English and Bennett are New Zealand’s new Prime Minister and Deputy PM
As widely expected since the surprise resignation of former Prime Minister John Key, Bill English and Paula Bennett have been confirmed as New Zealand’s new Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister. For English, he steps up in the cabinet and caucus rankings from 2 to 1 while Bennett rises from 4 to 2. The pair will be sworn in at Government House this afternoon.
|Prime Minister Bill English|
For Mr English it is a return to the National Party leadership after 14 years of waiting patiently in the wings. He previously led National to a general election loss in 2002 when Helen Clark led Labour to the second of three election wins. The National loss in 2002 was National’s worst defeat in its history. After the 2002 election, English was replaced by former Reserve Bank Governor Don Brash, who in turn was replaced by John Key in 2006. Key was party leader for ten years and Prime Minister for eight years, having won three general elections.
For John Key, his political career spanning just 14 years was like another item on his to-do list, a brief interruption to a highly successful business career. He was New Zealand’s most popular leader in a generation and many believe he could have won a fourth term if he had elected to stay on.
Bill English has vast experience in government and politics. He first entered parliament in 1990 as a back-bencher for National and quickly rose through the ranks. He has served under four party leaders, apart from being leader himself for a brief period. He joined Jim Bolger’s Cabinet in 1996. He has held the portfolios of Minister of Health, Minister of Finance, Minister of Infrastructure, Associate Minister of Education, and Treasurer. He has been the Deputy Prime Minister since 2008. He is aged 55.
|Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett|
Paula Bennett has risen quickly through the ranks since she was first elected to Parliament in 2005. She first attained cabinet rank in 2008 as Minister of Social Development and Employment, Minister for Disability Issues and Minister of Youth Affairs. She has also been Associate Minister of Tourism, Associate Minister of Finance and Minister for Climate Change.
Prior to entering Parliament both English and Bennett worked in National Party administration for several years. English was also a farmer. Bennett worked in a rest home, as a welfare officer and in recruitment. She is 47.
Bill English and Paula Bennett will face their first big test at next year’s general election when they will try to win a fourth term for National. Meanwhile, Labour Leader Andrew Little sees the leadership change as a chance for his party to return to power after nine years in the political wilderness. But at this stage, the economic times appear to be on National’s side with the Government running a healthy surplus, and the main debate being centrered on whether there should be tax cuts.