Bill English is the incumbent Leader of the National Party and Prime Minister of New Zealand, an ANZUS (Australia, New Zealand and United States Security Treaty) member country. Formerly, he was Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand (2008 – 2016), Minister of Finance (2008 – 2016) and Member of the New Zealand Parliament for Wallace (1990 – 1996).
Early Life and Education
Bill English, full name Simon William English, was born on 30 December 1961 to father Mervyn and mother Norah. He grew up on a farm in Dipton, Southland with 12 siblings. As one of the youngest in the family, English had privileges to attend facilitative schools and good colleges.
Bill joined St Thomas School and St Patrick’s College for high school education. Passionate in humanities, he went on to do commerce at the University of Otago. He also attended the Victoria University of Wellington for a degree in English literature.
While a university student, Bill English met Mary Scanlon who would later be his life partner. The couple has six children: Rory, Bartholomew, Maria, Luke, Thomas and Xavier English.
By religion, English is a Roman Catholic.
Completing the university education, Bill English joined New Zealand treasury in the capacity of a political analyst. He worked there for two years i.e. until 1989. However, such an independent professional life didn’t last long for him. As a member of the National Party, he ran for a parliamentary seat in 1990 general election. During this first term in such a high political rank, English served as a parliamentary under-secretary for the Health Ministry.
Having made enough name for himself, Bill English entered Prime Minister’s cabinet in 1996 as Minister for Crown Health Enterprises and Associate Minister of Education. Soon, the National party lost the absolute power and formed a coalition, allocating English the position of Minister of Health. Under his leadership, New Zealand’s health sector apparently deteriorated as people believed that the new reforms were weak. However, English always stressed that such a condition emerged because of imperfect information to the consumers.
In 1999, following resignation from the incumbent PM, a new government was formed under Shipley. English held the Ministry of Finance, but later switched the position with Birch and became Treasurer of New Zealand. However, as the Labour Party won 1999 elections, the National Party lost all its administrative powers and became an opposition party in the parliament. This loss was, in fact, a gain for Bill English – Jenny Shipley resigned from the leadership position of the National party, hence English was elected unopposed to the post.
Although known as a dynamic and witty politician, Bill English led the National Party to a distressing defeat in 2003 general elections. Moreover, the opinion polls for the party did not shoot up until late 2003. And, all the advertisement strategies were repeatedly criticized by the media and opposition members. Consequently, Bill English left the office on 28 October 2003, being succeeded by Don Brash.
Despite English’s poor performance in party leadership elections, he remained prominent in the National Party’s parliament. He continuously tried to strengthen his portfolio and gather enough backing from party members. In 2006, Don Brash resigned – this was another chance for Bill English’s rise in New Zealand politics. He took over the position of Deputy Leader of the National Party and started managing party’s finances as well.
In the 2008 election, English took hold of his seat at the parliament and subsequently got appointed as Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand and Minister of Finance. While at the office, he was caught up in a minister allowance issue. As per the reports, English was receiving an extra amount as housing allowance. The case was looked into by the Auditor General’s office and later decided to cut off these kinds of minister allowances.
Following a resignation from the incumbent PM John Key, Bill English stood up for the positions of Prime Minister of New Zealand and President of the National Party. On 12 December 2016, he was sworn into both the offices.
Donald Trump and Bill English
US President Trump and New Zealand Prime Minister English resemble on their stances on reproductive rights. Both the leaders oppose abortion. However, they do not mirror each other on many other issues. For instance, English doesn’t agree with Trump’s vision of travel ban from seven Muslim countries.
Following inaugural on January 20, President Trump spoke to Bill English over the phone. The two leaders talked about trade, IS militants and national security. English alluded that there might be a meet-up taking place pretty soon.