A week after a poor showing in National’s leadership contest, Steven Joyce has announced he will retire from politics, marking the end of the Key-English-Joyce triumvirate that kept National in Government for nine years. Bernard Hickey and Thomas Coughlan report.
Former Finance Minister and National Party campaign manager Steven Joyce has announced his retirement from Parliament after an unsuccessful bid for the National Party leadership, which he lost to Simon Bridges last week.
Before entering politics, Joyce worked in broadcasting, founding RadioWorks (which later became MediaWorks). He then worked as campaign manager for the National Party’s 2005 election campaign. That campaign was ultimately unsuccessful, but saw National increase its share of the vote from 20.93 percent to 39.10 percent, taking it to within a hair’s breadth of Labour.
Joyce continued to manage National’s campaigns, even after entering Parliament in 2008. He was immediately promoted to Cabinet, serving as Minister of Transport. Over the course of the Fifth National Government, Joyce held several portfolios, including Minister for Communications and Information Technology, Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment, Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment, Minister for Economic Development and Minister for Infrastructure.
When Bill English replaced John Key as Prime Minister in 2016, Joyce was elevated to the finance portfolio, which he held until the current Labour-led Government was formed. During the 2016 election he was widely criticised for his accusations that Labour had an $11.7 billion “fiscal hole” in its spending plan.
In opposition, Joyce has so far remained National’s finance spokesperson, but there has been growing speculation that he would lose the portfolio in Bridges’ first reshuffle as leader.
With “generational change” a theme of Bridges’ leadership campaign, Joyce was widely perceived as being too closely associated with the old guard surrounding Key and English. Amy Adams and Judith Collins have been talked up as potential replacements for the finance role.
“With the recent change of National Party leadership I have had the opportunity to consider again what I would like to do over the next several years,” Joyce said in a statement. “Simon has made a very positive proposal to me to stay and contribute as a senior member of the team on the front bench with a choice of portfolio.”
“However, I feel that it is time for him to get a new team around him to take National forward and win in 2020 and then govern again for the benefit of all New Zealanders.”
Speaking to journalists later in a news conference in Parliament, Joyce confirmed he would have been expected to relinquish the finance role.
“Simon very generously offered me a front bench position and a choice of portfolios. He didn’t offer finance.
“I’m not even sure that if I was offered finance I would have stayed the full two and a half years [until the next election],” Joyce said.
Of his future plans, he said he would “follow some commercial opportunities and return to the commercial world”, although he ruled out a return to radio.
The new National leader has paid tribute to Joyce.
“He was someone both John Key and Bill English turned to for advice and to get things done. That meant he was given some tough tasks but he consistently rose to those challenges. And I will also continue to use him as a sounding board as the National Party looks to 2020,” Bridges said.
Joyce had also made headlines in recent days over a formal complaint made to the National Business Review over a column written by Matthew Hooten, a popular right-wing consultant and commentator.
Joyce alleged it contained factual inaccuracies.