13 Dec 2016

Changes afoot in National as English takes power

9:08 am on 13 December 2016

Big changes are on the cards for National MPs after the leadership contest delivered a clear message that the back bench wants to see new faces in the ministerial line-up.

Bill English announced as the new Prime Minister of New Zealand, Paula Bennett as Deputy Prime Minister.

Prime Minister Bill English says there is "an opportunity now to clear the deck somewhat". Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

It has been a crazy time for National MPs - a week ago they were getting to grips with the resignation of their leader, John Key.

Now they are preparing for a cabinet reshuffle by new Prime Minister Bill English that could see some experienced leaders lose out and others, including some backbenchers, climb the ranks.

Transport Minister Simon Bridges said the party was spoilt for choice, but he expected the reshuffle to reflect a mix of stability, and rejuvenation.

"I think it's more about evolution rather than anything more than that, and I think you'll see that.

National MP for Te Atatu (West Auckland), Alfred Ngaro

Fresh face: Alfred Ngaro could do well in the reshuffle. Photo: RNZ/Indira Stewart

"Obviously those things are for Bill English but I know he gets it. We're going to be blending the strength and stability he has with some change and rejuvenation I'm sure."

Mr Bridges hoped he would have a significant role in the government.

National had a self-imposed limit of 27 ministers. Mr English said that number would not increase.

Some fresh faces who are expected to do well include backbenchers Mark Mitchell, Alfred Ngaro, Chris Bishop and Todd Muller.

Simon Bridges

Transport Minister Simon Bridges wants a significant role in government. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Attorney-General Chris Finlayson had a warning for anyone wanting to leapfrog ahead.

"I think some of them could perhaps learn to walk before they run.

"You've got to be careful that you come into this place and be prepared to run an apprenticeship. Instant elevations, in my experience, rarely work out particularly well, but of course there may be some superstars that emerge in the next few days," he said.

While Social Development Minister Anne Tolley preferred to see out the Child Youth and Family overhaul, many MPs were coy and stayed away from specifics when asked about what they expected from the reshuffle.

New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully in Auckland

What will happen to long-serving minister Murray McCully? Photo: Alex Perrottet / RNZ

Jonathan Coleman, who threw his hat in the ring for the leadership, has indicated he would like the Foreign Affairs portfolio. Signs were he would be promoted.

That leaves a question about the future of long-serving ministers like Murray McCully and Nick Smith.

Mr English said this would be an opportunity to take a closer look at National's policies.

"Any government gets involved in its own processes, there's an opportunity now to clear the deck somewhat, to get focussed on the policies we want to take through election year."

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Attorney-General Chris Finlayson said MPs need to "walk before they run". Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Labour leader Andrew Little said a change in leadership wouldn't make the government understand the problems New Zealanders face.

"They have been around that table, they've participated in every decision, they've basked in John Key's fame and glory ... so let's see what changes."

The Cabinet reshuffle could be later this week. It would definitely be before Christmas.

Mr English was non-committal when asked if he would stick to the September election next year, as previously signalled by Mr Key.

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