David Clark to stay on as Minister of Health but dropped down party list

Minister of Health David Clark was grilled in a The Nation interview in the weekend. Yesterday Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said that Clark will keep his job as minister – it would be ridiculous at this stage to install a new minister with about a month to go until the election campaign – but the Labour party list was announced, with Clark dropping from 9 to 17.

Newshub: David Clark ‘very keen’ to stay as Health Minister – but voters want him gone

David Clark is “very keen” to stay on as Health Minister should Labour win the upcoming election, despite voters wanting him gone.

In the latest Newshub-Reid Research poll, voters were asked whether Dr Clark should remain Health Minister. More than half – 56.8 percent – said no, with only 35.7 percent saying yes.

Even Labour voters were split – 47.5 percent saying no, 43 percent yes.

That’s a bit of a vote of no confidence from the public.

Dr Clark told Newshub Nation on Saturday the poll was taken “a month ago” and he’s been “working hard to regain the trust of New Zealanders” since his mistakes.

“I will be working very hard in my portfolio because I believe that it’s possible to make a difference in our health system.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in early April she would have sacked Dr Clark if the country wasn’t in the grip of a pandemic.

“Ultimately this decision rests with the Prime Minister,” he told host Tova O’Brien.

Yesterday ODT/Newstalk ZB/NZH: David Clark to stay as Health Minister – Ardern

Ardern also confirmed David Clark would stay in his role as Health Minister, despite saying earlier he would have been sacked for lockdown breaches if the country was not in the middle of dealing with a pandemic.

“I deem it necessary for him to be the Minister of Health,” Ardern said today.

“I stand by the decision I made at that time.

“We have had a very successful response and David Clark has been part of leading that.”

The country was also about to unveil health reforms that he needed to lead.

“If you are asking me if, because we are out of lockdown, I am revising that decision [not to sack him], I am not.”

Later yesterday:  David Clark demoted in Labour list

Dunedin MP David Clark has been demoted down the Labour list, while a University of Otago academic and go to voice as Covid-19 reached its peak is the party’s rising star.

Otago University infectious disease specialist Dr Ayesha Verrall has been giving a prominent spot on Labour’s list.

Verrall has been placed at number 18, which means she is all but certain to be an MP after September’s election.

She is one below Health Minister David Clark in the list, who dropped from ninth ahead of the 2017 election to 17th in the list released today.

I’m not sure if placing Verrall next to Clark on the list is coincidental or some sort of deliberate signal. Even if elected via the list as expected and Labour stay in power it would be very unusual to put a new MP straight into one of the most difficult portfolios.

Labour already have a doctor MP – Dr Liz Craig:

Before entering Parliament Liz was public health doctor, working for over a decade to monitor the health of New Zealand’s children and young people. In that time, she saw how years of chronic under-investment had played out in the lives of many. One in five children were living in poverty, with thousands being hospitalized each year for poverty-related diseases.

Liz is currently a member of the Health Select Committee and the Regulations Review Committee.

But Craig has been placed at just 43 on the new party list. That seems a bit bizarrre.

There’s not much time before the election to reform the health system. That’s something that presumably would take some time – it has taken Clark and the Government nearly three years to not yet announce final plans for rebuilding the Dunedin hospital, despite promising to start the rebuild this term. And they have been slow to address mental health reform despite claiming it needed urgent attention when in Opposition in 2017.

Stuff: Is David Clark up to reforming the health system?

On Monday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the health sector was about to go through a period of “much-needed” reform and indicated Health Minister David Clark would be leading the charge.

But is he really the right person to lead such an overhaul?

The Heather Simpson review is reported to include recommendations that will see the number of DHBs slashed and much tighter centralised control.

It is going to require public support, and Clark doesn’t exactly inspire public confidence at the moment.

Clark refused to receive the report when it was completed near the end of March, so the Government was not obliged to consider it. He said he did not want resources diverted from the Covid-19 response. But he created quite a diversion himself when he broke the lockdown rules by driving his family to the beach.

(Ardern) gave him some credit for this, saying he had made “a lot of very good decisions” and was the right person to take the lead role in taking on the review’s recommendations.

But as most people will be aware, the person leading the charge against Covid-19 was not Clark. Health Director-General Dr Ashley Bloomfield was the public face of the response and the one actually in Wellington for lockdown.

He stood up day after day and fielded difficult questions from the media. Where was Clark? Where was the minister in charge?

Giving Clark the benefit of the doubt, perhaps he was making these “very good decisions” in a back room somewhere.

But Clark’s weakness was not just over lockdown. He often manages to mar what should be strong stories for the Government.

On Sunday the Government announced $92.6m of funding into testing labs, pharmacies, midwives, hospices and call centres to further strengthen their readiness for any future outbreak.

Clark, who was late arriving, took a tour of the SCL Covid-testing lab at Wellington Hospital for the announcement.

He did ask some (simple) questions but looked disinterested.

It is understood he initially planned to remain in Dunedin and send out a press release instead. Some members of the media were even told he would do embargoed interviews on the Friday ahead of the PR.

But then came the nod from the powers above that he had to make a show in Wellington.

When it finally came to his moment in the limelight, he read from a script and did a very bad job of going off-script to answer questions. Incompetence was shining through.

He was unable to answer questions in much detail, and he should have been across the issues.

When Stuff asked if the funding was a little too late for some, all he could muster was that funds had already been available for people in difficult situations. No sorry, no explanation.

To top it all off he managed to misquote the budget allocation the funds were coming from. Confidently declaring it had come from their $20 billion unallocated in the budget – only to be quietly corrected afterwards by his staffer, who told media the Finance Minister wanted to make it clear this was not the case.

Clark did not carry himself like a minister on Sunday. He came across as a first-term MP out of his depth.

Clark has always looked out of his depth as a minister of health. Labour my not have had much depth of talent, but Clark seems to have got where he is more through friendships with Ardern and Grant Robertson rather than his abilities and competency.

The only thing he seemed to be interested in was the Highlanders’ win, the first thing he referred to at the start of what should’ve been an important Government message, and turned into a waffling mess.

After this poor performance, can the public have confidence in him to undertake such an enormous task as reforming the health system?

Robertson as the Ministry of Sport for himself.

Clark will make the announcement on the health reforms, but will he remain in the job after the election to actually carry out the reforms?He is standing again, but may even struggle to hold the Dunedin (North) electorate. National’s Michael Woodhouse seems much more competent on health matters for a start.

Leave a comment

9 Comments

  1. Gezza

     /  16th June 2020

    He’s a dead loss, by the look of it.

    Can someone explain how the hell Twyford got promoted up the list?

    Reply
    • Corky

       /  16th June 2020

      Talkback reckons Twyford and Clark had the hurt applied to Labour on their behalf by the unions??

      Wiki:
      Early years:

      ”Twyford was born in 1963. His middle name, Stoner, is the maiden name of his mother.Before politics he worked as the founding director of Oxfam New Zealand, as a journalist and a trade union organiser.”

      Reply
      • Talkback reckons what ? That’s nonsense. Not that one expects much else from talkback.

        Reply
        • Corky

           /  16th June 2020

          Well, to be fair, talkback is for people who think for themselves. So, your comment is to be expected. Like Duperez, I think being spoon fed by National Socialist Radio, would be a better fit for you.

          Reply
          • Gezza

             /  16th June 2020

            Well, to be accurate, in my experience talkback is for people who like to whinge about the government, or about any other pet hobby horse they have. A lot of them seem barely capable of thinking & seeing anything beyond their own narrow views.

            Reply
  2. John J Harrison

     /  16th June 2020

    What else would you expect from Jacinda and her hapless team ?
    Correct me if I am wrong but none have ever owned and run a successful business.
    Their worldly experience is limited to being a union official or university employee.
    Now that we are heading to a national depression due to Jacinda going late and too hard ( MOH recommendation was for four weeks at level 2 – as with Queensland two weeks before her belated announcement) we appear to be saddled with Clark to lead us onward.
    Her front bench are nothing more than a blight on our once prosperous and united country.

    Reply
    • Well, John, Jacinda once worked in a chippy, which is said to make her know all about business according to a Jacindamaniac !

      Had she listened to MOH and followed boring old science and evidence rather than instinct, we wouldn’t be in this mess. But it wouldn’t have been a big publicity earner for the PM, I suppose.

      Reply
    • Duker

       /  16th June 2020

      “Correct me if I am wrong but none have ever owned and run a successful business.”
      Nationals line up
      Muller ..No Corporate , started in family firm
      Kaye …No Political cadre
      Amy Adams…. surburban solicitor , so a law practice
      Judith Collins …law practice , but has assisted her husbands business interests!
      Goldsmith ..No author , political advisor
      Brownlee..No Teacher
      Woodhouse… Corporate and public servant
      Louise Upston.. secretarial services
      Mitchell ..policeman, mercenary, management
      Simpson…no ????
      Todd McClay … No political advisor
      Bishop ..No ..Cadre , political advisor

      What would you think is the common denominator there ?
      The real reason is that Government is ‘run’ by public servants , completly different to commercial world,and the politicians only work on policy

      Reply

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