John Key resignation: 'It feels like the right time to go'

by RNZ / 05 December, 2016

John Key has revealed he will step down as Prime Minister of New Zealand and leader of the National Party next week.

A special caucus meeting will be called on 12 December, when a new leader will be decided upon.

He said it had been a privilege to serve the people of Helensville, and he will stay in Parliament long enough to avoid a by-election.

Mr Key made the announcement at Parliament today.

He told his Cabinet and caucus colleagues this morning that he did not intend to stay on for a fourth term as leader, he said.

"To me, this feels like the right time to go."

"I absolutely believe we can win the next election, but I do not believe that if you asked me if I was committed to serving out a fourth term that I could look the public in the eye and say yes," Mr Key said.

The timing would give caucus and the new leader time to settle in prior to next year's general election, he said.

It was "the hardest decision I've ever made," he said.

"Throughout these years I've given everything I could to this job, the job that I cherish and the country that I love. All of this has come at quite some sacrifice to the people who are dearest to me - my family.

"For my wife Bronagh there have been many nights and weekends spent alone, many occasions important to her that I simply could not attend.

"For my daughter Stephie and my son Max have transitioned from teenagers to young adults while coping with an extraordinary level of intrusion and pressure because of their father's job.

"I thank for them for their tolerance, Bronagh and I are immensely proud of them."

But Mr Key said wanting to rediscover family life was just one of many factors that led to his decision, another was not wanting to stay on too long.

"Over the years I have observed many leaders, who in a similar position, failed to take this step, I can understand why - it's an incredibly hard job to leave.

"But for me and the National Party this is a good time to go, party membership is high and the party is well-funded.

"The caucus is talented and eager to serve and one of the achievements of which I'm proud is having built, with my colleagues, a Cabinet team that is capable, committed and cohesive."

Mr Key did not know what he would do next.

"I'm not desperately looking to do anything straight away, but at the core of all of it I'm a commercial guy and I think if the opportunities came, I'd go on a couple of boards maybe in Australia, or the States or Asia or in New Zealand.

"But I won't be wanting to overburden myself, and I'll be wanting to take it slowly."

Whoever was chosen as the next leader would have his "unwavering support", but if deputy prime minister Bill English put his name forward, then Mr Key would support his bid, he said.

"I didn't want … ambiguity on my part.

"If I didn't think he was right to be Prime Minister, then I shouldn't have thought he was right to be deputy," said Mr Key.

Mr English's office released a statement shortly after the announcement, but made no mention of whether or not the he would put his name forward for the leadership.

Instead, Mr English said Mr Key "will be judged by history as one of New Zealand's greatest leaders".

He thanked Mr Key for his "years of dedicated and outstanding service".

"While the gap he leaves is huge we understand and respect his decision to step down from a job from which there is no respite. We wish John and his family every success with their life out of the public eye."

Speaking at a media stand-up a short time ago, Mr English again refused to be drawn on whether he would seek the leadership, saying he needed to talk to his family and members of the caucus first.

But Mr English said he will probably announce his decision tomorrow and wanted to make sure he had enough caucus support.

National Party president Peter Goodfellow said Mr Key's leadership had been "exceptional".

"He leaves an amazing legacy of a country that is now the envy of many others in the world," said Mr Goodfellow. "National is also stronger because of his leadership."

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said he sent Mr Key a text saying, 'Say it ain't so, bro," when he heard the news.

Mr Key's announcement "didn't come as a complete surprise," Mr Turnbull said.

"He's the sort of leader who will know the right time to go.

"He's retired when people are begging him to stay. He's a class act - none classier."

Key's career

In his maiden speech to Parliament, Mr Key paid tribute to his mother, saying she had instilled in him the idea that there is no substitute for hard work and determination.

By August 2004 he was the National Party's finance spokesperson and early the following year, he was promoted to the front bench and ranked at number seven.

After months of speculation about the leadership, Mr Key became the National Party leader in November 2006, following the resignation of Don Brash.

On taking leadership, he signalled a retreat from hard-Right positions on welfare, Màori issues, social issues and climate change.

In 2008 he led the National Party to victory in the general election and took the option of forming a minority government with the support of two minor parties.

In his election night speech, he stressed the importance of individual achievement to New Zealand's prosperity.

National Party leadership contenders

Here's a quick rundown of who might consider themselves leadership material:

Bill English

A former leader of the National Party in the early noughties, Mr English has been a steady hand on the economic tiller and Deputy Prime Minister since 2008. He knows politics inside out - having been an MP since 1990 - and has held a number of other high-profile positions including Minister for Infrastructure and Leader of the Opposition.

Speaking at a media stand-up this afternoon, Mr English refused to be drawn on whether he would seek the leadership, saying he needed to talk to his family and members of the caucus first.

But Mr English said he will probably announce his decision tomorrow and wanted to make sure he had enough caucus support.

Mr English, who led the National Party to its worst election defeat in 2002, said he had learned a lot since then.

Paula Bennett

The pundits have been singing Mrs Bennett's name from the song sheet for some time but the past year, with homelessness becoming a major issue, has probably soured the tune.

She is self-made after a tough start in life which included being a working solo mum. She has tackled some gritty portfolios, including Social Development, Employment and Local Government. She is currently the Minister for Climate Change, Social Housing and State Services.

Steven Joyce

Mr Joyce discovered world-wide fame after being hit by a dildo thrown at him at Waitangi this year, something which he responded to with nicely-judged humour.

He has been given the nicknames the 'Minister of Everything' and 'Mr Fixit' after investigating the Novopay mess and Fonterra's 2013 milk-formula recall.

The Northland by-election didn't quite go to plan for the former broadcasting entrepreneur but he's another who has been close to Mr Key and has quite a bit of support in the business community.

Judith Collins

Also the holder of a few nicknames, including 'Crusher', Ms Collins was another favourite of the pundits and a number of the backbench before resigning in 2014 over a ruckus involving the Serious Fraud Office. She returned from the wilderness late last year as the Police and Corrections Minister and still has a number of supporters in the party.

Among her ministerial responsibilities have been Justice, ACC and Veteran Affairs.


This article was originally published by RNZ.


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