The Odds and Omens for Bill English
By Political Correspondent Jeremy Smith
Bill English is the most recent prime minister to win the job not through a general election but because a prime minister resigned.
So what are the odds of English winning an election himself. If the history is any guide, they are not that good.
Replacements usually get rolled come election time
The last prime minister to get there through a party vote was Jenny Shipley. She was the party choice in 1997 when National dumped three-time winner Jim Bolger. But the move did not help our first woman prime minister: in the 1999 poll Shipley lost to Helen Clark and became electoral dog tucker.
At the beginning of the 1990’s Geoffrey Palmer, who stepped up when Labour’s David Lange stepped down, did not
even make it through to the 1990 election. He was rolled by Mike Moore, who promptly lost, hung on for three years and nearly won the 1993 election. But nearly was not enough and he was rolled by Clark.
Back in the 70s Bill Rowling took over Labour when Norman Kirk died in 1994 and promptly lost the 1995 election in the Muldoon landslide. Rowling hung on for two more elections which he lost by very narrow margins. But that was it and he stepped down.
And in 1972 long-serving Keith Holyoake handed over to his long-time deputy Jack Marshall who was promptly trounced by Labour under Kirk. Eighteen months later Marshall was dumped as Opposition leader.
Four tern Kiwi Keith
But English may take some cheer from Holyoake, the only National PM to win four elections. “Kiwi Keith” Holyoake started by losing his first election as PM in 1957. he had just taken over from an ailing Sidney Holland.
But the result was close and Holyoake spent three years hammering away at the Nash Labour government before sweeping to power in 1960, the first of his four-in- a row electoral victories.
So both men have a rural background and both lost elections as party leader.
And if English does carry it off in 2017, the MMP environment makes it harder to put together a government than in the winner-take- all days of Holyoake’s triumphs.