What changed to prompt David Clark’s resignation now?

David Clark offered his resignation as Minister of Health in April, but Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern because of the Covid-19 pandemic it was necessary to retain him in the role.Clark said yesterday:

You will recall that I offered my resignation during the Level Four lockdown in response to mistakes I made in a personal capacity.

The Prime Minister made it clear at the time – that under normal circumstances – she would have accepted that resignation, but she did not want significant disruption to the health system in the middle of the emergency response.

As recently as last Friday she said Clark would stay on as Minister until the election. Clark had also said he would stay on.

But yesterday Clark resigned. What changed to prompt this?

There have been conflicting claims by Clark and Ardern.

Newshub: PM Jacinda Ardern was pushing David Clark out as Health Minister while publicly saying he’d stay until election

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was pushing David Clark out as Health Minister while publicly saying he would stay on until the September election. 

Dr Clark resigned as Health Minister on Thursday saying he had “made the call that it is best for me to stand aside” because he had become a “distraction”.

“He reached the conclusion his ongoing presence in the health role was causing too much distraction to the Government’s response to COVID-1 – an assessment I agree with,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.

My guess is that internal polls indicated that Clark staying on was detrimental to Labour’s re-election chances.

The distractions have been abundant. The lockdown breaches: moving house, the drive to the beach with his family, and that mountain bike ride – prompting Dr Clark’s first resignation offer in April.

“It was bloody obvious to me at that point I felt like a complete dick,” he told The AM Show at the time.

The Prime Minister responded with a threat to Dr Clark’s job.

“Under normal circumstances I would sack the minister,” she said at the time.

With those eight words, the Prime Minister delivered Dr Clark a fate worse than sacking – stripping him of the authority to do his job.

Clark already didn’t seem to be acting authoritatively, and this emphasised that.

After that Clark seemed determined to stay on in the job.

“I am certainly very keen to get on with this,” he told Newshub Nation in June.

The Prime Minister doubled down in Queenstown last Friday when asked if Dr Clark would hold onto his job until the election at least.

“Of course, that is what I’ve continued to say.”

But we now know that around that same time late last week the Prime Minister was edging Dr Clark out.

That would mean that Ardern was deliberately misleading the public.

Newshub asked the Prime Minister if she in any way insinuated or suggested to Dr Clark that she wanted him to offer his resignation.

“No, it was a very open conversation,” she said.

And in that “very open conversation” the Prime Minister gave him the kiss of death – making it clear he was becoming a distraction so close to an election.

Ardern was asked if she had raised with Dr Clark that he was becoming a distraction.

“We had a general discussion around what was needed to put the country first and our COVID response first,” she said.

As for why she didn’t just sack Dr Clark, Ardern said: “My focus has been COVID all the way through – our response to COVID. Those early days, continuity was the most important thing.”

In yesterday’s prepared speech announcing “This morning I have formally tendered my resignation as Minister of Health” Clark defended his performance, praised his performance and electioneered.

The Prime Minister made it clear at the time – that under normal circumstances – she would have accepted that resignation, but she did not want significant disruption to the health system in the middle of the emergency response.

We still have a health emergency, and him resigning is still a significant disruption.

But it has not always been plain sailing and I wish to put on record again that I take full responsibility for the decisions made and taken during my time as Minister of Health.

It’s on the record that he didn’t take full responsibility, and again here he carefully avoids taking direct responsibility – “the decisions made and taken during my time as Minister of Health” implies decisions made by others, there is no personal ownership of his decisions and actions – and just as critical, his lack of decision making and oversight of his ministry.

I’ve always taken the view that the interests of the team must come first, and New Zealand’s COVID response is simply too important, so I have made the call that it is best for me to stand aside.

Now is the right time to hand over the reins, and move forward with new leadership.

The time is now right to hand over to another Minister …

So an already very busy minister and Leader of the House, Chris Hipkins, has taken over as Minister of Health, one of the biggest jobs in Government at any time and especially during a pandemic.

Loading Hipkins with even more responsibilities has been deemed preferable to leaving Clark in the role.

Was Clark that inadequate? Perhaps he was.

But it seems that in saying “the interests of the team must come first” Clark may be referring to the Labour team, not the team of 5 million that Ardern keeps referring to.

It probably makes little difference whether Clark jumped or was dumped, but the explanations from him and Ardern have not been convincing.

Ardern’s ability to make tough decisions regarding poorly performing ministers is also not convincing.

 

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39 Comments

  1. Maggy Wassilieff

     /  3rd July 2020

    Any one have any idea why Dr Liz Craig continues to be overlooked for a role as Asst Health Minister or Health Minister?
    She has had 10 years experience working in public Health, and is on the Health Select Committee.

    Reply
    • Jack

       /  3rd July 2020

      She’s vacant. The kind of person who looks deeply into your eyes but gives the impression she won’t actually do anything concrete. She’s a good fit with this government. I discovered for myself she’s a do nothing, a hand wringer. Also, she’s in honeymoon mode with her new husband and juggling combined families.
      It looks like Labour have no person capable of Health portfolio.

      Reply
      • Blazer

         /  3rd July 2020

        ‘It looks like Labour have no person capable of Health portfolio.’

        That would be an unfortunate recurrence of the problem National had for 9 years.

        Health needs someone capable, and funnily enough health officials themselves were quite impressed by Clark.

        The msm hung him like they hung ..Bridges.

        Reply
        • Ardern did the hanging of his Ministerial duties.

          Reply
          • Jack

             /  3rd July 2020

            …which occurs with David because he (a minister) doesn’t know what god he serves, whereas Ardern does.

            Reply
        • Ray

           /  3rd July 2020

          Any real evidence of “health officials themselves were QUITE impressed by Clarke”?
          And tweets from from Russell Brown don’t count.

          Reply
          • duperez

             /  3rd July 2020

            One perceptive of the perspectives:

            She shot have shot him, she should have shot him, she should have shot him, she shoots him.

            And then the she should have shot him, should have shot him, should have shot him, should have shot him, shoot him brigade, “Why did you shoot him?”

            Reply
          • duperez

             /  3rd July 2020

            Any real evidence of “health officials themselves were QUITE impressed by Clarke”? Maybe that came from Michael Woodhouse, he seems to ‘know things.’

            Maybe it’s a conclusion from the on-going, endless controversies evident and the headlines from within the ministry since he took office. You know in the instantaneous, full splurge, all controversies are capital world we live in. All the stuff, the Everests our Hoskings, O’Briens and Gowers would have wanted to turn into the teeniest moundlets.

            The breakdown in the health system, the continual fighting Clark was having with health officials, all the dysfunction we read about and heard about over a couple of years meant that there was one inevitable conclusion to him getting his bike, that he was indeed on his bike. That was the picture wasn’t it?

            Now, that out of the way, back to the beginning with Michael Woodhouse and his approach. “Health officials themselves were QUITE impressed by Clarke”? Prove they weren’t.

            Reply
      • Blazer, a person is hanged, not hung.

        ‘A picture is hung, a man is hanged.’

        Reply
        • Blazer

           /  4th July 2020

          what is ‘hung,drawn and quartered’?

          And is a man ‘well hanged’?-hopeless!

          Reply
    • Ray

       /  3rd July 2020

      She was involved in the Young Labour sex thing, though she may have missed it as she went “to bed” early.
      No one wants that being rehashed this close to an election.

      Reply
    • Duker

       /  3rd July 2020

      Liz CRaig has only been an MP since 2017…far too short for someone to jump to Ministerial job unless its a very minor role. Plus it would put the noses out of joint of Mps elected at same time.
      Same goes in National , Tim Macindoe has had senior roles in schools before becoming an MP yet Nikki Kaye became Education Minister , no experience in education as shes a political party cadre. Doesnt have children either which is the normal explanation for the Nats to give when someones prior experience is non existant

      Reply
      • Social media often talks of the lack of ‘real world’ experience when it comes to Labour’s MPs, but National has been heading that too

        Reply
      • The woman whom the PM seems to want as Health Minister isn’t even an MP, let alone a Minister.

        Reply
  2. John J Harrison

     /  3rd July 2020

    Yet another clear example as to how weak Jacinda is.
    Couldn’t put the knife in herself but left it to others.
    Worse, she confirms the total lack of talent in her top 20 leaving an already heavily burdened Education minister ( among other things ) to take additional responsibility for the most important ministry at the moment.
    Her pool of “ talent “ is as shallow as a car park puddle in mid summer.

    Reply
    • Duker

       /  3rd July 2020

      Did Key sack Transport minister Brownlee after he chose to ignore airport security…no
      Did Key sack Worksafe Minister Kate Wikinson when the Pike River mine exploded and it had minimal oversight . NO
      She did resign the same day the Royal Commission report was presented, 2 years later- so as not to be a distraction

      Reply
    • John, that’s called delegating.

      The bizarre thing about the bike ride was that the ‘rules’ clearly stated that this was all right as it was local and for exercise. But when someone actually did it, it suddenly was against the rules.

      I travelled that distance to go to the chemist (or near enough) in L4.

      Reply
      • Duker

         /  3rd July 2020

        Driving your car to take the bike for exercise was a non no. Local bike exercise means only in your local area for the whole exercise. One of those fitness apps show some bike riders in Auckland were doing 30km trips around half of Auckland.
        Clarks problem was the rules dont apply to me syndrome, happened many many times for Mps
        Look at Nick Smith just the other day, repeat offender of “im special ‘ if there ever was one.
        2 High High court judges finding him in contempt of court years ago didnt stop him since.
        His most ludicrous one , apart from saying Parliament is a nazi institution,[ kindergarten would have been more apt] was once his claim that parliament was the highest court in land and as an MP didnt have to bother with mere judges and their courts.

        Reply
  3. duperez

     /  3rd July 2020

    You get shallow. Like in some analysis when intricate multi-faceted political situations get played out. The black-white instant pudding solutions come from those who’d have done this or that and regardless which it would have been so, so much better.

    Ardern’s pool of “ talent “ might be as shallow as a car park puddle in mid summer. Do you think it’s in direct contrast to the unfathomable depth of desperation and despair the supporters of her rivals are in when some great orgasmic fervour about a story of some mystery homeless guy is the big hope to get rid of the Minister of Health and show the Prime Minister is not up to it?

    Exactly which end of the talent pool is Woodhouse swimming in?

    Reply
    • Kitty Catkin

       /  3rd July 2020

      Michael Woodhouse exposed the appalling incompetence of the quarantine that let two infected women leave with their only test ‘Are you okay ?’ and which was a total shambles. It’s more good luck than good management that we didn’t have an outbreak which would have been an excuse to put us all under house arrest again.

      Reply
      • Duker

         /  3rd July 2020

        You mean the prefect management which never see things go wrong. But the media stories had been consistent for a while on how slack the arrivals and isolation was, and Bloomfiled was too blame as he consistently didnt believe the media. As well he told cabinet twice all persons insolation were being tested and they werent
        At least our security wasnt having sex with some guests in isolation.

        Reply
        • John J Harrison

           /  3rd July 2020

          Duker, you have no reason for assuming “ our security “ wasn’t having sex with some guests in isolation.

          Reply
          • Duker

             /  3rd July 2020

            There is no evidence , while it seems to be the case and widely reported in melbourne.

            Reply
      • duperez

         /  3rd July 2020

        There was nothing to be concerned about with those women being let out. Woodhouse told us. If it had been serious there would have been instant alarm bells up and down the country roused by Woodhouse. He didn’t he was satisfied there wasn’t a problem and so sat on it for a couple of days.

        Rabbiting on about ‘total shambles,’ depicting the scene as one with the wheels falling off and everyone and everything being totally dysfunctional won’t make delusion reality.

        Reply
  4. I don’t think that Woodhouse is a particularly good swimmer, more like a desperate dog paddler.
    Clark and Adhern have handled an awkward situation as neatly as possible. A messy situation put to rest in time to concentrate on the election.
    And the media? Not really the victory they were bleating for.

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  3rd July 2020

      Woodhouse has badly overplayed his hand – & Muller was a fool to publicly back him – over his fake homeless man in quarantine story. Thorough investigation at the isolation facility has failed to locate or identify any sign of him. He clearly never existed & this fabrication Bloomfield, Labour MPs, & Megan Woods have lost no opportunity to associate Woodhouse with. It’s what I now remember Woodhouse the most for. For that dirty trick, & for his smug, disingenuous criticism of the efforts to trace & test him for.

      Reply
      • He didn’t invent it, he repeated it.

        And had it not been for him, people wouldn’t have known about the inexcusable carelessness of letting two women with covid leave quarantine untested and have contact with unsuspecting friends (they are probably not friends now) along the way.

        He is instrumental in exposing the Keystone Kwarantine set-up and deserves credit for that.

        Reply
        • Gezza

           /  3rd July 2020

          I wouldn’t speculate on whether they’re still friends; they might be horrified at how the two were publicly pilloried for political gain.

          Woodhouse certainly gets credit for exposing the MI&Q shambles in Parliament (although I did read an RNZ opinion piece that week claiming equal credit to journalists, citing several separate items that had been run in print, radio & tv media – in the lead up to Woodhouse’s bombshell public claim about the two women – that revealed that things in managed isolation facilities were a mess & were not being properly managed as described by Ardern & Bloomfield).

          That’s why I say Woodhouse overplayed his hand. That story had evidence. The homeless man story has been found to be unsupported by ANY evidence. At all. And Woodhouse responded by attacking the Minister & the isolation authorities for even investigating it when surely they had more important things to do?

          Disingenuous as you can get. A dirty game.

          Reply
        • Duker

           /  3rd July 2020

          That was from Bishop who knew the family, but didnt add the detail of the diesel car which didnt require refuelling . His other Auckland source is another person who ‘makes things up’ and no ‘repeating it’ isnt an excuse, as rumours need to be verified first.

          Reply
          • “His other Auckland source is another person who ‘makes things up’ ”

            Have you got evidence of this? Or have you made this up?

            I haven’t seen the source revealed, both Woodhouse and Barry Soper have cited protection of their source/s.

            Reply
            • Duker

               /  3rd July 2020

              The homeless man at Crowne Plaza is proved to have been made up. I thought it was obvious that the Auckland source was this ‘teller of urban myths’
              https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/300040740/woodhouse-sticks-by-story-of-homeless-mans-isolation-hotel-caper
              ““What I also know is that source is a very reliable senior health professional.”

              Woodhouse has said this person works in the health sector, I can think of a few names that consistently take the opposite view to the governments on the epidemic actions, feature on Hosking, and just as consistently are wrong. Look in the medical school for these people

            • So you made it up.

              “The homeless man at Crowne Plaza is proved to have been made up”

              That’s wrong as far as I’ve seen.

              While the onus is on Woodhouse to prove his claim (and also Soper), I have seen no proof that the homeless man story was made up. Absence of evidence is not proof of anything.

            • The Ministry of Health said they found no evidence of a homeless man staying at the hotel, although I’m not sure what they expected to find in video surveillance unless they had photos of all legitimate ‘guests’ to check against.

              But I haven’t seen them rule out the homeless man. I haven’t see them make an assurance they can verify all people who stayed in the hotel were legitimate incoming passengers.

              The MOH can’t even find hundreds of people who stayed 14 days and were then released without being tested.

              One man who tested positive went and stayed at the wrong hotel.

              So their systems haven’t been sound.

              There is nowhere near proof that the homeless man story was false.

              I’m not sure why the story keeps being pushed.

    • duperez

       /  3rd July 2020

      Garry George. And that’s what hurts. In football (soccer) terms, the ref has given them a penalty with time almost up, they’re ready to take it, a certain goal coming and suddenly the ball is whooshed away. Gutted.

      Reply
  5. John w

     /  4th July 2020

    Doing a press conference is a basic politican job. Stand up. Read something. Take questions.

    Its telling to me Jacinda wouldn’t let David Clarke do this for COVID instead picking Ashley.

    It should have been a straightforward job for a middling minister. And excellent PR for the government.

    But they went with a public servant who was unused to doing such.

    Reply
    • duperez

       /  4th July 2020

      I didn’t take the purpose of the conferences as being standard political broadcasts. The public servant was there to do a public service by talking about technical stuff in his domain. Which is part of his job. He might not be used to it being daily and so widely followed and being in that environment but it was work as normal.

      They provide ministers with speeches or notes for speeches. Should he have just told /written down the daily blurb for Clark? How about answers to the variety of questions?

      The pattern here was similar to other places around the world. Someone from government with general things and specialists with technical stuff.

      There were significant differences in the US way of doing things.

      Reply
  6. PartisanZ

     /  5th July 2020

    Here’s a conspiracy theory version of “why?”

    Clark was a *Broad-Church* ‘plant’ inside Labour – by dint of being a Presbyterian Minister – graduate of Turingen University* – who did the right thing and took himself out of play when it became apparent Labour are genuine ‘GOODspreaders’ ,,, (see ‘good’ as defined by Simon Anholt in YouTube clip below)

    The Dark Forces of The Right Brigade probably “have something on him”? His loyalties were divided anyway, and he chose the path of Natural Ethics over Church Doctrines inimical to life. For some reason it had to be a ‘sneaky’ path. He looked stupid and risked a lot doing it. He may have even done this subconsciously? Naturally …

    He’s a kind of unknown anti-hero Hero.

    The entire National Party needs to do a similar thing. Surrender the field now. Concede the election. Disband. Go home.

    “Someday you’ll return to … your valleys and your farms … and no longer burn to be Brothers-in-Arms” – Mark Knopfler & Dire Straits

    Ψ PartisaNZ Ψ

    * University of Turingen … look it up.

    Reply

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