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Bunfight for deputy Nat leader begins

Published: 8:58AM Thursday February 01, 2001

National's Finance spokesman, Bill English, is likely to become the deputy leader of the National Party following the decision by Wyatt Creech to step aside.

Creech announced on Wednesday he was resigning from the deputy leadership - the same day party leader Jenny Shipley announced a reshuffle of her front bench.

Creech says English is his logical successor. English also has the support of National's shadow leader of the House, Roger Sowry, who quickly ruled himself out of contention on Wednesday.

The issue will be decided at National's three-day caucus in Napier which starts next Wednesday.

National's junior whip, Gerry Brownlee, is predicting a close contest between himself and English for the party's deputy leadership. Brownlee, who was promoted to the front bench in the reshuffle, has so far been the only MP to challenge Mr English for the deputy leadership, while veteran MP Lockwood Smith has not ruled out entering the contest.

Brownlee says support among National's caucus is evenly divided. He says his demonstrable loyalty to Shipley and his ability to work closely with other National MPs has won him a strong backing.

He also believes his position as an MP for the urban electorate of Ilam in Christchurch means he is better placed to complement Jenny Shipley's rural background.

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