COMMENT:

Just when it looked like Dr Ashley Bloomfield's beatification was about to be rescinded, along came the Minister of Health to galvanise public opinion behind the besieged Director-General.

David Clark, who is a doctor of divinity, has been missing in action throughout this pandemic. After a number of egregious breaches of the lockdown concord, Clark was consigned to the corner until finally a use was found for the hitherto redundant Health Minister.

This came when details of the Karen Cluster emerged. Two sisters, who'd been granted compassionate leave to travel to Wellington to be with a surviving parent, tested positive for Covid-19. The furore that followed uncovered appalling lapses on the part of MoH testers.

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The protocols that we'd been assured were in place by Bloomfield and the Prime Minister might indeed have been in place but they weren't being followed. New arrivals to the country were mingling in their quarantine hotels.

Testing wasn't being done. For more than a week, Bloomfield had no idea how many people who had left quarantine early had actually been tested.

It was a bloody shambles. And revealed that Bloomfield was not a demi-god. He was a mere mortal with employees who had let him down. But in true Bloomfield fashion, he took it on the chin.

He accepted responsibility and he was sorry and he was acting quickly to fix the issue of returning New Zealanders going into quarantine.

Isolation was tightened up, the promised testing began and there were stricter controls around people mingling in the hotels. However, while Bloomfield was prepared to front up, the Cher to his Sonny, the Kiki Dee to his Elton John, the Peaches to his Herb, Bloomfield's bestie throughout lockdown deserted him.

With just a few months to go until the election, there was no way the Prime Minister was going to be associated with failure. So she found a use for the erstwhile useless Health Minister and wheeled him out for the requisite round of mea culpas.

The flaw in the plan was that taking responsibility is not Clark's strong suit. During a joint press conference when asked by political reporter Tova O'Brien about the possibility of Covid-19 being back in the community after the botched testing of returnees, Clark told reporters, "the Director-General has accepted that the protocol wasn't being followed. He has accepted responsibility for that."

He was asked why, as Health Minister, he wouldn't bear some responsibility.

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"The Director-General has already acknowledged that the system didn't deliver here," he smarmed.

And as Clark thrice denied responsibility, a cock crowed in the distance and Bloomfield stood stoically behind his minister and glanced to the ground.

The image of the oleaginous minister dumping on his loyal servant became a viral meme and there was an outpouring of support for Bloomfield. But really, he WAS responsible. And he understands that. Which is why he fronted up.

What the Health Minister should have done was take a lesson out of the Gospel According to Ashley.

Front up, own up, take responsibility. He didn't do that and, yet again, he came across as arrogant and self-serving.

Had he been kicked for touch by the Prime Minister when he was found to have breached lockdown rules, she wouldn't have had to deal with the fall-out from an out-of-touch minister alienating the public. Yet again.