The saying goes that the journey is half the fun and Health Minister David Clark is now well-placed to judge that given the journey was all he got.

As a result, Clark could now feel hard done by over the criticism for his Clayton's holiday of 33 hours to Australia, much of which was spent in airports and planes.

For the uninitiated, Clayton's was fake alcohol back in the olden days. It was pitched as "the drink you have when you're not having a drink."

Clark's Clayton's holiday consisted of travelling with his wife and children to Australia for a family holiday booked months ago. He stayed a night and got back on the plane to come back again.


The reason given was because back home the nurses were preparing to strike.

Clark (or somebody in government) had rightly assessed that if he was swanning around in some exotic holiday spot while hospitals back home ground to a halt because the nurses were on strike he would be pilloried.

He may have been right that others were there to deal with it, but it is the ultimate definition of 'not a good look.'

He was pilloried anyway for being out of action for the 33 hours, but it could have been so much worse.

Clark's case was clear cut – taking a holiday was a complete no-no at such a time.

Many politicians before Clark had come a cropper to an ill-advised jaunt when there was official business requiring their attendance.

National's leader Simon Bridges was, perhaps foolishly, quick to leap in to criticise Clark.

He said Clark was Missing in Action for the first strikes in a generation.

"At a time of one of the most serious disruptions in recent memory to healthcare in New Zealand he's on holiday and leaving others to deal with the mess he's helped create."

Bridges too has a young family and may regret setting the bar of 'holiday' as a 33-hour stint which is almost all travel and no good times.

The political duty versus family equation is complex and fraught. The public are understanding of the need for family time unless it is an obvious case where a politician is needed on deck.

Former Labour leader David Cunliffe was criticised (including by some of his own colleagues) for taking a pre-campaign skiing holiday in mid 2014, two months before the election.

His rival, former Prime Minister Sir John Key, had spent the same week in Maui but Key was not facing the same poll results as Cunliffe.

Cunliffe later said had he realised the polls were so bad, he would not have done so.

The most stark example of the judgment call required was in 2012 when Key was criticised for missing the funerals of Lance Corporals Rory Malone and Pralli Durrer, who were killed in Afghanistan.

He had opted to watch son Max play baseball in the Senior League World Series in the United States. He had visited the families of Malone and Durrer to explain.

Clark settled for the compromise of travelling over to drop off his family and then returning to allow them at least to holiday.

As it transpired, that too was hexed – illness apparently resulted in the family returning early as well.

Clark would not say why he felt he had to accompany his wife to get the family there, but Clark has three young children.

Anybody who has travelled with even one young child might know the answer for themselves.