Bill English wants to follow in John Key's footsteps

Bill English wants to follow in John Key's footsteps

John Key's plan of a smooth handover to his deputy has been ignored by his own party, just one day after he resigned.

Mr Key's recommendation, Bill English, is being challenged by Judith 'Crusher' Collins and Jonathan Coleman.

Mr English told Duncan Garner on RadioLIVE he's put his hand up because of the opportunity it provides over the next five to 10 years.

"New Zealanders have done a lot of hard work in the last seven or eight years [and] have gotten through some tough times, John Key led that brilliantly," he said.

The next step is how to look after those most vulnerable in society and looking into how the economy can be grown, he says.

"I've got a lot of ideas about that," Mr English said.

"There's a long list [of ideas] but I think at the core of it is shifting to this growth thinking - that is we have growing income, we have a growing population and we need to invest in the infrastructure and the people that are going to keep that growth going."

Mr English has helmed National before, taking it to its worst defeat back in 2002 - getting just 21 percent of the vote.

He says he's learned a lot since then, and he's had plenty of time to learn.

Under Mr Key he's rehabilitated himself as Finance Minister, and rehabilitated the Government's books along the way, from debt to surplus.

Mr English was formerly known as 'Bitter Bill' - bitter at Mr Key's success. And just three years ago he gave up on the leadership altogether, saying outright that he did not want the job.

But while Mr English has received Mr Key's backing, he does face some competition.

Dr Coleman and Ms Collins announced they were joining the race on Tuesday, and Mr English isn't upset to be racing against them.

"These are motivated, ambitious, smart people - they're not just going to sit back and let the opportunity go by," he said.

Meanwhile Dr Coleman told Garner he represents the "new generation" and he has a lot of experience both inside and outside Parliament.

"I think we need to build on the gains of the fantastic eight years we've had with John Key, but we need to take that a lot further," he said.

"We're not going to be able to do that if we've got the status quo, business as usual. We've got to have new ideas, we've got to have new personnel - a mix of the best of the old and the new - and actually come up continually with things that really appeal to that broader base."

Dr Coleman dismissed Mr English's calls for tax cuts, saying we need to make sure health and education are properly funded first.

"We've got to not only focus on continuing to grow the economy, but we've got to make sure that those social services continue to be there."

Dr Coleman says he's spoken to a wide range of Caucus colleagues who say they support his bid: "Well over half the Caucus," he said.

"People definitely want a contest. There's an appetite for a new generation and for renewal.

"I'm absolutely fired up for this, I'm in it to win."

With 59 MPs, the new leader needs 50 percent support - which means 30 MPs to win.

If there's more than two candidates, the bottom candidate drops out of each round until there is a winner.