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