Jenny Shipley

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Jenny Shipley
Image:Jenny_shipley.jpg
Personal Details
Birth: February 4, 1952
in Gore, New Zealand
Marriage: 1972, to Burton Shipley
Children: Two
Religion: Presbyterian
Background: Teacher
Political Details
Electorates: Ashburton, Rakaia
Order: 36th Prime Minister
Political Party: National Party
Premiership
Predecessor: Jim Bolger
Term of Office: 8 December 1997
to 5 December 1999
Duration: 1 year, 11 months, 27 days
Cause of Departure: Lost election
Successor: Helen Clark

Jennifer Mary Shipley (born February 4 1952), Prime Minister of New Zealand from December 1997 to December 1999, served as New Zealand's first woman Prime Minister, and led the centre-right National Party.

Jenny Shipley was born in the southern town of Gore in Southland. In 1971 she gained qualification as a teacher, and taught in New Zealand primary schools until 1976. She also served in a number of educational and child-care organizations, such as the Plunket Society.

Having joined the National Party in 1975, Shipley successfully stood for the Ashburton electorate in 1987. When National under Jim Bolger won the election of 1990, Shipley became Minister of Social Welfare, having been National's spokesperson on that topic while in Opposition. She also served as Minister of Women's Affairs.

In her role as Minister of Social Welfare, Shipley sparked controversy with her cutbacks to state benefits. Later, when she became Minister of Health in 1993, she caused further controversy by attempting to reform the public health service, introducing an internal market. When National gained re-election in 1996, Shipley dropped the Women's Affairs portfolio and gained a number of others, including responsibility for state-owned companies.

Growing increasingly frustrated and disillusioned with the cautious pace of National's leader, Jim Bolger, Shipley began gathering support to replace him. In late 1997, while Bolger attended a conference in Scotland, Shipley convinced a majority of her National Party colleagues to back her bid for the leadership. Bolger, seeing that he no longer had the support of his party, resigned, and Shipley replaced him. As leader of the governing party, she became Prime Minister on 8 December 1997.

Despite continued economic growth, the Shipley government became increasingly unstable. In particular, the relationship between National and its coalition partner, the nationalist/populist New Zealand First party, deteriorated. While Bolger had been able to maintain good relations with New Zealand First (and, in particular, with its leader, Winston Peters), the alliance became strained after Shipley rose to power. The problems culminated with the sacking of Peters from cabinet on 14 August, 1998.

The breakdown of the coalition caused major problems within New Zealand First itself. Peters, backed by around half of the party's MPs, withdrew support for Shipley's government, but other New Zealand First MPs left their party, either becoming independents or trying to form their own parties. Shipley gained sufficient support from these MPs to keep National in power.

In the 1999 elections, however, the Labour Party, led by Helen Clark defeated the National Party. Shipley continued to lead the Party until October 2001, when Bill English took over the leadership and the role of Leader of the Opposition, and Shipley subsequently retired from Parliament.

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