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PM in the conference hot seat

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 24/06/2017 Peter Wilson, Political Writer

Bill English is about to make his most important speech since becoming prime minister.

He has to convince the National Party he's got what it takes to win a fourth term.

More than 600 delegates at the party's annual conference in Wellington will be listening to him, and he'll be out to fire them up for the campaign.

On Saturday party leaders, including Mr English, gave them a strong message that they were going to have a real fight on their hands.

They wanted to get it across that although National is polling well and the budget was popular, winning a fourth term will be a huge task.

"I have absolutely no doubt that this is going to be the toughest campaign National has ever fought," party president Peter Goodfellow told the conference.

"The stakes are so much higher, the opposition is hugely energised, albeit chaotic, and more desperate than they've ever been."

Mr English warned the election would be close and hard-fought.

"We will be tested on our policies and on our behaviour - and if we pass those tests we deserve to win," he said.

"There are no grounds for complacency, or a shred of arrogance."

No one on the stage mentioned the Todd Barclay scandal that Mr English had to face last week.

But Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett told reporters it wasn't going to have an impact on the election.

"As a party we are 81 years old," she said.

We've taken some bumps along the way, we've been knocked down and we've always got back up.

"Events of this last week weren't a fatal blow, in fact it was barely a tap."

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