15 Mar 2017

Key and Cunliffe strike deal to exit early

7:32 pm on 15 March 2017

Former Prime Minister John Key and Labour MP David Cunliffe have struck a deal so they can both leave Parliament without having to wait for the September election.

John Key and David Cunliffe on election day.

John Key and David Cunliffe will both leave Parliament before the 2017 election. Photo: RNZ / Reuters

The pair are also leaving close enough to the general election so as not to force by-elections in their respective Auckland electorates.

John Key announced today he would give his final speech to Parliament next week before his resignation as an MP took effect on 14 April.

Mr Cunliffe, who led Labour at the 2014 election, would also leave in April to take up a job with a management consultancy firm.

Acting Prime Minister Paula Bennett said the deal for Mr Key and Mr Cunliffe to leave at about the same time was a decision agreed between themselves.

"[Prime Minister Bill English] certainly wasn't actively involved in those discussions."

Labour leader Andrew Little said the approach came from National.

"They came to us, they asked about David Cunliffe's plans, he had plans, it fitted in with what they were doing with John Key, in the end I wasn't particularly fussed - it keeps the proportion of Parliament about right."

It was a straightforward arrangement, Mr Cunliffe said.

"It's not a dodgy deal... It's provided for in Standing Orders, that's exactly how the system is designed to work, it allows MPs some opportunities to realign their careers without the expense of a by-election."

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters said the deal was a "jack-up".

"When you stand for Parliament you should give your word and the only reason you would leave early is on a matter of principle, to have a by-election to get a mandate."

Greens co-leader James Shaw said he was not bothered by the arrangement.

Mr Key has not made his plans clear about what he intends to do once he has left Parliament altogether.

Since he quit as prime minister he had signed up as a global brand ambassador for the International Sports Promotion Society, which supports blind and disabled golf.

In a newsletter published today Mr Key thanked his political colleagues, his supporters and his family.

"One of the great privileges of my political career and my life was to meet so many hard-working and inspiring New Zealanders.

"I remain as ambitious for them, and New Zealand, as the day I entered Parliament."

Mr Cunliffe said he would have a short break after leaving Parliament.

"I'm going to go and lie on a beach for a week between the old job and the new just to try and detox.

"Parliament is a very special place - people call it the gilded cage, because when you're in it's hard to look out, and that's why I guess I've enjoyed being an electorate MP."

As a former prime minister, Mr Key would [. http://www.legislation.govt.nz/regulation/public/2017/0038/latest/DLM7125721.html receive an annuity of about $51,000 a year] for the rest of his life.

Ms Bennett said it was up to him what he did with it.

"That's entirely a decision that the Remuneration Authority make, and from what I've seen John Key hasn't decided whether he'll take that or not, and I think it is fair when you've had a prime minister for that long."

The electorate offices in Helensville and New Lynn will remain open and will be run by parliamentary service staff.