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National's English quashes leadership speculation

Wednesday 31st January 2018

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Opposition leader Bill English quashed speculation members of the National Party's caucus want to change leadership, with rumours surfacing just ahead of his first major speech of the year. 

English's State of the Nation speech was overshadowed by reports his leadership and the positions of his deputy Paula Bennett and finance spokesman Steven Joyce were under threat. Speaking to media after the speech, English shot down those claims, saying he has enjoyed more support in caucus and the broader party membership than ever. 

"We're getting on with the job, we're not going to be derailed by a bit of gossip," English said. 

National won 58 seats in the 120-seat Parliament at the Sept. 23 general election but was unable to secure the Treasury benches during negotiations with New Zealand First, which chose to back a Labour-led administration instead. 

English today said he took responsibility for failing to form a government, but since then he's "had stronger indications of support for my leadership than I can recall".

It's the second time English has been leader of the opposition, the first in 2001 when he replaced Jenny Shipley and led National to its biggest defeat the following year before being ousted by Don Brash. 

English said his party's caucus was very disciplined and that had been behind its success as a political entity and said the leadership speculation has probably hardened up his support. 

He's committed to performing strongly enough to retain the backing of his caucus, saying to keep the leadership, he needs their support, broader public support, and success in moderating some of the government's policies. 

Opposition leader "is a more tenuous position than being a prime minister - you have to meet expectations of your supporters and if you don't that raises some questions," he said.

Workplace relations spokeswoman Amy Adams said English had her full support, saying she had "absolutely zero interest in changing the leaders or the leadership team."

(BusinessDesk)

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