“I have a reputation for getting things done,” National’s most recently declared leadership candidate, Steven Joyce, told reporters on the way to the party’s caucus meeting on Tuesday morning.
The former Minister of Finance had taken to the airwave to announce his candidacy for leader of the Opposition just hours earlier, telling Newstalk ZB, he had been asked by his colleagues to run for National’s leadership.
He is the fifth and, most likely last, National MP to announce they are contesting the role after outgoing leader Bill English said last week he was resigning as leader and quitting politics.
Joyce joins Judith Collins, Simon Bridges and Amy Adams – all of whom declared their intentions last Wednesday. Former policeman Mark Mitchell revealed on Monday this week he was vying for the top job as well.
Like Collins, Bridges and Adams, Joyce is leaning on his political experience as his main trump card to convince his colleagues he is the person for the job.
“I think I have a reputation for getting things done – I’ve been active in government and the party for quite a period of time now and have quite a strong track record in that area.”
In addition to being an MP since 2008 and holding various different ministerial portfolios in the time since – including finance – Joyce has played a vital role behind the scenes of the National Party.
He chaired the review into the devastating 2002 election, where National won just 21% of the vote. He then became the party’s first general manager, managing the 2005 campaign.
He has chaired every campaign committee since then.
It is likely because of his strong connection to the party that he is attempting to distance himself from personality politics.
On the radio, he was at pains to point out his leadership bid was about “the future of New Zealand – it’s not about me.”
He reiterated this on Tuesday morning before heading into the Caucus meeting, also adding it’s “not about any of our other competitors.”
Another numbers man?
If Joyce is elected, he will be the second former Finance Minister in a row to hold the position. Before English, former currency trader John Key was Prime Minister for about eight years.
Is that too many numbers men – does National’s leadership need a bit more diversification?
“I’m a bit broader than that,” Joyce says.
“I think you saw that in the budget last year that the initiatives around lower-income families, which largely the current government has adopted, with a few changes.”
He says these initiatives were supported by English, who Joyce says was “very keen on them.”
Joyce is also quick to take aim at the Government – a Government which he points out was appointed by NZ First Leader Winston Peters.
His strategy to win the 2020 election would be to clearly hold the Government to its promises which, he says, it won’t be able to meet.
“At the moment, they are just a set of platitudes which is great, everyone can sign up to the things they aspire to, as we have in the past.
“The challenge is delivery – I don’t think they will be able to deliver on their ideas and to also make sure we keep a strong focus on that positive future for New Zealand.”
Joyce would not say if he thought the party needed a new deputy, only that it is up to the Caucus.
He did, however, say current Deputy Leader Paula Bennett was doing a “fantastic job.”
Bennett says the Caucus would be making some of the “procedural decisions” around if there would be a vote for deputy leader, as well as the leader, today.
She says a statement about the outcome of the discussions in Caucus will be made later on Tuesday.
She says she’s not concerned at all – “I think it’s important the new leadership team has a clear mandate. I’m just looking forward to it.”
Asked if there could be a vote on the Deputy Leadership today, she again says that is a decision for Caucus.
“I think it’s quite common sense that people want to see who the leader is and then make those sorts of decisions.”
Bennett did not say who she is supporting for leader, but said she would be happy to serve as the deputy under any one of the five declared leadership contenders.