National will regroup and be strong Opposition, English and Bennett say; English says decision on his position to be made over the next few weeks, congratulates Ardern and wishes the new government well

By Alex Tarrant

National Party leader Bill English was gracious in defeat, but warned that National will be the strongest Opposition Parliament has ever seen after it has regrouped over the next few weeks.

English said he’d called Ardern to congratulate her on becoming Prime Minister, and wished her well in efforts to make generational shifts in policy, off the back of a strong economy and sound government finances.

But National isn’t going to let Labour off lightly – English said they would be biting at their heels from the other side of the house. His deputy Paula Bennett said National would soon pick itself up after the defeat.

Whether English is the person leading National into Opposition is still open. He said the matter of his position would be decided over the next few weeks.

Speaking to media in Parliament Thursday night, English noted the democratic process had played out.

He said National was proud that as an outgoing government they had left New Zealand “in great shape by any international measure.” New Zealand was a more confident country with more aspiration having recovered from the global financial crisis.

“And we wish the new government well in taking the opportunity which we have, which is a generational opportunity for New Zealanders, to build on the economic strength, but also deal with long-standing issues that New Zealanders want to see dealt with.”

He thanked his negotiating team for the process over the last three or four weeks. The National Party had also run an energised campaign right across the country. “However, MMP means that we do not get an opportunity to form that government,” he said.

National would be “by far the strongest Opposition party that the Parliament has seen.”

“From here, the National Party will re-group,” he said. Caucus would meet next week to discuss the way forward. Asked whether he would lead National in Opposition, he said that was a matter for “the next few weeks for us to discuss among ourselves.”

Meanwhile, English said National had satisfactory negotiations with New Zealand First during the process. A National-NZF government would have been strong and cohesive, he said.

Circumstances meant that Peters would have more influence forming a government with Labour over National, he said.

English said the speculation Thursday afternoon that National was holding out over NZ First Cabinet position demands was wrong – something Peters also said during his Q&A with the media.

Asked whether National had a mandate to form a government as it won the largest party vote, English said that after the election he’d said it was not a matter of moral authority, rather taking on the responsibility of forming a government, which National wasn’t successful at.

English did say, though, that this was an unusual result under MMP – there probably wouldn’t be a party anywhere in the world that got 44.5% of the vote and didn’t win the election. But New Zealand had a way of adapting to these things, he said.

“But, we all know the rules – we play by them.” National campaigned according to those rules.

He also said he was sure New Zealanders would accept the result. “They’ll get up in the morning and go off to work and look forward to a new government.”

English declined to comment about the New Zealand dollar’s drop after the result was announced, other than to say it could be down just to there being a new government. The economy was in pretty good shape as a result of the work of all New Zealanders since the GFC. “That presents a very positive opportunity for an incoming government.”

For a party going into Opposition, National was in good shape with “talent and energy and ideas.” While the new government would get the opportunity to put its ideas together and get underway, National would fulfil the traditional job of holding them to account.

English said that he was “naturally disappointed” with the final outcome, particularly for the 44.5% of people who voted for National, and his team. He was also disappointed to not be taking New Zealand towards the good opportunities available as a result of the government’s books being in such good shape.

“And I just hope that the incoming government takes those opportunities.”

He noted Ardern’s performance, given that she had only become leader of a flailing Opposition ten weeks ago. Advice to her was to take the role very seriously, while not taking oneself too seriously. Also to understand that New Zealanders had seen their country going in a positive direction “and she’s got an opportunity to build on that.”

Asked what he was most proud of over the past nine years, he replied that it wasn’t what he should be proud of, but what New Zealanders should be – the achievements, and aspirations of the country. There were real opportunities now after the last nine years.

English said he was particularly interested in social investment, where New Zealand could do a much better job for the most vulnerable. He hoped an incoming government would build on that progress.

Meanwhile, Paula Bennett said it had been a big few weeks – she was proud of English, National and those who voted for them. “But that’s MMP.”

“I’ll tell you what, this party of ours is pretty strong and we’re ready to pick ourselves up, regroup and get back on with it,” she said.

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57 Comments

Just suppose ... as our newly elected PM , Jacinda decides it's time to start a family ... and whilst in office , has a baby or two ...

... the " Woman's Weekly " magazines will have a field day ... the whole nation will be gushing over Jacinda and her young family ...

They'll become to us Kiwis as the Royal Family is to England ... we'll treasure them , gasp and swoon at every first tentative step and verbal utterance ... they will become an institution in our fair land , and woe betide anyone who speaks out against them ... cor blimey , luv a duck , ain't they luvverly ....

... Wild Bill and the Gnats will be consigned to the opposition benches for a very long time , folks ... a decade or more ... oooops ... mind that poopy nappy ... oh Nick Smith ! .. you're too old to be still doing that in your pants , boy ...

Why so scatological?

Do you know what scat is?

The tone of that suggests they're ok with having a wee break on the opposition......career politicians aaarrgggghh......

They're all best mates after work.

A strong opposition?
Who possibly could lead them in order to be that?
Bill's gone. Ya can't have that loser trying for third time lucky. All his front bench are incompetent. So it really begs the question.

They would be crazy to get rid of Bill - the rest of the front bench are not impressive and the lower ranked National MPs includes Chinese spies. Bill is obviously a really nice guy (impressive defeat speech yesterday) but the National party does do dumb things. If they had eliminated rorts and corruption related to immigration then they would have had my vote.

I agree, Bill is the only leader they have.
However, they cannot keep him. There is no way.
Imagine working under a leader in opposition who has lost two elections. Sure, the sympathetic support may be there for now, but it won't be in 3 months time.

But, as we both agree, there is no one competent and likable enough to take the position.

Bill has lost two elections, he is toast.

National needs generational change - Nikki Kaye or Simon Bridges.

Although you are probably right I think leaders can learn more from defeat. Robert the Bruce had multiple defeats, Truman had known nothing but failure until he became a great president, Churchill had had many reverses before winning the war.

Can Bill survive with the likes of Collins and Bennett skulking around, though?

I agree, National should keep Bill around; possibly with the Finance portfolio. He is still fairly competent and the best out of Joyce, Bennett, Brownlee et al. National would do well to cut out the dead wood, give the front bench a bit of a shakeup and spend their term in Opposition training some new blood.

Bill a nice guy and a leader...?

His campaign was very spiteful compared to Labours, full of lies and half truths. He has a history of ripping of NZ taxpayers and lied through his teeth about Toddy just for starters.

As a leader based on his handling of the Todd Barclay scandal he has as much leadership as the tail end guy in a lemming stampede over the cliff.

To me he is a reluctant politician, pushed into politics by a domineering mother who ruled the local Nat branch as her personal fiefdom. He was happy on the farm but someone determined a year in Treasury would help his resume so he got the coffees in for the big boys for a year until She determined it was the Time.

A 2X Loser now, do you think THEY would be foolish enough to go for 3 zip?

I am afraid its time for a massive clean out. English, Joyce, Dr Death, Smithy, that woman who pretends she is the Conservation Minister (lets dam it shall we?) and the like have had their day at the trough.

With an incompetent front bench, and a Govt surplus, record terms of trade, low unemployment interest rates and inflation as your measure of failure with your implied rockstar Labour front bench we can look froward to an additional 10,000 new houses by Oct 2018 or to be generous and provide some time to get started 20,000 by Oct 2019, net migration down to 30,000. Labour, NZ First & Greens will deliver all $35 Billion of pre election spending promises without raising taxes increasing debt, take 150,000 out of poverty and increase the minimum wage to Winstons $20 and if you believe any of that I have a bridge for sale. Best of all would be for Winston to repay the $158,000 he promised to repay so perhaps the receipt will be produced shortly along with confirmation he has repaid with interest the overpaid pension he didn't notice.

I am sure the Labour coalition will do enormously better for the majority of New Zealanders than did national. Indeed, it will not be hard at all to improve upon the state this country was in after National's nine years. Of course some, such as parasitic specuvestors may have to learn to become productive members of our society.
Incidentally, the $158,000 you quote Rumpole is a vastly inflated figure.

Mike Hosking is actually amazed that there is a financial downturn coming. Come on Mike, stop with the spin, get real or get a new job.

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Mike Hoskins needs a course on 'how to be gracious when disappointed'. Bill should teach him.

Hosking looked like he had just sucked a couple of lemons on 7:00 Sharp

Mike Hosking will need to sell his Ferrari, big Remu villa and move down to a Lexus and a 3 bedder in Dannemora

BE and SJ will step down and take up some plum reward jobs from corporations. NS will follow but who will reward him? DC will head off to be ambassador somewhere. GB will go too
we will see a changing of the guard and a lot of long in the tooth head off to collect the rewards rather than sit on opposition benches
michelle boag is already showing the bitterness of a loss and how it feels to be an opposition spokesperson.
mike hosking is still throwing out his toys this morning , he will have to hang up his blue blazer for another three years

RIP bill & co

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A strong opposition? Unlikely. In order to be a strong opposition, they'll need to be clear about what they stand for, and what they're opposing. Forgetfulness, subterfuge and straight dishonesty are no longer going to do the job.

So we'll have the chance to hear clearly from National why continuing to trash our freshwater is a good thing (even with increasing numbers of nitrate-poisoned 'blue babies'); why it's advantageous to sell our houses to foreign citizens; why business degrees for people who can barely add up or spell their own names are educationally admirable; how a low-waged low productivity economy will keep our brightest young people in the country; how it is that people without a decent secondary education and next to no English are really the skilled immigrants we need (get involved with English Language Partners to see this for yourself); how the existential despair represented by our drug-taking epidemic, family and public violence, and our appalling suicide statistics reflect a well functioning society; why the homeless bring it on themselves; and why our children and grandchildren shouldn't have the independence and security of owning the roofs over the heads.

For these surely are among the positions they're going to have to take, the issues they're going to have to be explicit about, if they're to oppose the changes this government stands for.

Priceless!

Excellent!

Nah, they'll dump their current leadership cabal - English, Joyce, Collins and Smith (implicitly blaming them for all ills).

The new team of Nats leaders will be all full of fresh ideas and free from guilt.

Given Taxcinda and Prickton have now formed their crappy wee partnership against the wishes of a majority I might add, then tell me WHY would any decent hardworking person want to stay in NZ now? I see no reason to work hard and take risks. I see no reason to work hard and create employment opportunities. I see no reason to work hard and pay more in taxes......Forgetfulness, subterfuge and straight dishonesty are within the ranks that support this hideous red alliance.......

WP has attacked capitalism to the core yet he like your rant above fail to inform that it is capitalism that you have all been living off. It is capitalism that will pay the damn the taxes for all the social ills. More money stolen from good, honest, hard-working people who bother themselves to take a risk and do something. The SME's are where the biggest proportion of taxes is generated, and they are going to be kicked in the gut by rogue politicians representing minority interests. The 1688 Bill of Rights is meant to stop this kind of nonsense from happening.

By laying blame at someone elses feet you are enabling those people who take their drugs, commit violence etc to never have to be responsibility for themselves or their actions. If you think the suicide statistics are bad now wait to businesses start going under from the weight of tax and other oppressive measures and then some of you are going to have to wake up to some of the not spoken reasons of why people commit suicide.

If BE leaves National I don't think they'll get back into power for quite some time and NZ will degenerate into a communist state!

Ha, the old, how great is capitalism rant. Correlation is not causation.

The serfs, lords and royalty lived off feudalism, the Chinese live off some other ism and then there are all the other isms.

Capitalism as it stands now is unbalanced and has hit its limits as it was always going to.

Maybe a hybrid of capitalism, socialism and communism is required. Of course that will require a paradigm shift in human beliefs and thinking. That paradigm shift is required anyway given the current global environmental and social issues.

So you'd prefer to kick the NZ SME's into touch then?

The majority of taxes collected comes from the SME's but hey the reds see them as a resource of which they can exploit.......I'd rather live on a park bench homeless than be a state slave serving the red-neck beliefs and thinking!

I made no comment about kicking SME's into touch or taxes. I do not understand where you get that inference.

It sounds like you are feeling very hard done by and I feel a lot of anger being projected? What is this talk of rednecks, I thought NZ was much more evolved than that?

"Maybe a hybrid of capitalism, socialism and communism is required. Of course that will require a paradigm shift in human beliefs and thinking. That paradigm shift is required anyway given the current global environmental and social issues." I have long wondered if such a system would provide a better economy and environment. Simply put; both systems work in tandem so that when the capitalist side creates its inevitable recessions/depressions then the socialist/environmental side of government is boosted to ensure full employment and fix problems that capitalism will not. One possble program is to bring degraded lands back to full production, something that would not be profitable under capitalism but would be of immense long term benefits to the country. Of course we already have elements of such a system now but it could be vastly improved.

I agree Didge - capitalism coupled with democracy doesn't (or may not) work (in the long run)...unless of course we end up with a tiered voting system, where the 'haves' voting rights are worth more than the 'have nots'.

But when the vote of the poor has equal value to the vote of the rich, how long can a government survive when its values are based upon capitalist ideas? The poor might be fooled for a period, but it won't last much longer than 9 years...

"The poor might be fooled for a period, but it won't last much longer than 9 years..." Wow so true and it really made me laugh!

Strong opposition...maybe...more likely knives are being sharpened,SJ can feel the glare of colleagues 'thinking this is your fault....you and your big hole...', then there is the token PC 'Tough,Maori solo mum made good PB'...well she has turned out to be a light weight,turns out gossiping about WP's super as if you were having a Sauv with the girls at a pamper party has come back to bite.Nick,Crusher,the Woodwork teacher...they are gonna be so chummy sitting together in opposition... Bill probably the best of them all...but a 2 time loser unfortunately,so we soon here from him Et tu Brute...

Why no balancing mention of $158,000 and an overpaid pension that Winston a previous treasury minister failed to notice or account for, at least SJ,s hole was there albeit questionable on how much. Still waiting for some proof that SJ or any National MP leaked Winstons pension defalcation, my guess is the leaker was Winston fearful someone would release the info close to election day.

John Key has to be applauded for his self interest...impeccable timing,he could sense the underlying feeling that his teflon coating was wearing thin,there was no way he was going to risk not going out on a high with his image tarnished,he got what he wanted,the glory,the knighthood,a new corporate career,cashed out of the housing market,then left his Nat colleagues out to dry.
If he was a team player,he would have stayed on,got Nats over the line,the gratiuosly resigned leaving Bull with 3 years...but he isn't a team player...

Sir John Key is superb at getting off just before the ship sinks.
Whether it was LWR, Elder Finance, Bankers Trust, Merrill Lynch of The Good Ship New Zealand, none of them, except the last, are still afloat....and time is a tickin'.....

Better get your money out of Air NZ &the ANZ Bank now he is tied up with them...

Good uptick on ANZ share price yesterday on the Key news. The market disagrees with you. Suggest you think about another career than providing stock tips.

thats what selling out the future looks like ... its all lovely at the time but ...

In a couple of years he will be sitting on the beach in Maui saying "Bronagh...what was the name of that island we used to live in 2000's....I wonder what happed to it?...

Can't fault the guy for doing what everyone else wishes they could.

If there is one lesson to learn from Key, it's to do what he does, not what he says.

It was only a matter of time before the electorate became bored with the incumbent government and decided on change. While that is not what happened this time, given Labour was thumped at the polls and NZF supporters voted for policies such as abolition of Maori seats and a Singapore style economy but got neither, there would almost certainly have been a genuine victory for the left next time.

But now the left must lie on a bed of compromise they have made for themselves, which is very lumpy and the fabric of which is tenuously held together. The Greens have been emasculated by a vindictive Peters and NZF voters are asking themselves whether this shambles is what they really voted for. The Greenhorn Ardern not only must make this unlikely coalition work, she has to somehow to salvage the electorates eroded belief in the viability of the MMP system.

Pure biased opinion and i strongly suspect will be proved very wrong.

"she has to somehow to salvage the electorates eroded belief in the viability of the MMP system"

Some salty Nats supporters today....

Unlike Australia parliament, National will be an useless opposition because they can't oppose anything as they don't have enough independent or minor parties to team up with. They will always be below the 50% level of votes

I think Winston has changed sides at least 4 times, it is bold prediction to say NZFirst will never coalition with National again.

Labour might be quite smart, WP will get the plum Foreign Affairs post with countless trips overseas in exotic places, wining and dinning (plenty of cholesterol), top notch cigars for the old lungs.. After all he's over 70s and NZF without WP is like an old empty cereal box.

And the Nats without the shiny box called John Key is now just soggy weetbix blowing in the wind

Who were the two National Party back benchers that leaked to the NBR? They are the ones to blame for Winston going with Labour.

You need to let it go,there is a new govt,there is no one to blame,you can go on and on back and forth WP was the consumate polly,outplayed them all...it's called MMP...we as a nation voted for it,shame most don't understand it.
No where on the ballot paper was it stated that if you get the most votes,it gives you a "moral majority..."
Taken to extreme you could end up with 10 parties running ,9 get 9.9 %, 1 gets 10.9,so they have a moral majority to choose?

I voted for Winston and I am extremely happy with the outcome (well maybe not the Green part). I am however quite interested in who they are, as their greed cost National big time.

My impression of Bill English has gone up quite a lot over the last few months. I hope he stays as I think he is fundamentally a decent and trustworthy individual.

I personally had that impression (of being much more honest than Key) completely undermined by his conduct over Todd Barclay. Difficult situation in the face of the Barclay family influence in the electorate, from the sounds of it, but he really sacrificed his integrity over that.

And the bare faced lie about Labour's ficticious black hole.

'he is fundamentally a decent and trustworthy individual.'.... well that's not going to endear him to the Nats...

Pity the Nats. They thought they had the golden Key for eternal f k overs.
It was lead after all. Boohoo!

... poor old Gnats still havn't wizened up to the fact that it's MMP , not FPP ...

And as such , they need to assist some like minded smaller parties ... TOP or the Conservatives ... by gifting them a free run at key electoral seats ....

... the fun is now watching for Crusher Collins to begin foaming at the mouth , and thrashing on the end of her leash ... itching to get her gnashing choppers hard into Wild Bill's soft seat ... only a matter of time ... it's true , oh yes it's true .... CHOMP !