Bill’s Rolling – pros and cons

Written By: - Date published: 11:10 am, January 31st, 2018 - 27 comments
Categories: bill english, national, Politics - Tags: , , , , ,

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Since reading the news that the Nats are thinking about ditching Bill English, I’ve been trying to decide what my (completely honest and in no way disingenuous) advice to them would be on the topic. It’s a tough one! There are clearly pros and cons for them.

Starting with the cons:

Bill is experienced – Nobody in that caucus has seen more and done more in politics. He knows what works and what doesn’t work.

He’s moderate – His conservative vision for New Zealand is not one I share but it’s vastly preferable to some of his more ideologically libertarian colleagues. I suspect it’s more marketable to the public too. The vast bulk of National’s former Prime Ministers have been arch conservatives.

He’s got public sympathy – A lot of people think he was hard done by at the last election. That sympathy won’t transfer to a new leader.

They are doing well in the polls – Who rolls their leader when they have a comfortable lead in the polls? Has that ever happened in New Zealand apart from Key, who went voluntarily?

Rolling him could be messy – We all know what happens when parties have internal messiness, don’t we comrades?

There’s nobody better – Bridges is smarmy, Collins is abrasive, Bennett is too much with the cringe, Joyce can’t do maths, Amy who? Nikki Kaye may be their best option, but would she be perceived as Jacinda lite? Trying to out-Key Key didn’t work and we probably wouldn’t have wanted it to…

On the other hand, however, there are clearly some compelling Pros:

You can’t rest on your laurels – Sitting back, insisting they won the election and thinking of themselves as the government in exile is so born to rule Tory. Bill is coming across a little bit like a disapproving father admonishing a silly young whipper snapper government that can’t possibly do this or that because “I was your age once, you know”. It will tell in the polls before too long if they stay on that path.

They are doing well in the polls – It seems counterintuitive, but maybe it’s better to change leaders before your party’s popularity starts to go south. Key was clearly of that mindset. It’s arguably easier to continue a trend than turn one around.

Bill is a serial loser – And if there’s one thing we know about the Nats it’s that they don’t tolerate ‘losers’.

He’s soft – Maybe, as Chris Trotter alluded to this morning, in answer to Jacinda’s relentless positivity they need a Muldoon type (Collins) to cut her down with snark and nastiness. I hope that would backfire in a big way but as Brash showed when he was National leader, this country can be pretty vile when you scratch the surface.

He likes tinned spaghetti – Whether he puts it on a pizza or not and what he does with pineapple matters less to me. Speaking as an Italian, I don’t need any other reasons. With cultural insensitivity like that he’s got to go… …directly to The Hague without passing ‘Go’ and without collecting $200.

Speaking as a Labour Party supporter though, I think I prefer him right where he is.

But above all – who cares? It’s just luxurious sitting back and watching another party go through this and enjoying it as spectator sport for a change.

Long may it continue.

27 comments on “Bill’s Rolling – pros and cons”

  1. Enough is Enough 1

    I can’t see why they would let him go for all the reasons you have stated. The Nats support looks rock solid and I think that is down to Bill.

    Bill is seen as a hero by the right so whoever replaces him will be disliked by their support base.

    And from that point their support will collapse. Which will be a good thing

    • BM 1.1

      Bill is seen as a hero by the right so whoever replaces him will be disliked by their support base.

      No, he’s not.

      Right wingers don’t do that left-wing messiah bull shit, he’s got the job currently because he’s the best person for the current situation.

      If the situation changes Bill will step aside and someone else will take his place.

      • Enough is Enough 1.1.1

        I think you got your sequence of events around the wrong way.

        Someone else is currently taking his place, so he will have no option but to step aside.

      • Kat 1.1.2

        “If the situation changes Bill will step aside and someone else will take his place…”

        Yes just fly in another leader, those new robots must look tempting and would certainly reflect the Nats support base.

      • paul andersen 1.1.3

        you are so full of sh*t. right whingers definitley do the messiah bullshit.we just had nine years of planet key with wall to wall buttkissing. now with a bland bill versus a young interesting leader, the nats are desperatley looking for a new messiah. bill well knows that his biggest enemies are standing behind him, and it is well known that most nat leadership changes have been messy. poor old bill will be walking around trying not to turn his back on his loyal(yeah right) colleagues.

  2. Zorb6 2

    Unless its different in Italian,you have your pros and cons around the wrong way.

    • red-blooded 2.1

      No – the “cons” are arguments against changing leaders and the “pros” are arguments for changing. (No pro and con BE, but pro and con the move to another leader.)

  3. Keepcalmcarryon 3

    Bill English the microwave steak of New Zealand politics.
    How hungry are we?

  4. AB 4

    Only one National Party leader has ever been allowed to run again after losing an election. Keith Holyoake lost narrowly in 1957 after replacing Sid Holland just 3 months before the election. Holyoake then won 4 times from 1960 to 1969.
    Bill is not Holyoake. He has lost twice and has been around forever, whereas Keith was a rising star.
    Whoever replaces Bill will be very conscious that they do it in such a way that the likely 2020 loss is not the end of them. The more canny will hang back and let some over-ambitious 2nd rater take the hit.

    • Enzo 4.1

      You forgot Bolger, who lost in 1987. 🙂 But the difference was he was expected to lose.

      • AB 4.1.1

        Oops. Thanks Enzo. I think Bolger like Holyoake also illustrates that there is a fairly narrow range of circumstances under which you are permitted to lose once. But only once.
        Bill’s replacement will want those circumstances to apply to them.

        • Enzo

          Agree. I remember Bolger’s attitude to losing in 87 was very much that it was all part of the plan. Until recently Labour’s pattern was more leaning towards letting a leader lose one before they could win one. Kirk lost twice! As did Nash.

    • Enough is Enough 4.2

      I agree.

      Whoever takes over will see support collapse because Bill is extremely popular amongst rural and conservative voters.

      The leader of the coup will have a legacy of taking National from being the most popular party on roughly 45%, to a distant second paced party at war on 32%.

      Bring it on

      • BM 4.2.1

        And that 13% will vote for who?

      • patricia bremner 4.2.2

        We know what we might get, but you didn’t mention Chris Bishop. He won against the voting trend in 2017. Opposition for Jacinder?? Just watching.

        • Puckish Rogue

          Good point, he won in the Hutt so probably quite good at connecting with people…a potential dark horse

          I’d advise to him not go for it just yet (remember what happened to Bill in 2002) but wait untill after the next election

      • Pat 4.2.3

        Trotter is right…theyd be mad to start these shenanigans now….but then theyre politicians driven by ego so common sense is unlikely to rule.

  5. mary_a 5

    Rolling Bill will out the toxic slugs in Opposition.

    Two of which come to mind. A Collins/Bennett leadership is the way to go. These two vicious, venomous creatures in control will be all that’s needed to cause Natz to completely fall in to the long drop, where it belongs with the rest of the putrid excrement!

  6. Stuart Munro 6

    I can see a couple of good enterprises coming from this – a sweepstake (when will Bill go?) and a popular board game: Will it be Judith in the drawing room with 1080, or Simon in the car park with a length of lead pipe? Will Paula reprise Cassius’s lean and hungry look or Gerry inadvertently steam roll him rushing for an exit? Hours of family fun!

  7. SPC 7

    I thought Goff should have stayed on after defeat in 2011. That would have meant looking for a new leader only if he lost again in 2014.

    National has the option of doing that. The alternative is the path Labour chose, a new leader losing in 2020, and the next one losing in 2023.

    It’s strength is that it did not lose support while in government but
    disunity/leadership changes could undermine that and put it at risk.

    There is a very small margin for error, given the centre left and centre right are in balance (since 2005). To last three terms in office this government has to do what the last government did, win narrowly three terms in a row. Not easy, maybe easier if the inner ambition blue blood wolf is let loose … less a safe pair of hands doing the shearing than whose going to have their heart ripped out next.

  8. Ovid 8

    Rumour has it that he was planning his retirement at the 2017 election until Key stepped down as PM. I can’t see him taking National into 2020.

  9. One Anonymous Bloke 9

    I can’t see him being rolled by caucus (just yet), but caucus isn’t the only one with an opinion on the matter. From this point forward every media stand-up he does will be bracketed by the enquiry: “how long do you intend to hang around?”

    He’s standing on broken ground; nature abhors a vacuum.

  10. Michael 10

    The Nats will go nasty and pick Crusher. New Zealanders love nasty politicians, just as long as someone else is getting the smack, other than themselves. That explains why beneficiary bashing is a “national” sport, not just a “National” one: because the victims are too disempowered to fight back. In times past, we had a Labour Party to fight nastiness on behalf of the vulnerable but it decided, some time around 1984, that it liked nastiness too and either applauded the Nats from the cheap seats or joined in the kicking games.

  11. Matthew Whitehead 11

    LOL I almost hope that the Nats do pick Crusher when Bill’s ready to go. (Unlike Enzo, I think rolling him after he promised to stay on and on high polling would suggest there’s something to hide or they’re running scared, so if they’re replacing him IMO the best way is to have him change his mind and jump rather than push him. Rolling him is just as likely to start the decline as letting him continue on) Crusher might be able to go nasty, but I think that’s the equivalent of running Andrew Little against John Key- it won’t work. You don’t beat positivity by copying it, and you don’t beat it by going nasty. You beat it by being viewed as more positive, and in your own, genuine way. That was why Key succeeded- he didn’t try to take Clark down, he just managed to build himself up in a way that enough people found more credible, which then allowed them to have a conversation about Clark’s very minor issues that didn’t feel like a complete smear but still made him look preferable to a large enough coalition to win.

    Crusher would be a terrible choice. Kaye is the only one who would have a chance as Leader, but she is absolutely too similar to Ardern to be able to win an election against her, and would be seen as a poor woman’s alternative to Ardern in any election the two faced off in. She would have the same problems that Cunliffe had. It’s a poisoned chalice right now, and Boring Bill is their best bet until they take on some new “talent,” because it will keep their other front benchers from being tainted with loser germs.

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