When Clarke Gayford unexpectedly became New Zealand Top Bloke in 2017, there were limits on how much he could have drawn from the experiences of Peter Davis and Burton Shipley, the previous first men in New Zealand politics.
Each has brought his own experience and style to the role in different social, political and personal circumstances.
Clearly none had an issue about being in the shadow of a highly successful woman Prime Minister, because they were already partnered to a successful woman MP before she got the top job.
Burton Shipley became New Zealand's inaugural first man when Jenny Shipley became the first woman prime minister in 1997.
Helen Clark's husband, Peter Davis, held the role for nine years, and Clarke Gayford has been there for the almost four years since Jacinda Ardern became Prime Minister.
Shipley said he saw the role as a privilege and an opportunity to help and do something for New Zealand
"I guess that's what everybody thinks in the same role – support your mate and help them get on and do the best job that they can."
Peter Davis said because he had been pursuing an academic career in public health, he needed to keep some distance from the political process in order to keep his credibility.
He tended to limit public appearances domestically to events such as the opening of Parliament, the Labour Party conference and important funerals. But he tried to get to Apec each year and go with Helen Clark on regular visits she made with old soldiers to battlegrounds, such as Monte Casino and Gallipoli.
Shipley packed a lot in over two years, including helping to plan and host the programme for 20 other spouses during Apec in Auckland in 1999 to expose them to some special aspects of New Zealand.
He helped to organise Sir Edmund Hillary and Sir Peter Blake to talk to the spouses one morning at Puketutu Island estate before taking them outside to see a tuatara, hold a kiwi, and a giant weta that DoC had brought together.
"Madam Zedillo from Mexico … was not keen to have this giant weta walk from my hand to her hand," he said.
The previous day he had taken the wives to the Cornwall Park farm where he added a touch of reality by taking off his suit jacket and helping to shear a sheep, before being hosted by Ngati Whatua at Bastion Point.
"We had women in Gucci suits feeding lambs and doing all sorts of things."
He gave them each a stainless-steel dog-whistle and taught them how to use it, which was quite a hit.
"It was a lot of fun. It was a heck of a lot of work," he says. "It was one of those occasions when you are reminded how little sleep you need, there were so many things going on."
He also spent an unforgettable day playing golf with then President Bill Clinton in Queenstown and since then has run into him several times - most recently at a basketball game in New York where Shipley as FIBA vice-president, was being hosted by the NBA.
Shipley is disappointed for Clarke Gayford that he is not going to get the chance to host the spouses this year because Covid-19 has forced Jacinda Ardern to host Apec virtually – the first time in New Zealand since 1999.
"It seems a great pity to me," he says. "I'm not Prime Minister and I don't want to tell her what to do but I think it is a real missed opportunity. I'd be trying to work out something."
Burton Shipley says he introduced himself to Gayford at Tuia 250 event in Gisborne and likes the way he is conducting himself.
"I think he is doing what he should be doing," says Shipley. "He is doing what he thinks is right and that's exactly what all spouses should do. Luckily we're all different."
"These things don't last forever, and he should make the most of it while he has the opportunity."
All three, Shipley, Davis and Gayford, would agree that the unspoken expectation for a spouse is not only to help their partner be the best that they can be, but to do nothing to hinder that goal, by causing controversy or overshadowing their political partner in political debate.
For some spouses, that is no hardship but for Davis, now an Emeritus Professor in Population Health and Social Science, it required some sacrifice, as Davis explains.
"I've got an interest in policy and that almost automatically gets you drawn into public debate, unless you stay in the ivory tower in which case no one hears about you, and now and then you need to push the argument out in the public arena.
"But basically I held back because I didn't want to cut across or embarrass the Government in any way. I actually held back quite a bit."
But despite appearing like a crusty academic, Davis had a reputation for being a highly sociable spouse and good company on overseas trips.
He gave the occasional interview on his role and insights to the sorts of activities undertaken with the likes of Janette Howard and Laura Bush (art museums), aperitifs sampled before lunch (pisco sours) and discussion around the lunch table (stem cell research).
Unlike Clarke Gayford, Shipley and Davis were prepared for what lay ahead.
Jenny Shipley had been a cabinet minister for seven years and was ambitious enough to go after Jim Bolger's job in a 1997 coup. The Shipleys had been married for 24 years and had two grown children.
Helen Clark had been Labour leader in Opposition for six years before finally getting to the top in 1999. She had been an MP for 18 years and they had been married for 18 years.
Gayford was clearly the least prepared for the role, partly because Ardern had shown no ambition for the top job.
By the time Gayford hooked up with Ardern, in late 2014, he had become a minor broadcast celebrity in the Auckland social scene as a radio host and DJ and occasional tv presenter. But he was better known for his famous girlfriends, singer Hollie Smith and then actress Shavaughn Ruakere.
One of his first public outings with Ardern was to a select after-match party thrown by Universal after the Vodafone Music Awards, where special guests included Lorde, Sol3 Mio and the Broods.
The first big political outing for the pair was the Wainuiomata wedding in late December 2014 of MP Trevor Mallard and journalist Jane Clifton. No one knew if it would last. Ardern was the glamorous but reliable committed social justice campaigner. He seemed pleasant enough but very good at attracting publicity.
By 2016, Gayford's national profile started to grow, not because of his famous MP girlfriend but because of the television fishing show he was developing, Fish of the Day, which combined his lifelong passion for fishing and his presenting skills. It has turned out to be the second-best thing he has done, next to Ardern.
Ardern and Gayford bought a house together in Pt Chevalier shortly before she won the Mt Albert byelection in February 2017.
But nothing could have prepared them for the wild ride that would begin later that year when, within the space of three months, she was made Labour leader, Prime Minister, and discovered she was pregnant.
One of Gayford's friends, Oskar Kightley, MC-ed Labour's last election campaign launch and explained the shock rather well to the audience: "When the Government changed and our Prime Minister got the job, we all texted Clarke and said 'are you OK bro? Are you going to be alright? I know you're famous and all, but this is next-level shit'."
Kightley added: "And he has done amazingly well."
Few would disagree, particularly because as a new doting father, Gayford has taken on much of the child-rearing responsibility for Neve, Ardern and Gayford's daughter who turns 3 next week.
And as well as the private support, with few exceptions, he has done nothing in his public facing role which should embarrass or annoy Ardern.
He has supported her with his presence at important domestic events such as the swearing-in of Government, Ratana, Waitangi, and Labour Party conferences, as well as trips abroad.
He went on a Pacific Mission early in 2018 and to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London in April 2018 where he and Ardern were hosted by the Queen at Buckingham Palace.
He also accompanied Ardern to Beijing in April 2019, to Japan and New York in 2019 for the Rugby World Cup and Leaders' Week when baby Neve made it to the floor of the United Nations, and he has been on at least three trips to Australia.
Recently he hosted Jenny Morrison, the wife of Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, on their visit to Queenstown, with a visit to a school and a boat ride on Lake Wakatipu, apart from the wreath-laying and joint dinner that the two couples shared.
Next month he will almost certainly be alongside Ardern on her first trip out of New Zealand since Covid-19, leading a business delegation to Australia.
Gayford would not be interviewed about his role supporting Ardern as Prime Minister. He tends to reserve his media opportunities to publicise his television show and associated pursuits.
But shortly after Kightley introduced him to the Labour audience at last year's campaign launch, Gayford took to the stage and described the ride with Ardern as "… the last three years of us as we went from what was a gentle drive together to suddenly finding ourselves on loose gravel with at times no seat-belt on, careening it down a much different path."
Gayford went on to introduce Ardern, with gentle and self-deprecating humour about an argument over the nappy bucket.
"I don't know if you know what it's like to have a disagreement with someone who has just been voted the world's most eloquent leader? It is no easy task."
He went on to describe the moment that Winston Peters made his announcement that propelled Ardern to the top three years earlier, how she immediately stepped up a gear from which she had never stepped back, and how she had never once, not publicly or privately, celebrated the role.
When she came on stage, she thanked him with a kiss, and said that he never ever lets her read what he writes - which could be a dangerous thing for some spouses.
In terms of keeping himself out of the limelight, Gayford hasn't been entirely successful but infringements have been rare and mostly confined to life before Ardern became Prime Minister.
Before the doctrine of "kindness" had been embedded by his partner, Gayford called David Seymour "slimy" in an interview about his fishing show, and during the 2017 campaign he tweeted about Richard Prebble as one of the "scaremongering old dinos" who should crawl into Steven Joyce's $11 billion hole.
He tweeted last year about how hopeless the United States had been in handling Covid and how great New Zealand was which, in normal circumstances, might have caused some tut-tutting at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs but it was only what the rest of the world was saying.
The most controversy Gayford created was in March this year when he tweeted that the Cabinet had made an in-principle decision to move Auckland out of alert level 2, a tweet that was posted four hours before Ardern actually announced it.
Ardern spent much of her press conference on the defensive, not just for dragging out the decision but in rejecting suggestions that her partner had been tweeting out confidential Cabinet decisions.
He has since removed that tweet – though not so quickly as to have given the story even more oxygen.
Ardern and Gayford are both fierce followers of social media where each has control of his and her image, and where comments are made quickly and often without filter.
Gayford's best tweets tend to be the ones about domesticity, when he mixes the mundane and the special to equal effect: "Helped dye partner's hair and gave daughter a haircut …" for example, or the time he wondered whether he should let the baby play with the buzzy bee she had got for her birthday (with a photo showing a silver plaque attached saying it was from Prince William with whom she shares a birthday).
Torn between letting the 1st birthday girl continue to maul this amazing gift or putting it somewhere safe FOREVER.— Clarke Gayford (@NZClarke) June 21, 2019
Happy Birthday Prince William, what a great shared birthday (I'm pretty sure you win with this) pic.twitter.com/KvXtOcfmfq
The one experience Gayford and Peter Davis have shared as partners of Prime Ministers is that they have both been subject to not just false rumours (none of which will be repeated here) but ones so widespread and malicious, they appeared to be smear campaigns designed to undermine their political partners.
Some were followed up by mainstream media, such as when their spouse has commented on rumours, as Helen Clark did, or when the New Zealand police issued a statement in 2018 about Gayford: "While in general we do not respond to enquiries which seek to confirm if individuals are under police investigation, on this occasion we can say that Mr Gayford is not and has not been the subject of any police inquiry, nor has he been charged in relation to any matter."
Unlike social media outlets which allow smears to be published with impunity, mainstream media has largely refused to repeat them.
Both Burton Shipley and Peter Davis mentioned how grateful they were that social media had not been prevalent when they were the Prime Minister's husband.
"I sometimes wonder if I would have enjoyed it as much with all of that extra pressure on," said Shipley. "I'm glad Jenny was prime minister when she was."
Davis: "We were just on the brink of the whole thing developing…the use of the internet, weaponising the internet to smear people and the like. I wasn't at all prepared for [it]."
He says that Helen Clark was such a capable leader that by the time she was in her third term, opponents tried to attack her through her husband.
"So I was glad to be out of it."
Davis is opinionated and contributes to public discourse now much more now than when he was First Bloke, not that he resents the strictures on him before.
For Clarke Gayford, such judgments could only be made once he is out of the role. And that doesn't look like anytime soon.