Former Prime Minister and Finance Minister Bill English delivered his valedictory speech in Parliament on Thursday, which had MPs and members of the public laughing and wiping back tears

Former Prime Minister and Finance Minister Bill English delivered his valedictory speech in Parliament on Thursday, which had MPs and members of the public laughing and wiping back tears

After 1000 speeches in the House, 2000 questions asked or answered and 10,000 days as an MP, Bill English has address Parliament for the last time in his 27-year career.

English spoke in front of a full House of MPs, and a gallery full of former MPs, officials and his family on Thursday afternoon.

For forty minutes, the former Prime Minister reminisced about his almost three-decade stretch as a member of Parliament.

His speech was as funny as it was moving – mixing anecdotes and stories from his past with acknowledgements and tributes to people who have helped him along the way.

“These unshaped islands, on the sawyer's bench. Wait for the chisel of the mind,” English said, quoting late New Zealand poet James K. Baxter.

“On March 13, when I officially resign, it would have been 10,000 days since I was elected… I am satisfied that every day I took my turn at the chisel,” he said.

English’s highlights as an MP include his eight-year tenure as Finance Minister, taking control of the Government’s books at the time of the Global Financial Crisis.

“It was my job,” he said, “to understand what the decision makers were doing. It was a global crisis so that meant global decision makers and to help explain to New Zealanders how we were going to find our way through what looked to be very difficult circumstance.”

Those main decision makers were Reserve Bank Governors, he said.

“If there are people put on earth to make Finance Ministers look interesting and charismatic, it’s Reserve Bank Governors,” he joked, with former RBNZ Governor Graeme Wheeler watching and laughing from the public gallery.

English also helped steer New Zealand through the devastating 2011 Christchurch earthquake.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern paid homage to his efforts in both occasions during the election last year.

Almost missed out on being an MP

English also joked about almost missing out on being an MP at the beginning of his career in 1990.

He planned to log a nomination form to represent the Wallace electorate an hour before the 5pm deadline in Gore, but English was informed at 11am the deadline was actually 12pm.

“I found myself stranded in Gore with enough signatures, but not the deposit – I had no chequebook and no car.”

He ran into one of the local banks and said: “give me $200 cash now!” After a few “awkward questions” the clerk got the manager, who happened to be a member of the National Party.

The manager said: “look just give him the bloody money, we will sort it out later.”

English got to the electoral office at 11:55.

“If the manager had followed the rules if any other number of things happened … there would have been no National candidate on the ballot and I would have spent the rest of my life driving trucks in the outback of Australia.”

Reminiscing about 2002

But it hasn’t all been smooth sailing for English.

In 2002 he led National to it’s worst ever election defeat, bringing home just 21% of the vote.

He joked about this, saying his intense and bloody training for the “fight for life,” where for charity English competed in a boxing match, was a great practice run for that election and the period beyond.

“The composure that I learned under the tutelage of my [trainer], about how to stay composed while you’re taking the punches made all the difference to the capacity to lead my party through a very difficult period.”

English will be the first to tell you that he “got up again,” as he famously stated last year, in reference to clawing his way back to the top of the National Party.

After nearly three decades, he became Prime Minister in late 2016 after John Key’s shock resignation.

English acknowledged him in his speech, saying Key’s leadership made it a “pleasure to go to work every day.”

“He was almost as good as he said he was sometimes,” he said, to a chorus of laughter from the House.

English stood down as National’s leader and as an MP last month and the baton was passed to Tauranga MP Simon Bridges after a Caucus vote.

English congratulated Bridges, saying he has his full support – “you have the qualities to be a very effective political leader.”

He said he was proud of the work he had done with social investment and with the Maori and Iwi leader’s group.

His only regret after 27 years was “we were ready to do some good stuff if we had been re-elected but that’s politics.”

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So that bank manager is to blame. Makes sense.

His only regret after 27 years was “we were ready to do some good stuff if we had been re-elected but that’s politics.”

Funny, I would have said after only 9 years but okay Bill if you say so!

A quote of Winston Churchill's I heard yesterday - "He was a modest man, with much to be modest about!"

For the first time in his life, Bill must be pondering the real benefits of "building bridges" - pun intended. At the time he announced his stepping down - he nominated no-one to take his place. This says volumes.

Further confirms nothing will change within the National Party. No clear leader - no clear direction.

Bill English was a first-rate finance minister - very competent and a decent bloke with it.

All the best to him for his future career.

TTP

I agree, he did a good job on finance. And in fact he was even better than National's party line allowed him to be too. He was notable in guest lectures for his willingness to be open about the financial policies he didn't like much having to carry out (seemed like he didn't really approve of not taking advantage of a long period of very cheap debt, much cheaper than usually available). Christchurch obviously notwithstanding, you got the impression he would've like to invest more in useful infrastructure and services while things were cheap, but was somewhat constrained by the party.

I also give him credit for his general level of integrity - save the two obvious lapses of double-dipping and lying to the public about the Barclay and Dickson affair. However, still to his credit in this regard - it's good to see a politician so visibly uncomfortable and unhappy when misleading the public (a really nice contrast to Key, e.g. re surveillance, or Collins).

He's a good bloke. He's been one of Parliament's longstanding career politicians and has contributed much. I wish him all the best in his next adventures.

Ditto

Yes a good job is good enough to describe it. Believe he had a far more reaching social conscience than his PM and certainly others such as Brownlee & Coleman, but in fairness in those two examples that would not be hard to achieve. Much is said about his handling of 2008 GFC. But his predecessor had been prudent too and was much maligned for resisting media pressure for tax cuts, and that approach provided some cushioning. Personally I would sooner live next door to Bill English than Michael Cullen, but I believe the latter would too have been equal to steering NZ through the GFC.

In terms of the GCT, the main misstep would arguably be increasing a consumption tax (GST) during a financial crisis. Especially after Key promised on the campaign trail that they would not be doing that and, quote "if we're doing a half-decent job economically we won't have to".

Such a long time as Finance Minister. And alot of hardship. At least he didn't take the GFC as an a la Ruth Richardson opportunity to stomp on the working poor futher. I think he probably saved many from a NZ "austerity" trauma.

Agree, I think his input was one of the things that saved NZ from the more typical right-leaning austerity approach that has not worked well elsewhere and that one had the feeling was preferred by others in the party.

History, I think, will show Bill English and John Key as having introduced mass homelessness to NZ

History, I think, will show English and Key acquiesced in the inflation of the biggest credit and real estate bubble in our short economic history, and they did so for purely political advantage. I think history will judge the govt of the last 9 years v harshly.

I guess it depends on what you mean by short economic history.
House prices increased much more under the 1999-2008 Labour govt. than under the 2008-2017 National govt.
Check out the facts instead of testiculating:
https://www.rbnz.govt.nz/statistics/key-graphs/key-graph-house-price-values

Percentages are funny things eh? Maths following for the sake of simplicity - I would say that a rise from $1m to $1.5m, a 50% rise, is more significant than say a $300k - $600k rise, which is 100%.

If I were a party who made political hay on out of control house prices prior to an election, and saw house prices rise $500k under my watch where under my predecessor they had grown $300k, I'd think I'd failed. Different strokes for different folks though of course.

I am not talking about nominal changes in house prices, I am talking about overall debt levels and especially household debt to income levels. The credit bubble has reached its peak under the 9 years of national government. The period after 2012 represented an appalling failure of political leadership. We don’t yet know what sort of mess we will be left with as a result of this credit and real estate bubble, but my guess is the deflation process will not be pretty. And as I said, that will be put squarely on the head of national who purely for political expediency said a bubble was a “nice problem to have”.

Big biiiiiiiig difference between being in power and having house prices rise under your watch without the luxury of hindsight versus campaigning on it then denying it for 9 years.

[ Please keep personal smears out of the conversation. Debate ideas please. Ed. ]

[ Please keep personal smears out of the conversation. Debate ideas please. Ed. ]

[ Please keep personal smears out of the conversation. Debate ideas please. Ed. ]

Both reasonable hypotheses

Homelessness was here before the Nats got in and will still be here well after Labour have gone.
Can you name a country that hasn't had an increase in homelessness over the last 10 years?

What is Finlands personal tax rate and sales tax rate compared to ours?
Quite impressive what they have done.

Taxinda would love this. The Finns aren't getting a free lunch https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taxation_in_Finland

It's worth reading a book or two about the Nordic Way - this one is a good start. Partanen makes the point that the success is not so much a matter of culture but of good public policy. The main result, according to her, is that people are actually more free, because they have less to worry about (schooling for their children, holidays, sickness, retirement) than, say, do Americans.

My judgement is that NZ is quite some way along to the Nordic model which Partanen outlines, but lacks the political cojones, intellectual horsepower and articulateness to take it any further.

"people are actually more free". Dead right. Exactly how I see the Scandinavian arm of my family.

Finland isn’t all sweetness and light e.g. their mental health stats when measured against the most tragic of political footballs, suicide, seems equal if not worse than NZ http://archive.stats.govt.nz/browse_for_stats/snapshots-of-nz/nz-social-...

Norway sees a fair bit of it as well, much of it is put down to the long dark winters and SAD - seasonal affective disorder

Overall will be remembered for creating social inequality and as a ultra conservative god botherer with 20 children.