would be a far better choice for deputy PM than Bennett. But I think Bridges and Adams are both good choices and both have a good future.

Get some new fresh blood from WallSt
Look at the boom under Key

Collins has too much baggage and too controversial so probably no chance, Coleman hasn,t shined in health although Tony Ryall was a hard act to follow so unlikely and lacks charisma.

Imagine him and Bridges as one and two, neither can speak and breathe at the same time, and if you can't see them, only hear them speak, you struggle to tell them apart.

English is the only credible option. And if he makes as good a job of it as he has as Finance Minister & Deputy Leader National will have no problem. In fact given the at times somewhat gauche antics of his predecessor, National may well be better off. One of the unsung brains of the cabinet is Finlayson. Would be valuable one would think to have that intelligence, knowledge and devastating debating ability riding shotgun as deputy.

True

Finlayson ? OMG I'm so glad I don't live there anymore
Good luck

"Todd Muller and Chris Bishop announced their support this morning" (for Bill). haha. Only last night TV3 was trying to cook up a dodgy line that these very two were leading some sort of back bench revolt.

Yeah I sometimes wonder about TV3 and some of the drivel they come out with

Question. Does the caucus vote for the deputy or is that the gift of the PM ? Likewise the cabinet ?

Patrick Gower called this yesterday on TV and mentioned that 45 votes were in the bag.

Completely off the subject but will grab the opportunity to say that Patrick Gower is the best example of a political commentator that we have had since as long as I can remember. HIs coverage of the USA elections was superb and made the kid from the opposing channel look like a pup, in my opinion that is, ofcourse.

Gower seems to be on his game , he has good sources and networks well .

He does not allow his personal views to cloud his reporting and is also not too disparaging or personally insulting in his reporting , unlike that awful Katie Bradford, a hopeless case, who is just the opposite .

Bradford is so awful that I refuse believe anything she says or even watch TV1 News .

Why not Nicky Kaye as deputy. Smart, sharp, younger generation, well respected and a woman for balance. To me Bennett doesn't have it to be a heart beat away from being the leader.

No way, she can't take on anything like that till well after she receives a clearance for her breast cancer, it takes longer than she has taken to be fighting fit again.

Kaye ? Even worse! I cannot believe these people are still around
All Paula needs is another WINZ grant to go off & retrain

A very cleaver and calculated move by National. Crosby Textor must have hit the panic button realizing the tide of public opinion had very sharply turned against John Key.

Its going to be much more difficult for the opposition parties to channel peoples discontent. Things like rising inequality, collapsing home ownership rates, foreign house buyers, poverty ect. John Key would have become a lightning rod for that discontent. English will now be able to say "oh that was then,....." Of course English was the only choice. Collins would have guaranteed defeat.

I disagree , public opinion has not turned against John Key .

He is still ahead of everyone in the polls ( although the polls we know are wrong much of the time ) and the Herald and TVNZ have always had some journos who are left-leaning and anti Key , so you can discount the drivel that comes from those lefties

I am not hearing anti-Key stuff in social interactions at all , other than from those who have always been a bit leftist ................. and they are mostly young and too lazy to vote anyway , preferring to lie in bed on the voting Saturday or going shopping , or for a latte

Lefties ?
I think everyone has had enough of Mr Key and his ponzi e con open door migration & foreign spec money policies
He should've resigned after PonytailGate such a worldwide embarrassment but apparently not to him
The best you can say about Key is he played lots of golf with Obama & was polite when staying with The Queen

All under Nationals watch so will not be forgotten on polling day. Sounds like businessential as usual for housing ie focus on supply ignore investor demand completely

I dont think he is going to last

Lets see , he if far more focussed than John Key , and was widely recognized as the best Finance Minister in the OECD

You cant focus when your eyes are scanning for ponytails

Well life does have it's benefits.
You ever sat in a restaurant and not scoped out what's around?

feels temporary,like a nightwatchman in cricket,being a list MP,history of worst national defeat,he needs a good poll and if they have another mt roskill in mt albert he will be a goneburger.

No one will care as long as house prices keep going up

I don't think there has ever been a deputy PM who has become PM and then led the party to victory in the next election. Be prepared for an unholy alliance of Labour, Greens and NZ First to lead the country by this time next year. Winston will hold the balance, and his price will be the PM's job.

Ah, the joys of MMP, it has to happen one day.

God help us if that loose coalition of idiots ever get anywhere near running the country .

Frankly the only thing the Green Labour coalition have in common is their desire to raise new taxes , when we already pay too much , and when the Government does not need the money for its operations .

There is absolutely nothing they offer the voter , other that hatching new ways of extracting your hard earned cash , and spending it a lot less carefully than you could or would . The latest is the idea of a tax/ Levy on builders to train apprentices ( and thats to be paid by the small- builder- with- a- ute , who could go out of business in 10 minutes )

Besides , we have the closest thing to full employment we will ever get , the economy is still growing at a healthy trot , money is the cheapest its been in 80 years .

Why would you ever dream of voting for a bunch of incompetents , only to have them cock-it up?

Its not worth the risk

Ages ago our ancestors provided a saviour for that sort of political hodgepodge nightmare government. It's an anthem. It says GOD DEFEND NEW ZEALAND.

That goes back a fair old way. Who are we talking about, Holyoake, Nordmeyer, Marshall. Only sure that Marshall was actually a deputy, certainly Rowling wasn't deputy in that lot. Interesting things historical stats and a worthy point made. It was looking pretty clear that Key would not have retained a working majority next election, so National will be no worse off under English, perhaps even better off. Peters usually says he will go first to the highest polling party. He worked well enough with Clark should be able to do the same with English who Peters has complimented in his role as finance minister. The problems will arise with the little pushers, shovers, and manipulators that infest the National Party MPs and the old guard such as McCully who seem to have nothing to offer other than self interest. That's why a strong academic deputy such as Finlayson would have been an ideal selection.

Bill is a solid as - and hugely skilled. Just watch him toy with journalists. But no flashy politician - which in my view is a good thing. Pity we have the choice only so far of Bennett and Bridges. Neither shine in my view. Personally I am very impressed by Amy Adams, again highly competent but not waving a profile. I heard though she is not popular with caucus. Not sure that's true even, but a bit strange if it is.

True

Bill is a good Catholic man so has some social consciousness unlike John Key who was obsessed with money, big business and the establishment's interests.