Bat­tling

The kitchen cab­i­net will meet to­day to plot the path for­ward, by Michelle Duff.

Sunday News - - FRONT PAGE -

STA­BIL­ITY, eco­nomic se­cu­rity, a safe pair of hands – the ‘‘com­pas­sion­ate con­ser­va­tive’’ Bill English looks to have won the day.

He emerged tri­umphant ahead of the Jacinda-wave, but this morn­ing English will have only a mo­ment to en­joy his break­fast eggs with gath­ered friends and fam­ily be­fore get­ting down to the busi­ness of try­ing to form a gov­ern­ment.

Last night at Na­tional party at the Pull­man Ho­tel, English's ad­dress was a vic­tory speech in all but name. He said there was no need to ‘‘rush’’ coali­tion talks, but it was im­por­tant to move ‘‘rea­son­ably quickly to form a sta­ble gov­ern­ment’’, and Na­tional's dom­i­nant num­bers made it the ob­vi­ous choice. In an echo of the To­ries in the re­cent UK elec­tion, he men­tioned ‘‘strong and sta­ble’’ a num­ber of times. The cal­cu­lus for ne­go­ti­a­tions could sub­tly shift, how­ever, if the par­ties of the left pick up a few more seats when the re­sults of 200,000 spe­cial votes are in­cluded.

English also saluted Labour’s ‘‘com­pet­i­tive’’ cam­paign, say­ing it had given his party an op­por­tu­nity to demon­strate that his cen­tre-right party did in fact care about the is­sues Labour was rais­ing, in­clud­ing ‘‘sup­port­ing the most vul­ner­a­ble, pro­tect­ing the en­vi­ron­ment, en­sur­ing the strength of our re­gions’’.

To­day, English will be hun­ker­ing down with the in­ner cir­cle of his Cab­i­net – that’s Jonathan Cole­man, Amy Adams, Gerry Brown­lee, Steven Joyce, Si­mon Bridges and Paula Ben­nett – to work out a plan of at­tack.

Pun­dits ex­pect any new­ly­formed Gov­ern­ment would put a first-up ef­fort into sat­ing some of the pub­lic’s con­cerns around hous­ing, poverty and wa­ter qual­ity, for which they were slammed on the cam­paign trail.

But ‘‘steady as she goes’’ has been English’s mes­sage since he took over Na­tional’s reins in De­cem­ber, and for vot­ers who ticked blue, an­other three years of the prag­matic party has them breath­ing a sigh of re­lief.

In Cam­bridge, fam­ily lawyer David May­all, 29, and his wife are happy with the se­cu­rity the next three years will bring if Na­tional suc­ceeds in form­ing a gov­ern­ment. ‘‘I know what Na­tional are go­ing to de­liver.’’

He thinks Na­tional have done a ‘‘great job’’ of health and ed­u­ca­tion and doesn’t blame them for his in­abil­ity to buy a house.

English may be ‘‘bor­ing’’ com­pared to Ardern, but his at­ten­tion to de­tail and ex­pe­ri­ence made him the bet­ter can­di­date, May­all says. Ardern, mean­while, should stay in the job and keep work­ing at it: he says she has a lot to of­fer and will get bet­ter.

Na­tional have made his­tory by be­com­ing only the fourth gov­ern­ment to make four terms. The only five-term gov­ern­ment was Richard Sed­don’s Lib­er­als, who were in of­fice be­tween 1893 and 1906. .

Po­lit­i­cal his­to­rian Dr Michael Bas­sett says English has fronted an ‘‘amaz­ingly sure and steady’’ cam­paign, and the pub­lic have put their trust in him as a sea­soned politi­cian and well-versed fi­nance min­is­ter. ‘‘The pub­lic, while they might have been in­ter­ested in Jacinda, de­cided they weren’t go­ing to rock the boat.‘‘

Com­men­ta­tor Ben Thomas says English has emerged as a star in his own right. ‘‘He’s not just come out of the shadow of John Key, but oblit­er­ated John Key. He’s es­tab­lished as the most im­por­tant fig­ure in the Na­tional party, and not just a ‘care­taker’.

‘‘Hav­ing a cam­paign where he was pit­ted against Jacinda Ardern, with her star power, has al­lowed him to re­ally grow into the role.’’

Other an­a­lysts are cred­it­ing ‘‘mas­ter strate­gist’’ and cam­paign man­ager Steven Joyce for the Na­tional party’s suc­cess with his claim of an ‘‘$11.7 bil­lion fis­cal hole’’ in Labour’s fi­nan­cial plan­ning a risky but mas­ter­ful move, Auck­land Uni­ver­sity po­lit­i­cal stud­ies lec­turer Mark Boyd ar­gues.

Bill English has moved past his ‘‘care­taker’’ role af­ter win­ning his first elec­tion as Nats leader.

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