More than 14 years after he failed in a tilt to become the country’s leader, Bill English will this afternoon become New Zealand’s 39th Prime Minister.
The job will officially become vacant after John Key’s formal resignation at Government House following lunch.
English will be sworn in as the leader of the National Party after a caucus vote this morning, after which he and Paula Bennett will be installed as Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister.
In his first speech as Nationals leader, the incoming Prime Minister said he would vote differently on gay marriage if it came up to the vote now.
English – an “active Catholic” – opposed the gay marriage bill as well as conscience votes on abortion and euthanasia in the past.
English said while his Catholic faith was a strong factor in his life and had instilled the values he lived by, he would vote differently on gay marriage now. He did not intend to run the Government based on Catholic beliefs.
“I don’t think gay marriage is an attack on anyone else’s marriage.”
He also proclaimed himself a “supporter of the monarchy”
“But it would be hard to beat [John Key’s} enthusiasm.”
Key, meanwhile, today said he “felt great” about standing down.
In his last comments as Prime Minister, Key said: “It’s a great day for a new Prime Minister.
“I’ll be looking forward to signing off to my caucus colleagues as the leader, after 10 years at the top leading the National Party and eight years the country.
“But I know I’m passing over to tremendously good hands in the form of Bill English and Paula Bennett. They are going to steer the country extremely well.”