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Prime Minister Bill English and wife Mary open up about love and leadership

The couple discuss the shock of John Key's resignation and their new roles.
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When Dr Mary English was first told the Prime Minister, John Key, was resigning last December, she thought her husband was joking.

Bill, the then Deputy Prime Minister, and John were well known for playing practical jokes on one another, and Mary, a GP, assumed this was simply the latest in a long line of gags.

How wrong she was.

Speaking exclusively in the latest issue of New Zealand Woman’s Weekly, our new Prime Minister and his wife candidly discuss their shock, and in Mary’s case, slight horror, at the biggest political surprise of last year, which saw Bill (55) catapulted into the nation’s top job.

“I realised he was serious, and I thought, ‘Okay, this is happening’,” Mary (54) tells the Weekly, just weeks after her husband was sworn in as New Zealand’s 39th Prime Minister.

While she was – at first – less-than-thrilled by the idea of Bill taking over the leadership of the National Party, eventually, her head won over her heart, and with the backing of their six children, Bill embarked on achieving his lifelong dream – becoming the PM.

“We’ve been in public life for a long time – we’ve had the best and worst of it. I appreciate for Mary that it was a real choice,” Bill says.

In their most intimate interview ever, the couple sit down for an extensive chat and exclusive photoshoot with the Weekly at Wellington’s Premier House.

Bill and Mary candidly share their remarkable love story, including the less-than-romantic way the quiet lad from a farm in Southland met the beautiful, vivacious doctor-in-training, and the initial challenges of their burgeoning relationship – including how it took Bill almost three years to win the woman of his dreams.

“I was socially unaccomplished,” admits the Prime Minister, laughing.

“To say the least!” his wife laughs.

The pair go on to discuss their home life, the secrets to their 30-year marriage, their six children (including a remarkable tale that saw them both hospitalised the day their first child was born) – as well as addressing that “boring” label Bill has often been branded with.

For the full interview, see the latest issue of New Zealand Woman’s Weekly.

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