Former Finance Minister Steven Joyce has resigned as an MP after coming to a “fork in the road” in his political career.
Given the recent change of National Party leadership, he says he’s had the opportunity to “consider again what I would like to do over the next several years.”
Joyce was one of the five MPs who put themselves forward as leadership candidates after former leader Bill English resigned last month.
He says he has no regrets about throwing his hat in the ring.
Tauranga MP Simon Bridges was selected as the party’s leader by its Caucus last week.
Joyce says Bridges made a “very positive proposal” for him to stay on as an MP and contribute as a senior member of the front bench. He says the new leader gave him the choice of any portfolio.
He was not, however, offered the Shadow Finance portfolio. Joyce says that “didn’t come up” in his conversations with Bridges.
“I’m not necessarily sure that if I had had finance I would have stayed the full two and a half years.”
He would not say who he thought should take the role on next.
Joyce had been tossing up the decision to resign over the past couple of days, but ultimately came to the conclusion that if there was going to be a change at some point over the next couple of years, it’s better to be now.
Joyce says now is the time for Bridges to get a new team around him so National has a good foundation to contest the next election.
He has offered to assist Bridges and the party in any way he can from outside parliament.
Parliament is in recess at the moment; Joyce says he will give a valedictory when the House sits again in two weeks’ time and his resignation will take effect after that.
Joyce says he will return to the private sector to seek new challenges, as well as spending more time with his kids.
“I’m Interested in a range of things,” he says after being asked what part of the commercial world he would return to.
“I used to be in the radio business and I don’t plan to go back there.”
He says he’s really interested in, what he calls, the “frontier for New Zealand businesses these days, which is taking technology and exporting it offshore.
“I have had some wonderful involvement in the tech sector as a minister in recent years. I would love to help some of those companies in some way.
“[I’m] just an open book at this point.”
He cites setting up ultrafast broadband as one of his personal political highlights.
And regrets? Just one.
“Having Labour unpick some of last year’s budget – particularly this issue that is going to become more apparent which is people on the average wage in 3 years’ time who will be paying the top tax rate. That’s untenable.”
In a statement, Bridges says Joyce has made a “huge contribution” to National over his 15-year political career.
“He was someone both John Key and Bill English turned to for advice and to get things done. That meant he was given some tough tasks but he consistently rose to those challenges. And I will also continue to use him as a sounding board as the National Party looks to 2020.”
Joyce is a list MP and, as such, his resignation won’t trigger a by-election.
Former Fonterra executive and John Key adviser Nicola Willis will enter Parliament as a result of Joyce’s resignation.
Joyce has been 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.
He says he is unlikely to chair anymore to come.