Here at My Thinks we’ve been running a very irregular column profiling a range of political leaders from across the spectrum. As we come in to a heated 20 weeks of campaign rhetoric, we thought it was important to send our intrepid reporter out into the field to interview some more of the movers and shakers.
This week we speak to Bill English. This Finance Minister and Deputy Interim Prime Minister when John Key’s away and Stephen Joyce isn’t looking, English rose to prominence during the Ruth Richardson-led government of Jim Bolger. A quiet achiever, he led from the back staging a daring reverse coup in 2003 against his successor Don Brash following a brief meeting with some Freemasons and most of the Exclusive Brethren at the Silverstream RSA.
We caught up with him at his subsidised state house in central Wellington.
My Thinks: Mr English. So good of you to give up your time to speak to us this afternoon.
Bill English: No problems at all.
MT: You’ve been Finance Minister for many years now…
MT: Six. We see you there in parliament day in, day out, attacking the opposition on a range of fronts…
BE: …housing, being fiscally liberal, drug testing on hippies, Cunliffe’s grandfather’s brother’s war medals. It’s all there in Hansard.
MT: Yes. You’re a very exciting kettle of fish. How do you find the time to do what you do and still keep this small 7 bedroom million-dollar villa in central Wellington so tidy.
BE: Well my wife and I have taken it upon ourselves to become employers. We employ several staff – on close to, if not almost exactly on the minimum wage – to take care of the day-to-day cleanliness of this small abode.
MT: Does it worry you that these people might not working several jobs – that paying them a little bit extra might mean they could spend more time with their families?
BE: Oh… god… you’re right… you’re… *sound of choking*
MT: Are you ok? Are you choking?
BE: No. That was a laugh. I was laughing. At my joke.
MT: (realises) Oh… um… ha etc. Let’s move on to other things. You’re about to release your latest budget. Are you excited?
BE: Look at this face. Can’t you tell?
MT: Your face looks the same as it did before.
BE: How about now?
MT: No. Still the same.
BE: Well… I’m incredibly excited. This is my excited face. Look, we’ve got all sorts of extra spending in there this year. Fiscally things are freeing up and we’re able to loosen our vice-like grip on the economy. There’s extra money for the alcohol industry, our friends in mining and oil, our other friends in aluminium, and my wife and her friends. We’ve even managed to move, as we always promised, into surplus.
MT: Yes. The surplus. You must be very proud of achieving something that’s eluded you since you came to power.
BE: Yes we are. Very proud.
MT: And how big is the surplus.
BE: At this stage we’re forecasting a surplus of thirty-eight cents. That may rise to thirty-nine cents if all our beneficiaries line up in a row. We are very, very happy.
MT: Would you be happier if you’re surpluses were as big as Labour’s? I mean they had…
BE: (interrupts) …No.
MT: …many, many surp…
BE: (interrupts) …No.
MT: … paid down deb…
BE: (interrupts) …I. Said. No.
MT: Um… will you be using your surplus to pay down debt?
BE: Don’t be stupid. It’s thirty-eight cents. You can’t even make that now. We don’t even have the right type of coins. We’ll have to get it through EFTPOS or something.
MT: So what does the future hold for you?
BE: Well… this afternoon I’m having lunch with Stephen Joyce and John Key. I’m never allowed to say anything. They just nut a whole bunch of things out, write them down on bits of paper, hand some of the bits to me and send the rest over the Cam Slater in the dungeon.
MT: No… I mean a year from now. Ten years from now? Where do you see Bill English in the future?
BE: Well… if National win this election I’ll stay right where I am and if they don’t I expect to be knighted fairly sharply in installed in the embassy in Washington. Unless John wants that one, then I might have to go to France. Eww…
MT: Thanks for speaking to us this afternoon.
BE: My pleasure. Say… how many tax accountants does it take to change a lightbulb?
MT: I don’t know…
BE: Seven. One to leave the old bulb in the socket and the rest to hide the new bulb in the Cayman Islands. *choking*