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Bill English

Like Jack Marshall, Bill English served a long political apprenticeship before becoming PM. After 26 years as an MP, including 11 as a Cabinet minister and eight as Deputy PM, English secured the top job in 2016. But like Marshall in 1972, his grip on power was to be brief, lasting just over 10 months.

One of 12 children, English grew up in Dipton, Southland. After graduating from Victoria University and working for the Treasury in Wellington, he was elected as National MP for Wallace in 1990. From 1996 he represented the huge new electorate of Clutha-Southland, before becoming a list-only MP in 2014.

In 1996, aged just 34, English became a Cabinet minister in Jim Bolger’s government. He was briefly Jenny Shipley’s Minister of Finance in 1999, and following National’s defeat at that year’s election, succeeded her as party leader in October 2001. After leading National to its worst-ever election result in 2002, English was sacked the following year in favour of Don Brash.

When John Key became leader in 2006 the Southlander returned to the deputy role, and from 2008 to 2016 he served as deputy prime minister and minister of finance.

After succeeding Key in December 2016, English faced the challenge of securing his party a rare fourth term in government. His strong campaign performance helped National win 44.4% of the vote – almost the same share Key had achieved in 2008 – but without obvious allies in Parliament it wasn’t enough. English lost the prime ministership to Labour’s Jacinda Ardern, who was backed by New Zealand First and the Green Party.

By Neill Atkinson

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Bill English, URL:, (Manatū Taonga — Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated