National Party sticks with Bill English as leader at caucus retreat

by Craig McCulloch / 09 February, 2018

National Party MPs at its annual caucus retreat. Photo / Craig McCulloch

Potential leadership contenders line up at retreat to support Bill English.

National leader Bill English says he's "not surprised" his MPs have rallied behind him at the party's annual caucus retreat, insisting questions of his support are "not an issue".

MPs put on a show of unity in Tauranga yesterday, roughly a week after reports of leadership speculation and discontent chiefly directed at the deputy Paula Bennett.

A series of senior MPs and potential leadership contenders lined up to quash any question of their loyalty, endorsing the current leadership team.

Mr English said the strong backing wasn't unexpected.

"I'm not surprised. I've had strong support from the caucus and the party - and from the large number of voters who voted for us. Support for me is not an issue."

But success at the next election would depend on more than just the leader, he said.

"What gives me confidence about that is a group of people who are showing the kind of energy and commitment you need to commit in the 2020 election.

National was "not a dispirited and scattered opposition", he said.

"They're in pretty good shape."

Earlier in the day, Mr English told reporters he was focused on the 2020 election and that his position as leader was dependent on his performance.

The two-day meeting is National's first getaway since its election loss and a chance for MPs to take stock of their election performance and plan for the year ahead.

MPs had given an "honest appraisal" of the party's campaign, Mr English said, and they'd accepted the result.

But he wouldn't elaborate on what the caucus thought they could have done differently.

"I won't go through the whole list ... We got good public support. We could have got more. We didn't get into government with the decision New Zealand First made. So we're in opposition."

Asked whether his "cut out the middleman" strategy was a mistake, Mr English wouldn't say.

"I'm not going to go into all the details."

The week before the election, Mr English implored voters to cast their vote for a major party and "cut out the middleman", a strategy seen as an attempt to destroy NZ First.

Senior MP Simon Bridges - often touted as a future leader - said the party did have lessons to learn.

"Any government - we were in government of course for nine years - doesn't get everything right and does need to evolve with the times."

That could "definitely" happen under the current leadership, he said.

MP Jonathan Coleman, who's put his hand up for the top position before, said Mr English was doing a "great job".

"We've got a great set of policies and values. We need to look at how we present an attractive proposition to the electorate in 2020.

"Bill's had a great mandate from the public. He's doing very well as the leader and people are right behind him."

This article was originally published by RNZ.

MostReadArticlesCollectionWidget - Most Read - Used in articles
AdvertModule - Advert - M-Rec / Halfpage

Latest

Barnaby Joyce hits back over new sexual harassment claim
87494 2018-02-23 06:36:55Z World

Barnaby Joyce hits back over new sexual harassment…

by Michelle Grattan

Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce is under intense new pressure following a new claim of sexual harassment he says is “spurious” and “defamatory”.

Read more
Barack Obama's New Zealand visit could rile Trump supporters
87491 2018-02-23 06:25:22Z Politics

Barack Obama's New Zealand visit could rile Trump …

by Patrick O'Meara

Negotiations to get former US president Barack Obama to visit New Zealand next month are understood to be close to completion.

Read more
Lady Bird – movie review
87403 2018-02-23 00:00:00Z Movies

Lady Bird – movie review

by James Robins

Delicate, poignant honesty marks out Lady Bird from other teenage tales.

Read more
The Royal NZ Ballet transforms The Piano for the stage
86323 2018-02-23 00:00:00Z Theatre

The Royal NZ Ballet transforms The Piano for the s…

by Sharon Stephenson

A masterpiece from New Zealand’s “cinema of unease” is making its world premiere as a full-length ballet.

Read more
What to do in Auckland on a rainy day
87484 2018-02-23 00:00:00Z Where to go in Auckland

What to do in Auckland on a rainy day

by Vomle Springford

When the weather's a bit grim, here are ten ideas for what to do in Auckland.

Read more
Not all over-30s will be as lucky as Jacinda Ardern when it comes to babies
87367 2018-02-23 00:00:00Z Health

Not all over-30s will be as lucky as Jacinda Arder…

by Nicky Pellegrino

After age 30, conceiving naturally becomes more and more of a lottery.

Read more
School shootings rarely happen in NZ – but we’ve got nothing to be smug about
87446 2018-02-22 09:48:43Z Social issues

School shootings rarely happen in NZ – but we’ve g…

by The Listener

New Zealand might not have school shootings; what we do have is a shameful record on child abuse, murder, depression and anxiety.

Read more
Queenstown Council wants luxury homes exempt from sale ban
87443 2018-02-22 09:48:21Z Property

Queenstown Council wants luxury homes exempt from …

by Mei Heron

The council says some expensive homes in the district won't sell because locals won't be able to afford them.

Read more