In October 2001, after months of speculation, Jenny Shipley resigned as leader of the National Party after being told she no longer had the support of the party caucus. English was elected as her replacement unopposed (with Roger Sowry as his deputy), and consequently became Leader of the Opposition. However, he did not openly organise against Shipley, and according to The Southland Times "there was almost an element of 'aw, shucks, I'll do it then' about Mr English's ascension".
Aged 39 when he was elected, English became the second-youngest leader in the National Party's history, after Jim McLay (who was 38 when elected in 1984). He also became only the third Southlander to lead a major New Zealand political party, after Joseph Ward and Adam Hamilton.
↑ Grant Fleming, "Nat MP caucus claps in English", The Evening Post, 9 October 2001. Retrieved from Factiva, 13 October 2001.
↑ "Bill English", The Southland Times, 10 October 2001; retrieved from Factiva, 13 December 2016.
↑ Graeme Hunt, "Death in the afternoon – how the might fall", National Business Review, 12 October 2001. Retrieved from Factiva, 13 December 2016.