It’s time to keep the heat on Bill English

by Jeremy Greenbrook-Held

While I am grateful for Jake’s kind offer for me to share his blog, I’m afraid I’m going to take this opportunity to disagree with his earlier post.

It’s time for Bill English to go. Yes, there are much more important issues at hand, which is why English must be stood down, sacked, removed – whatever – from his Ministerial portfolios, in particular as Minister of Finance. He’s under investigation from the auditor general. He’s a distraction, he’s lost a lot of credibility. As long as he sits on National’s front bench, he provides Labour with a stick to hit the government with. At this time of economic crisis, New Zealand needs a strong Minister of Finance and Deputy Prime Minister – English is no longer is that position. Time for a reshuffle, John, and the first person to go has to be the guy sitting next to you.

What annoys me more than anything else is the development of a ‘Poor Bill’ syndrome (as our friends at the Standard have so appropriately put it). We’re supposed to feel sorry because his family will have to move back to Dipton, and we’re somehow questioning his roots in the deep South. And (astoundingly) the system has let HIM down. No one is suggesting for a moment that the English’s should have to move back to Dipton – I can understand his desire to have his family living closer to him. And I actually think his ancestral connection (and obvious pride) in the deep South is admirable – I wish my MP had the same connection to his electorate – actually, any connection would be nice.

The problem is that English changed the status of the trust which owned his family home in Karori so he was no longer a beneficiary , in order to claim a higher living allowance when he became a Minister.  He then paid the money back – as Trevor Mallard points out, how can Bill English have paid money back that was paid to a trust which he had no interest in?

I’m pretty sure English isn’t the only MP (or Minister) that has used trusts to claim more in terms accommodation allowances. However, he is the Minister of Finance and is calling on spending with-straint in the public sector, which is resulting in pay freezes and redundancies, while his living allowance increased by more than the average wage.

I would have thought that John Key would regard this situation for a Senior Cabinet Minister as a liability, and would throw Bill English overboard – just as he did to Richard Worth. Let’s see how many more questions from the opposition that Key will have to field before this happens.