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New Face
“You Learn More From Losing Than You Do From Winning,” Bill English
As New Zealand PM After John Key Exit
Prime Minister Bill English
New Zealand's socially conservative finance chief Bill English was sworn in as the country's new Prime Minister on Dec. 12, 2016, following the shocking resignation of his popular predecessor, John Key. The centre-right National Party caucus unanimously backed Mr. English at a meeting and he travelled to Government House in Wellington a few hours later to officially take over.
According to a foreign news agency from Wellington, New Zealand, Mr. English, 54, said he was "excited and humbled" to take the top job after eight years as Mr. Key's Deputy and Finance Minister. "This will be a government supporting economic growth and ensuring that the benefits of growth are widely shared," he told reporters.
National Party president Peter Goodfellow said that Mr. English and Ms. Bennett offered "a good mixture of experience and fresh thinking"."Under their leadership, New Zealanders will continue to benefit from the stable government they expect, along with a dedicated focus on delivering results for families and businesses," said Goodfellow.
A former farmer with degrees in commerce and literature, Mr. English has been in the New Zealand's Parliament since 1990 and was previously leader of the National Party in 2002 when it suffered its worst election defeat.
"You learn more from losing than you do from winning," said Mr. English, who will seek National's fourth straight election win in late 2017.
He was Mr. Key's preferred successor after returning New Zealand's budget to surplus and keeping the economy ticking over at about three percent.
Mr. English said that New Zealand's prosperity meant the country did not have the pool of disaffected voters responsible for Brexit and U.S. President-elect Donald Trump's victory. And he said a priority for his government was ensuring the most needy were given opportunities.
"We have a strong economy, almost unique in the developed world, and most New Zealanders would expect to be able to share in that," he said.
A committed Catholic with six children, Mr. English is regarded as far more socially conservative than Mr. Key, opposing the 2013 legalization of same-sex marriage and speaking out against abortion and voluntary euthanasia.
Mr. Key, who resigned for family reasons after eight years and Prime Minister and 10 as party leader, said he was looking forward to becoming an anonymous backbencher.
He congratulated Mr. English and Bennett, saying he did not expect the government's direction to change under the new team. "I don't think it will be a radically different agenda under Bill English," he told reporters. "It gives a sense of newness (to the government) that the public probably do want."
New Zealand's popular Prime Minister John Key stunned the nation when he announced, in a breaking voice, he was resigning after eight years as leader. Key had been widely expected to contest his fourth general election next year. But he said he wanted to ensure he didn't make the mistake that some other world leaders have done, and instead wanted to leave while he was on top of his game.
Speaking in a shaking voice, Key said he had made personal sacrifices for the job and the role had taken a toll on his family. Key said his National Party caucus would meet Dec. 12 to decide on a new party leader and prime minister, and that he expected to formally submit his resignation to the Governor-General that same day.
New Zealand's opposition leader Andrew Little said the decision had taken everybody by surprise.
"He is entitled to be recognized for what he has done for New Zealand," Little said. "He's been there through some pretty difficult times."
Key was a successful currency trader before turning to politics. He was elected to the nation's parliament in 2002 and enjoyed a quick rise, becoming leader of his centreright opposition party in 2006. He won his first general election and became prime minister in 2008.