Kate Hawkesby: Pure and simple - David Clark's demotion is an election ploy

Author
Newstalk ZB,
Publish Date
Fri, 3 Jul 2020, 10:57AM
Photo / NZ Herald

Kate Hawkesby: Pure and simple - David Clark's demotion is an election ploy

Author
Newstalk ZB,
Publish Date
Fri, 3 Jul 2020, 10:57AM

COMMENT

No matter which way they try to spin it, only one thing happened yesterday – the electioneering began in proper.

Sacking David Clark, which is what this is - though sugar coated as "he resigned" which no one's buying - was all about doing the popular thing. Which is what this Government is obsessed with: Being popular.

If something gets away on them on social media, then look out. They'll move.

And two things happened recently on social media. One, the backlash against Clark for throwing Saint Ashley under the bus. Nobody puts director general of health Ashley Bloomfield in the corner, New Zealanders have deified him and he's untouchable.

The other thing was anger that Clark kept his job.

And while sacking people is not her bag, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern revealed yesterday she had had "an open discussion" with the Health Minister, which is code for – we very politely suggested he may like to resign, if it wouldn't be too much bother.

Why? Because this Government wants desperately to be back in power in September, and having people angry for not sacking Clark was just not cutting it.

Word is, it wasn't Ardern herself who asked him to go - in fact she was still backing him up until a few days ago and saying he was going nowhere. It was Chris Hipkins and other senior Labour MP's who apparently leaned on him to do the right thing. After all, Ardern is not a sackings person. MPs in hot water usually have to sack themselves, a la Clare Curran. The PM is not that interested in accountability.

Here's the rub though – in getting rid of Clark they've revealed their other Achilles heel – lack of talent.

Who takes over health? Hipkins. Why? Because there are very few ministers in that Cabinet capable of doing anything – far less a big job like health, so the guy holding education now holds health too. Two of the biggest portfolios in government - held by one person.

As National pointed out, during a global pandemic, health really needs to be someone's fulltime job.

But while we're talking portfolios, it would be remiss of me not to mention Todd Muller – who I'm pleased to see took my advice and promoted Simon Bridges to foreign affairs yesterday. Okay, he probably wasn't taking my advice but, still, he did the right thing.

Foreign affairs is what Bridges wanted all along. Wresting that off Gerry Brownlee must have been interesting, but in doing that Muller, despite his obvious personal issues with Bridges, may have been trying to tidy up a messy, fractured caucus.

Let's hope that works.

Sadly his big move didn't quite get the coverage he may have hoped for, given the rug got firmly pulled by Clark's dramatic announcement yesterday.

So what can we glean from all this drama and flurry of action? The gloves are off, the election campaign is on – hold on to your hats from here.