English leaves big shoes to fill

Clutha Leader - - PLATINUM YEARS - MARY-JO TO­HILL

Re­tir­ing Na­tional Party leader Bill English has left large shoes to fill, Clutha-South­land MP Hamish Walker says.

Walker took over what was English’s seat, be­fore ex-MP Todd Bar­clay, at the last elec­tion.

Since then, life has taken Walker down a path of un­ex­pected turns.

De­spite win­ning the CluthaSouth­land seat con­vinc­ingly, his party ended up in Op­po­si­tion.

And on Tues­day his men­tor an­nounced he would re­lin­quish the Na­tional Party lead­er­ship reins and quit pol­i­tics.

Yes­ter­day Walker re­flected on a tu­mul­tuous 24 hours.

‘‘When Bill in­formed cau­cus at our weekly meet­ing, it was a sur­prise to many, in­clud­ing my­self.

‘‘His de­ci­sion was per­sonal and not po­lit­i­cal - he wanted to be able to spend the next chap­ter of his life with his fam­ily.

‘‘All his kids have known is grow­ing up in the pub­lic spot­light, and he now has the op­por­tu­nity to spend more qual­ity time with [wife] Mary and the kids.’’

The res­ig­na­tion wouldn’t af­fect how Walker did his job, he said.

How­ever, it could mean that English ‘‘may have a lit­tle more time to catch up with me and spend more time down in CluthaSouth­land’’.

‘‘It’s been an ab­so­lute priv­i­lege to be part of his team, even if just for a few months.

‘‘He added to the rich lead­er­ship in New Zealand that CluthaSouth­land has pro­duced. He helped put our great elec­torate on the map – es­pe­cially Dip­ton.’’

Walker said English had been a friend as well as a men­tor and ‘‘sound­ing board’’.

‘‘He has been great for ad­vice over the past six months.

‘‘Not many peo­ple un­der­stand the chal­lenges that come with rep­re­sent­ing the largest gen­eral elec­torate in the coun­try. Trav­el­ling more than 60,000km an­nu­ally and fin­ish­ing many days around 10-11pm; every lit­tle tip helps.’’

He was con­fi­dent English would not be a stranger.

‘‘Even though he is leav­ing par­lia­ment, he is still very pas­sion­ate and cares deeply for the peo­ple down this end of the coun­try.

‘‘Bill has made a sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tion to Clutha-South­land and to New Zealand since 1990. He has left a last­ing legacy ... and left me rather large shoes to fill. It’s been an ab­so­lute priv­i­lege to be part of his team and I wish him, Mary and the fam­ily all the very best for the fu­ture.’’

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