Bill English resigns: I want a family life without politics

Bill English tearfully thanked his family as he announced he is stepping down as Opposition leader after 27 years in politics.

The decision is a personal one, and it's about family, he repeated during the conference. He was joined at the announcement by his wife, Mary, and three of their six children - Bart, Xavier and Rory.

"Through all our time together as a family, we have lived with..." Mr English trailed off, voice wavering. 

He begun again: "We have lived with the demands of public service."

"Your strength and tolerance has enabled my career. I now look forward to our new life together." 

The decision became clear for Mr English during the Christmas break, he said. Though, obviously, he said, he would not have made the decision if National were Government and he was Prime Minister.

"It really just crystallised over the summer period, when I spent quite a lot of time for the first time in a long time with no real political concerns, no need to get ready for the next Cabinet, and [spent] time together with the family, and that's what I mean about it being a personal decision."

Bill English heading for National's caucus room in 2001.
Bill English heading for National's caucus room in 2001. Photo credit: Getty

He said he wants to start again, without politics.

"This is more about myself and my family. Having spent most of my adult life - all of their lives - with the demands of politics, I want the opportunity to be able to start again on a different life and for our family to be able to live without politics."

National's 56 MPs will decide on the next leader. Mr English expects the decision will be made by his last day, Tuesday 27 February.

During his 27 years in Parliament, Mr English has served as Prime Minister from 2016 to 2017, and was leader of the Opposition 2001 to 2014 and since the 2017 election. He was Deputy Prime Minister 2008 to 2016.

Bill English with John Key in 2006.
Bill English with John Key in 2006. Photo credit: Getty

He's more socially conservative than some of his colleagues. He voted against marriage equality, but now says he would "probably vote differently now… I don't think gay marriage is a threat to anyone else's marriage."

As Finance Minister, Mr English oversaw the books during the global financial crisis and the Christchurch earthquake recovery. His time in that role is also likely to be remembered for his partial privatisation of state assets.


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