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19/2/2018 — Economics, Politics and Government
Pressure on new MPs starting to bite
By Dene Mackenzie

Ten new National Party MPs, all in relatively safe seats, will next week become the major focus in the National Party leader contest.

So far, Judith Collins, Simon Bridges and Amy Adams have declared their intentions to replace Bill English who will resign as leader on February 27.

A 10-vote bloc is important when the 29 votes are needed to win the contest.

Inquiries suggested Mark Mitchell will make his decision to run over the weekend and former finance minister Steven Joyce has done the numbers and knows he does not have enough support for a run.

Mitchell is being touted as National's “Jacinda” candidate, likening him to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's success in transforming Labour from an also-ran party into one ready to govern.

Mitchell was in the New Zealand Police for 13 years from 1989 to 2002, including time as a dog handler. After leaving the police, Mitchell worked for eight years as a private security contractor and spent time in Iraq, including the siege of the Italian-run An Nasiriyah compound in Southern Iraq by the Mahdi militia in 2004.

His grandfather was former National cabinet minister Frank Gill who, like his grandson, was a minister of defence.

Already the 10 new MPs have been feted by representatives of Ms Collins, Bridges and Ms Adams.

The key to the support from those new MPs is what they can be offered to further their careers. All are likely long-term MPs and will be looking at how quickly the can attain significant party status leading on to becoming a cabinet minister when National regains the Treasury benches.

The Otago Daily Times contacted Clutha-Southland MP Hamish Walker at the Waimumu field days to ask him who he was supporting. Walker said he was sitting down with candidates next week to discuss their views.

There had been no preferred candidate talked about at the field days but Walker was talking to his party members in the electorate and canvassing their views. He declined to comment further except to say he was also talking to his fellow new MPs.

Ms Adams turned up to her announcement with four supporters, Maggie Barry, Tim McIndoe, Nikki Kaye and Chris Bishop.

The selection of a new leader is likely to lead to an exodus from Parliament of some of the longer-serving MPs if they cannot work with the new leader or are shifted back in the pecking order.

They could include Nick Smith, Chris Finlayson, Nicky Wagner and former speaker David Carter.

*Dene Mackenzie is political editor of the Otago Daily Times.

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