Five seek National leadership

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Mark Mitchell

Auckland
Steven Joyce has confirmed he will contest the National Party leadership.
He becomes the fifth candidate to replace Bill English.
Mr Joyce said “lots of colleagues and regular New Zealanders” told him to put his name forward.
“My view is it has always been about the National Party, it’s not about me personally.”
He said he was not troubled by National’s three-point dip in last night’s 1 News-Colmar Brunton poll.
Instead he took it as a reminder to people that being the largest party was not a given and good polling was not a given.
Mr Joyce trusted he would have support in caucus and said he did not have a deputy in mind.
“There are some people that are going to absolutely support you and some people that will probably support you, it all depends on how it goes out.”
He believed the race was more important than any individual.
Mr Joyce, 54, called the generational change argument “entertaining” and noted that there was only 15 years between the five candidates for leader.
He said he got on well with rival candidates Simon Bridges, Judith Collins, Amy Adams and Mark Mitchell, and said that they would all bring different strengths to the role.
He said one of the challenges of leadership was to bring the National team and their strengths together.
Mr Joyce has a reputation as a “fix-it man” for the party, having led Nationals’ election campaigns for the past five terms.
He has held numerous, varying portfolios as a cabinet minister since entering parliament in 2008 and before politics was one of the founders of the Radioworks media network.
Mr Joyce has waited more than a week to put his name forward and is the last of the likely candidates to do so.
National’s caucus will meet today for the first time since Bill English announced his resignation as leader.
There will be a secret ballot, with low-polling contenders dropping out until one has a clear majority.
Five MPs are now vying for their support after Mark Mitchell’s entry yesterday.
Mr Mitchell, an MP since 2011, entered the contest yesterday, which National’s 56 MPs will vote on next Tuesday.
He has ground to make up as his rivals have spent the past week rustling up support. He said he expected the contest to be close but believed he had enough support to give him a chance and he was in it to win, not just to raise his own profile.
Mr Mitchell has a background as a police dog handler and armed offenders squad member before living in the Middle East for eight years as a security contractor. That role included hostage negotiations and accompanying scientists from the Hague gathering evidence for the war crimes trial of Saddam Hussein.
He did not believe there was a skeleton in his closet,.
He has cordial relations with New Zealand First leader Winston Peters, which he said was courtesy of the parliamentary rugby team.
However, Mitchell took a swipe at NZ First, saying the current Government was developing into one in which “you’ve got 7% that is starting to control 34% (sic).”
“Winston’s on notice that if I am successful in the leadership, then he’s in Government. I’m in Opposition. We’re going to hold them to account.” NZME-NZN