Clark knew he was hurting Labour: Hipkins

Chris Hipkins. Photo: Getty
Chris Hipkins. Photo: Getty
Senior Cabinet Minister Chris Hipkins was one of several people who told David Clark in recent days that his time as Health Minister may be up.

But Hipkins says that Clark made his own decision to resign, which was announced this morning, and Clark has rejected any claim that he was leaned on.

"He spoke to a number people, as you do, and he formed his own decision ... I didn't urge him to do anything," Hipkins told reporters today.

"I had a good, honest conversation with him, but he didn't do this because I told him he should."

Clark also told Hipkins that he was a potential blemish on Labour's chances of re-election in September, Hipkins said.

"That's certainly the view that Dr Clark himself formed."

Hipkins has taken over the Health portfolio, and he revealed that Clark had asked him if he would be interested in it.

"He indicated that was something that he would like ... David's a good friend of mine. He realised his presence in the role was becoming a distraction, or was already a distraction. It's a really rough call to make.

"It would be fair to say there have been a number of distractions."

Clark said he had become too much of a distraction and announced his resignation this morning, having offered it to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern yesterday.

Ardern said they had a "very frank" discussion last week after video footage of Clark and Ashley Bloomfield went viral and sparked public outcry.

The video showed Clark saying that the director general of health was responsible for the bungles at the border, where people had left managed isolation or been granted compassionate leave without first being tested.

David Clark, flanked by Cabinet colleagues Kris Faafoi (L) and Grant Robertson, announced his...
David Clark, flanked by Cabinet colleagues Kris Faafoi (L) and Grant Robertson, announced his resignation as Health Minister this morning. Photo: NZ Herald

Bloomfield had already accepted responsibility and apologised, but he appeared dejected in the background as Clark repeated that it was Bloomfield's fault.

It caused an outrage online, with many calling for Clark's resignation and others fundraising to buy Bloomfield flowers, which were duly bought and delivered.

Ardern would not say if the video had been the straw that broke the camel's back, saying only that they talked about "some issues" that were getting in the way.

"We had a discussion around what we needed to do to keep Covid as a priority. It was his view that he needed to go.

"While Minister Clark made this decision, it is one that I agree with."

Clark said he had wanted to stay in the job until the Covid response was on a more stable footing.

He had previously offered to resign after he admitted to a beach excursion with his family while the country was in level 4 lockdown, but Ardern had rejected it at the time because of the need for continuity in the health response.

"What I wanted to see was that transition through to a stable footing because I believed that was the important thing. That indeed was what the Prime Minister pointed to when she didn't accept my resignation when I first put it," Clark said today.

"We've got to that position now. So the time is right."

Clark is no longer in Cabinet but will stand in the Dunedin North seat in September, and Ardern has not ruled out a ministerial position for him if Labour is re-elected - but not health.

National Party leader Todd Muller has been calling for Clark's head for weeks, and said the move was too little too late.

"The Prime Minister must take responsibility. She faced a huge test of her leadership and she failed. The question has to be asked; why did she repeatedly fail to fire him?"

Ardern has repeatedly backed Clark to keep health until the election.

Yesterday was the first time Clark had offered his resignation since the aftermath of the beach excursion, Ardern said.

"Ultimately it was his call and his judgment. He's put the team first. He's put New Zealand first."

Comments

"He's put the team first. He's put New Zealand first."

He was out biking and walking at the beach when the rest of us were stuck at home. And defended himself.
He was the minister in charge of the quarantine disaster. And defended himself.
He threw his colleague 'under the bus'. And defended himself.

Yep, definitely a man of the people.

This is but a tiny blip in behaviour and spontaneous decision-making when comparing politicians and politics in other countries -- and in other NZ parties, with politicians in other leading parties surviving major fraud scandals. MPs in other democracies surviving astounding dishonesty and divisiveness leading to mass deaths. But the NZ media needed something to bray about in NZ or what would they have to write about and broadcast about?; National worked to get him gone; and people in stressful times need to feel outraged about something -- All the while, our health ministry has delivered: We have zero community transmission while other "leading democracies" have 50,000 new cases per day etc. Modelling showed we would have 40,000 dead in NZ to COVID. But here we are with no community transmission. The rest of the world is in cardiac arrest. We're going to the movies and cafes and restarting our economy. So David Clark's team delivered where it counted most. Best wishes to him in his career as MP and politician serving NZ.

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