David Clark – resignation or sacking?

David Clark has often been shielded from media and public scrutiny for good reasons. He has been widely regarded as out of his depth as Minister of Health, hapless (hopeless may be a bit strong).

But yesterday for some reason he did a number of media interviews – see Claytons responsibility Clark, Bloomfield, bus. Did he decide to repeatedly avoid any responsibility for the problems dealing with Covid, especially isolation and quarantine, and point the blame at his Ministry and the Director General Ashley Bloomfield? At one stage in front of Bloomfield?

Or was he let loose by his minders knowing he was likely to politically self destruct?

Notably fellow MP and Minister Willie Jackson joined in the dumping on Clark, as did Labour Party stalwart Greg Presland.

Perhaps Clark will be dragged back under cover, hoping the train wreck won’t be noticed amongst the rest of the bad news for the Government – it was confirmed yesterday that Light Rail was now officially off the tracks at least until the election, and Greens and NZ First traded blows.

Has the Government has been containing the shambles long enough for Colmar Brunton to finish their latest round of polling? That ended yesterday, results are expected tonight.

Clark seems intent on keeping his job, despite his reputation tattering even more.

A sacking would be a bit of a distraction from the onslaught of bad news, but is Jacinda Ardern up to dumping a long time colleague and friend of herself and Grant Robertson?

Toby Manhire: David Clark is not responsible

A minister of health with a humility bypass creates a problem for Jacinda Ardern – especially when he’s contrasted with Ashley Bloomfield, writes Toby Manhire.

With the cadence of a fingernail sliding down a blackboard, David Clark spent much of yesterday declining to accept responsibility.

No doubt Clark feels on thin ice after admitting to being “an idiot” and getting bounced down to the bottom rank of Cabinet for breaking the lockdown rules. That must have sucked. But accepting some ministerial responsibility doesn’t mean resigning – it is necessarily something that is proportional to whatever it is for which responsibility is being taken. And the principle of ministerial responsibility does not magically exclude “operational matters”. A 2013 Labour Party press release from then shadow leader of the house and now speaker Trevor Mallard welcomed a speaker’s ruling on parliamentary questions with the headline, “Ministers are responsible for operational matters”.

“Operational matters” aren’t a get-out-of-responsibility-free card. “Operational matters” can be substituted in most sentences for “things that happened”.

Usually invoked in relation to police or justice matters, the concept is useful to determine when a politician should stay the hell out of an “operational matter” to avoid inappropriate influence.

Turns out, in fact, Clark has not once – not once – visited an isolation facility in person. Truly he is unblemished by the operation.

For Clark, the writing looked mostly on the wall the day that prime minister said she’d have fired him if they weren’t in the middle of a crisis. It’s unimaginable that he’d get the health portfolio back were Labour re-elected. The more pressing question for the prime minister is whether he’s a liability on the campaign trail.

Leave a comment


  1. John J Harrison

     /  25th June 2020

    Yesterday’s cringeworthy appearance on TV 3 by David Clark alongside Bloomfield was political theatre plummeting to an all- time low.
    But the hapless Clark will not be removed by his PM simply because she lacks the moral fortitude to act as a leader.
    Utterly disgraceful and reprehensible.

    • Be fair, no party would sack a minister so near an election, the expense of a by-election would be totally unjustified.

      I am trying not to think that the PM is ‘laying low and sayin’ nuffin’* letting others take all the negative publicity so that she doesn’t have to. It may even suit the party to have this happen and not tarnish her image too badly. She has dismissed the responsibilty for the covid fiasco by saying that ‘I’m a leader.’

      If you’ve been wondering, the expression PDT on YNZ means Phantom Down Ticker and is my invention. Fame at last.

      *Harry Graham, Ruthless Rhymes for Heartless Homes

      • John J Harrison

         /  25th June 2020

        Kitty, wrong !
        No by – election is required this close to a general election.
        I should know as 21 years ago I was the Napier City Councilor responsible for having Michael Laws MP resigning from parliament due to financial impropriety within our council.
        Because a by – election would have been required as it was circa 6 months to a general election, Jim Bolger bought the general election forward.

        • And if he’s a List MP, it might be different, of course, I didn’t think of that in time.

          YOU ousted Michael Laws ? Oh, well done. He was the School Prat of Wanganui Boys College by all accounts.

          But two months from an election is probably too close to justify a by-election.

        • Corky

           /  25th June 2020

          Financial impropriety or regulatory impropriety? You lost your defamation case against Laws. The Auditor General found only minor and unintentional breaches of council procedures if I remember correctly.

      • Duker

         /  25th June 2020

        Sacking would only be cabinet, no PM can sack an elected MP from seat. In extreme cases they are excluded from caucus which is a National party trait.
        Jamie Lee Ross, Brian Connell were 2 that come to mind in last 20 years and English almost got Williamson blackballed

  2. lurcher1948

     /  25th June 2020

    I hope Dr Bloomfield,approaches PM Jacinda Ardern today and says he David Clark is the Minister ITS ALL ON HIS BACK and watch the hopeless Clark crumble under pressure.Dr Bloomfield thanks for your efforts and doing your job while what’s his name was out on a bike ride

    • Gezza

       /  25th June 2020

      He can’t do that. The way the system makes him responsible to the Minister but not the other way round, and the SSC code of behaviour also specifically prevents him from criticising the Minister & the government government he works for, all he can do is defend himself to whatever extent is possible.

      Clark & Ardern know that.

    • Lurch, the rules said that people could go locally for exercise and, to be fair, he was within the distance considered to be local. 2km is hardly long distance travel.

      People were able to walk & drive that far, legally, but the rules kept changing all the time so no one knew where they stood.

  3. David

     /  25th June 2020

    I maintain my position from when he breached the lockdown that Ardern should leave him there, give him a prominent position in the campaign.
    Seriously though its pretty disgraceful the way he treated Bloomfield but Bloomfield should have resigned already anyway, 500k a year and he has a medical background his position is totally untenable.

  4. Gezza

     /  25th June 2020

    Reposting from last night.

    Gezza / 25th June 2020
    Curious that Jack Tame & the other media jounos are attacking David Clark for throwing Bloomfield under the bus – taking credit for the operational successes but blaming him for the operational failures – when Ardern clearly set the game plan there.

    She’s done the exact same thing. The Jacinda & Ashley show stopped immediately. Suddenly he was someone she pretended to defend for a few days but didn’t want to be seen with. Kindness got chucked out the window.

    Has Clark ever actually refused to front up with Bloomfield when the going was good, or was he elbowed out of the way by Ardern, lapping up the attention of the eventually boring daily Ashley & Jacinda Shows, hoping to take all the credit for being on top of it all and in charge?

    If Clark’s thrown Bloomfield under a bus, Ardern’s thrown Clark under there with him.

    Unfortunately for Bloomfield, the cock ups have been in his area of operational responsibility so he’s got to answer for them.

    Clark being a waste of space in this whole Covid-19 is a separate tragedy.

    Whoever is in overall charge of making this All Of Government Team work is getting a free ride.

  5. Reply
    • Gezza

       /  25th June 2020

      How can Ardern be expected to sack Clark when she is on record persistently saying that Bloomfield’s clear “expectations” were not being followed at the operational level.

      Clark cannot be held responsible for that. Bloomfield must be held responsible for that.

      It is NOT Clark’s responsibility, by any stretch of the imagination, to ensure that Bloomfield’s operational “expectations” are being met by Bloomfield’s staff.

      If the internal communications with the All Of Government Response Team have failed, whoever is charge of that team is also responsible.

      • David

         /  25th June 2020

        Apparently Clark hasnt ever visited a quarantine facility which shows quite a lack of regard, it shows typical lack of oversight from Ardern who rarely involves herself in how her government performs to not have insisted that her minister makes sure everything is running as promised.
        Remember the lockdown is a 40 billion dollar event and if we let it back in for winter we are in a disastrous position.

        • Gezza

           /  25th June 2020

          Tova O’Brien yesterday incorrectly accused Clark of being AWOL.
          Obviously his leave of absence was approved.

          Clark hasn’t been AWOL, he’s been MIA.

      • Gezza

         /  25th June 2020

        I’ll repeat something I posted yesterday

        “What seems to me to have quite likely happened here is that, after pressure came on from media, opposition, & an increasingly restless public wanting to get let out & back to as normal as possible after weeks of lockdown which had been successful in eliminating community transmission, Ardern made it known that, instead of sticking to 22 June, the original deadline, by which time the quarantine system & communication lines would quite possibly have been in better condition, she wanted to go early to level 1 if possible – rather than risk losing some of the stratospheric popular support shown in the polls.


        That panicked those who should have been responsible for testing the system first into rushing it to meet what they considered were her new “expectations”.

        Result: Train wreck. Reason? Nobody knows. Nobody’s even clear yet who was responsible for what, exactly. This All of Government Response Team is amorphous. What was Mike Bush’s job? What’s Ombler’s? Who’s in charge of internal comms? Why were people on the ground unclear what the exact “expectations” were?

        There’ll be a flurry of butt covering & finger pointing & blame diverting going on in the background to ensure it turns out that nobody was to blame because everybody was.”

  6. Blazer

     /  25th June 2020

    Clark is turning into Labour’s ‘Murray’.i.e a senior minister with N.F.I.

    • Gezza

       /  25th June 2020

      Have you got a link to the petition for Ardern to step down & Robertson to take over?

      Like Lange did for Palmer?

  7. Gezza

     /  25th June 2020

    Looks like still a lot of mileage left in this mess for the Opposition to exploit, as untested quarantine cases like this come to light & the formerly supine & compliant Jacinda & Ashley Show repeaters/reporters pounce on them with glee.


  8. Mike

     /  25th June 2020

    Kia ora,

    Willie Jackson has not “joined in” as you have eluded to in this post. You may well have mistakenly taken this view from retweets coming from a fake account, that clearly states “any resemblance to the real Willie Jackson is purely coincidental”.

    This account has been reported to Twitter. however a little bit of research would have rectified any confusion on your part.

  9. Gezza

     /  25th June 2020

    The female journo jacindamania fan club really can sink low. Deliberately torturing the guy, for entertainment & headlines, feigning concern for how bad he must feel, knowing that The SSC’s Code of Behaviour expressly forbids him from making any comment that could be considered critical of his Minister or the government.


    You don’t see them putting Ardern in the same position. She can wave them away & walk off.

  10. Brian Johnston

     /  26th June 2020

    Pete saying hopeless is to strong and using hapless is weak. Clark is hopeless. He is a self confessed idiot and it does not get any more stupid than that. There is also Twyford and as a recent Judgement says the dishonest Nash and so it goes.
    The other parties have their share of dills.
    National & Labour both treat us with contempt. Look at the gun issue, the privatisations and the foreign ownership. Too much.
    The idiot Genter supports fluoride for God’s sake. Snake Shaw say no more.
    Peters the unelected charlatan and deputy leader. How did that happen?
    Marks buying the wrong planes.
    The problem is the whole Covid thing is a pack of lies. The Sheeple have to wake up.
    NZ had 1500 flu deaths 84/85, nothing. We have blown 50billion 22 deaths.
    On a contagion scale Covid is about .1 alongside flu.
    MP’s do nothing. The Ministry runs the country. The MP is the fall guy when something goes wrong.
    It is not National versus Labour, Right versus Left. National and Labour are both taking us in the same direction. They are both Left. The next problem is, there is no Right Wing in NZ to put some common sense and intelligence into the debate.
    We are ploughing head first into a socialist/communist New World Order. When the Sheeple wake up it will be to late. This is where the Right come into their own. They can see what is coming. This is why Trump stands for the Nation State And proudly so do I.
    If you want to see what is coming Google Barbara Spectre. Horrifying.


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