Bill cares and has a vision

By Dr Mary English

The story of the first time Bill and I met has been told a few times. He was a first-year arts and commerce student up from the farm in Dipton to indulge his intellectual curiosity; I was a first-year medical student down from Wellington, determined to be the first member of my family to gain a university qualification.

It was the Orientation Ball at Otago University. Both our dates bailed and we got to talking. I liked him straight away, but it didn't occur to me then that he would one day become the Prime Minister, or even the lucky father of my children.

He was slightly tongue-tied, obviously shy and on crutches because he had fractured his foot.

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My all-important first impressions were that he was a thoughtful, decent and genuine person who was interested in other people and their opinions.

I'll leave it to others to judge the merits of his contribution to New Zealand and the policies he is campaigning on, but there are some things I can say about him on the basis of more than 30 years of close observation.

He is a hard worker. Whether it's shearing sheep, helping with the housework or steering New Zealand through the Global Financial Crisis, Bill believes strongly in doing his best.

He cares about people. If you see him out and about he's always stopping and talking to people. That's not for show or because television cameras are there. It's because he is interested in and enjoys connecting with others.

He also knows that an encounter with the Prime Minister is a big deal for some people and he remembers an encounter with former Deputy Prime Minister Brian Talboys in Southland many years ago that helped set a young boy on his path to the Beehive.

He gives stuff a go. Dancing is a part of my Samoan heritage; it wasn't such a big part of Bill's upbringing. But, although some might say breaking out some moves is not his natural thing, he's (almost) always happy to get up and have a go.

For him, what's important is the experience and participating in it, not what he looks like.

He make sacrifices for things that are important. When I was completing my obstetric training at Wellington Hospital he took 15 months off to stay at home to look after our firstborn infant son.

Jenny Shipley poses with her young turks:Nick Smith, Bill English, Tony Ryall and Roger Sowry.
Jenny Shipley poses with her young turks:Nick Smith, Bill English, Tony Ryall and Roger Sowry.

Today, it's not unusual for fathers to do that. Back in the 1980s it was, but Bill didn't care. He was quite happy to put his own career at Treasury on hold so I could complete my medical qualification.

He loves his children. When he was replaced as National Party leader in 2003 a lot of people said he should walk away from politics, but Bill wanted to set a good example for our kids.

He always told them that if they got knocked down the important thing was to get back up.

He knew a good dad leads by example and that he needed to walk his talk.

He has strong values. People won't always agree with them, but I think most people recognise they are based on honestly held beliefs.

He doesn't blow in the wind. He is a good listener, open to persuasion, but he doesn't change his views just to fit in with the crowd.

He doesn't sweat the small stuff. Detail is important to him but he looks past the surface of things to the things that really make a difference to people's lives.

He cares passionately about New Zealand. He wants every kid to have the opportunities he had and he has a vision for New Zealand.

It is a vision of a country that is confident, adaptable and vibrant - a country in which his kids can build lives for themselves and a country where they will want to raise our grandchildren.

Jacinda Ardern and Clark Gayford. Photo / Supplied
Jacinda Ardern and Clark Gayford. Photo / Supplied

It's time to be brave and it's going to be okay

By Clarke Gayford

The couple talk dishes, fishes and how they’ve changed each other

I want to let you in on a secret. All this time while I've been having a relationship with Jacinda Kate Laurell Ardern, I've actually been secretly and covertly vetting her on your behalf, New Zealand.

Deep undercover, like a foreign military trained spy - only now am I prepared to reveal all. Unlike any OIA from the last nine years, here is my report with nothing redacted. This will include salacious secrets from the bedroom, but you'll have to read through the next bit to get to the good stuff.

Over the past few weeks New Zealanders from all walks of life have been discovering the charm, ambition and substance of someone who, truth be told, I had been secretly hoping to keep all to myself.

I selfishly thought it was just me that felt special in her company, but I see others now beginning to understand the rare gift she has in her abilities to listen, to understand, to problem-solve, and to communicate.

She is no longer having to dull her own light and I've been so incredibly proud to watch her become the person I knew she had bundled up inside her.

Trust me, she's only just warming up.

Jacinda is someone who so constantly thinks of others that she once woke in the middle of the night worried I was out of milk for my morning cup of tea.

So she got up and decided to soak some almonds at 2am, just to make me almond milk at dawn.

It was the best cup of tea I've ever had, and I hate almond milk.

Labour leader Jacinda Ardern as a student at Morrinsville College.
Labour leader Jacinda Ardern as a student at Morrinsville College.

She also does endless things without taking any credit. Like in 2016 when Te Puea Marae opened its doors to the homeless, she quietly arranged for two large freezers to be donated.

It should also be obvious from her choice in partner that she is totally unafraid of tackling challenging projects.

We met when I was in a bit of a low point in my life. Through her relentless support, planning and encouragement I stepped out to create what is now a dream international TV series. She brings the best out of those around her.

She is also the most honest person I have ever met, which is why it really hurts seeing all this white noise nonsense about her "secret tax plans", which simply do not exist.

Can you imagine how incredibly difficult it must be, after nine years in the wilderness of Opposition, to leave options on the table because you're so determined to fix a problem like housing? Options for the opposition then create a false campaign of fear and lies with?

It would have been by far the easier route to obfuscate or even drop it entirely, but she is doing it her way to allow herself the room to make the right informed decision for New Zealand. It's a brave move, and a bloody good indicator of the type of upfront person she is.

Right now we are at a crossroads as a country and have an amazing chance to not only arrest the drift, but to do something really truly special here.

So as much as it might mean spending less time with her over the next good while, New Zealand I am prepared to share her with you because I really do believe we will all benefit from that - and I really do believe she has so much more to offer.

It's time to be brave and it's going to be okay.

Finally, it wouldn't be a true tell-all without some sort of boudoir secret. So here goes.

Jacinda has this thing she does in bed. It happens just as we are moving in close to each other, looking into each other's eyes. At that moment, where I'm about to lose consciousness, she leans in and whispers some worry of the world she has been mulling over in my ear.

This jolts me wide awake, only for her to then instantly nod off.

I've said too much.

•In Spy: Ricardo Simich grills the leaders.