Hive News Alert: English to decide on bid for PM in next 24 hours; expects caucus cohesion and quick decision

Finance Minister Bill English addresses press gallery reporters after John Key's shock resignation. Copyright Bernard Hickey / Hive news

Good afternoon on the most surprising day Hive News has covered in politics.

John Key announced just before 1 pm today he would stand down as Prime Minister and said he would vote for Bill English as National Party leader if he stood at a Caucus meeting next Monday.

However, English has not put up his hand immediately for the top job. He told a news conference in Parliament around 3pm he would make up his mind in the next 24 hours about whether to go for the top job. He would not rule it out, but said he wanted to consult the National caucus and his family first.

"The caucus has only known about this for two or three hours and I think we just want to give ourselves a bit of space," English said.

"I personally would like to be able to talk to members of caucus, talk to my famiIy in considering it. I certainly appreciate John's endorsement," he said.

He indicated he did not expect a long, drawn out or divisive leadership context, suggesting he expected Caucus to quickly coalesce around a preferred candidate. He repeated several times the need and likelihood of cohesion in the decision.

"People shouldn't expect to see the kind of public brawling seen in leadership changes seen in the Opposition," he said.

English said he did not expect an early election to be called as next year's election was not that far away, and that the December 12 deadline set for Key gave the Caucus time to make up its mind.

"His timetable gives the caucus the opportunity to work out the implications and to have their own internal discussions about how they want to deal with a leadership change, and it provides the opportunity to maintain the kind of unity, cohesion and consideration that have been a feature of the John Key-led National party," English said.

"It's a tribute to him that in announcing his resignation he leaves behind a cohesive team with plenty of talent and energy to take New Zealand forward," he said.

Potential candidates include Steven Joyce, Judith Collins and Paula Bennett. Collins told Duncan Garner this afternoon she had not ruled out making a bid.

We'll have more on the biggest surprise in more than a decade of New Zealand politics in tomorrow morning's email.