New Zealand lawmaker Bill English quits after election loss

FILE - In this Sept. 23, 2017 file photo, New Zealand's Prime Minister Bill English talks to hundreds of supporters after election results are announced in Auckland, New Zealand. English announced Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018 he is quitting after losing last year’s election. (AP Photo/Nick Perry, File)

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — New Zealand's opposition leader Bill English said Tuesday he would leave Parliament after losing last year's election.

The former prime minister told reporters he was resigning as leader of the conservative National Party and leaving Parliament later this month.

English, 56, has served as a lawmaker for 27 years. He took the reins as prime minister in December 2016 after his predecessor John Key resigned. A former farmer, English built a reputation as being reliable and empathizing with those who were struggling. He even learned to embrace his image as being a little boring.

At the September election, English sought to extend a nine-year hold on power for his party. On election night, he appeared triumphant after the National Party won the most votes of any single party.

But the celebrations were short-lived. The liberal Labour Party was able to forge an alliance with two smaller parties and form a government under Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

English served eight years as finance minister before taking the top job. National Party President Peter Goodfellow said his prowess had steered the country through the global financial crisis and allowed the government to quickly get its books back into surplus.

Joined Tuesday by his wife and three of his six children, English became tearful when talking about their sacrifices.

"Through all our time together as a family, we have lived with the demands of public service," he said. "Your strength and tolerance has enabled my career. I now look forward to our new life together."

Ardern praised her former rival.

"He has always stood for what he believes in," she said in a statement. "He is a man of clear convictions who has always had a genuine concern for the well-being of New Zealanders, and gave a huge portion of his working life to serving on their behalf."

English's departure could trigger a scramble for the party's leadership. Possible contenders include lawmakers Simon Bridges, Amy Adams, Steven Joyce and Judith Collins.

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