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English: Ardern 'difficult to beat'

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 19/12/2016
Jacinda Ardern © Getty Images Jacinda Ardern

Prime Minister Bill English has conceded Labour's Jacinda Ardern would be "difficult to beat" in next year's Mt Albert by-election but says his party will contest the seat at the general election.

Mr English called a by-election on February 25 to replace Labour MP David Shearer who leaves Parliament on December 31 to lead the United Nations' peace keeping mission in South Sudan.

List MP Jacinda Ardern has already indicated her desire to be selected as Labour's candidate in the seat once held by former prime minister Helen Clark.

"Jacinda Ardern's beatable. She's been beaten a couple of times in Auckland Central by Nikki (Kaye) but in this case it would be pretty difficult to beat her in the Mt Albert election," Mr English said, defending National's decision not to front a candidate.

He has denied accusations he is running scared after National list MP Parmjeet Parmar lost the Mt Roskill by-election to new Labour MP Michael Wood.

"This is different. Into an election year it's coming right in the middle of summer, we'd just rather focus on getting up and going for a pretty big agenda for election year," he said.

"(Voters will) have a choice at the general election, that's for sure. We'll certainly be running a candidate in the general election."

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