The D-G should be chuffed after being praised by Ardern – now let’s see how hard the Minister is cuffed …

Prime  Minister  Jacinda  Ardern made a  point of  thanking  the Director-general of  Health, Dr  Ashley  Bloomfield, for his service over the Covid-19 lockdown.  She described  working with the health official “as a real honour”.

I consider NZ to be very lucky to have a public servant of Dr Bloomfield’s calibre leading the health response. His background in public health has meant I consider NZ to be among those countries who are a lucky to have the expertise in leading the response: one that considers the health and wellbeing of NZers in every respect.

It’s a tribute most folk  think  well deserved,  coming  as  it  did   on  the   last  day  of  level four  of the  lockdown.   And  Bloomfield has  earned  international  acclaim.

The  Guardian  newspaper, among others,  has  provided  rave  reviews  of  him.  Its  NZ  correspondent reported   he  has become the unlikely hero of NZ’s coronavirus crisis, earning thousands of fans online and being nominated  as   New Zealander  of the  Year.

Yet  the depth  of  the PM’s  tribute may have generated an element of apprehension in one  of  those  who – until  a  few  weeks   ago  – was  thought  to  be  in  Ardern’s inner circle.

The  glowing Bloomfield tribute was  in stark contrast to something we recall  Ardern saying about the  Minister of  Health,  Dr  David  Clark. 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has reiterated that under normal circumstances she would have sacked Health Minister David Clark.

Earlier today Dr Clark offered his resignation to the prime minister after revealing that he took a trip to the beach during the first weekend of the alert level 4 Covid-19 lockdown.

Speaking at the Covid-19 media conference this afternoon, Ardern said what Dr Clark did was wrong and there were no excuses.

“But my priority above all else is our collective fight against Covid-19,” she said.

With   Parliament   due to  resume   next week,  Dr   Clark   is  set  to be a  primary  target  of  the  Opposition  when the   House  reviews  how  the government  has  handled the response  to the crisis.

He  was in  effect   confined to  barracks  after  his  mountain-bike  and  beachcombing  escapades   during  the  lockdown,   demoted  to  number  20  in  Cabinet.

Had  it  not  been  a  distraction  from  what the government  was  seeking to  achieve  in  eliminating the   coronavirus, he  could have been  unceremoniously  booted  out of  Cabinet.

Having  confessed  to  being a   “bit of  an  idiot” , Clark  might   find it  hard to  rehabilitate  his political  career,  let   alone   hold  on to   his  seat  in  Cabinet.

Yet   in  defining    his  future   role  the  Prime Minister  could  land  herself  on the  horns  of  a  dilemma.

Should  she   show  the kindness for which she is renowned and  retain  him  for  the  remainder  of  the term?  Or  dismiss  him?

Firing  Clark would be a tacit  admission that  he  fell  short  of  the  capacity  expected of  a  Cabinet  minister,   and particularly   one   holding a   senior  portfolio – not  something  you want to admit  in the run-up  to  a general  election.  (How  many other  duds are there  in  your team?).

Besides, no other   handy  candidate is  available to step into  such a  key portfolio.

But if  he is  given a  second chance,  he    will  be   liability for   Labour through the  election campaign.

Parliamentary  observers   will  be keen to spot  where  Clark  is re-located  from his  front-bench seat  when the House resumes  sittings.  Who  will want to be  his  desk  companion?

 

 

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