Not many new Prime Ministers kick off their tenure with a U-turn and by quoting poetry.

Those that do quote poetry tend to sound a bit pretentious.

But at his very first media appearance as Prime Minister there was stolid, dour, farmer Bill English quoting poetry to the waiting media pack.

The line he had chose was from Selina Tusitala Marsh's ' Lead. He had heard this line while at a women's leadership event.


"Lead, and dig up the diamonds around you," he said.

It took the media pack quite some time to recover.

Eventually one dared to ask what he meant. Who were these diamonds?

There ensued a few minutes of literary interpretation at the end of which it remained unclear whether the diamonds were people determined to get back on their feet or people in the community who helped others. Possibly it was both.

English wound up with the rather prosaic: "I suppose someone else said something that I meant, and that's why I quoted it."

It didn't really matter. A Prime Minister and poetry? What next? A Cabinet reshuffle by haiku? Tax cuts measured out in coffee spoons?

English does have an honours degree in English literature. But Finance Ministers are not allowed such flights of fancy and for eight years English has fostered his reputation of being boring and predictable.

This was English Uncut.


English continued to surprise in what was quite an impressive first press conference.

His first policy announcement was a U-turn on his opposition to gay marriage. For a staunch Catholic it was quite something.

Uncut English even delivered a few jokes off the cuff.

In the week ahead of him lies the real test.

At this time of year, former Prime Minister John Key traditionally went on commercial radio and treated the voters to some aural torture by singing carols.

Asked if he would do the same, English grinned and said he might go on radio, but there would be some changes to the format.


Nonetheless by the end of the conference it was clear there was another rough diamond in the mix - Bill English's personality.