Bill English 'entertaining and funny', insists Paula Bennett

Bill English and Paula Bennett (Getty)
Bill English and Paula Bennett (Getty)

Paula Bennett says Bill English is "one of the most entertaining and funny men", and can't wait for him to become Prime Minister and unleash his sense of humour on the unsuspecting public.

"He has been in the finance role, and without a doubt it can be rather droll at times," Ms Bennett told Paul Henry on Friday.

"I tell you what - wait until you see him as Prime Minister. You will see the man that I know."

Mr English is expected to take over from John Key on Monday, less than a week after the latter's surprise resignation.

It took only three days for would-be challengers Judith Collins and Jonathan Coleman to fall into line behind Mr Key's hand-chosen successor.

The role of deputy is still being contested, presently a two-horse race between Ms Bennett and Transport Minister Simon Bridges.

Ms Bennett's name came up in early speculation on who'd be the next leader, but she says deputy is the job she actually wants.

"It's nice having a man and a woman up there. I think the Auckland city aspect of it comes in, and that's important. We have exactly the same message, but I say it completely differently."

She's not worried about Mr English's election track record - the last time he led the party, National had its worst-ever election defeat.

"We're in a completely different time, we're at a completely different place," says Ms Bennett.

Labour leader Annette King, also appearing on Paul Henry, said Ms Bennett should have run for the top job.

"I think they should have gone for a generation shift in terms of the talent they've got - maybe they could have gone straight to Paula," she said.

"[Mr English] is a safe pair of hands, but he's been in Parliament only three years less than me - think about that. People throw stones at me, 'Oh, she's so old.'

"He will be steady as you go, but he certainly will not have the excitement, or the interest or the charisma that someone like Paula would have had."

And if Andrew Little fails to take Labour into Government next year, don't expect Ms King to play the experience card and go for the leadership herself.

"I'm in the twilight of my career, not the start of it. I recognise that. You need experience, but you also need new talent coming up."