I suspect that Deborah Hill Cone might have had a go at me over the years.

I only say that because most people, in some way, shape or form, have had a go at me over the years.

It's what happens in a small country to anyone with even the slightest bit of a public profile. The pool is so phenomenally small, tall poppies tend to get rotated on a fairly regular basis.

Deborah Hill Cone: Why does Clarke Gayford bug me?


It's a tedious, predictable and unproductive business.

I am not on social media for this very reason.

I was told to be on Twitter about a decade back, because it was "the place" to be.

I quickly worked out that unlike the theory of what it was possible to be in terms of wit and levity, it was in fact largely a cesspool of misery and angst.

Which is where Clarke Gayford comes in. He has made a mistake in biting back.

He should not have done that. Not unlike the fish he's made his name on, he got reeled in by the shiny Hill Cone lure.

She had him on the line, and he thrashed backed with, unfortunately, an insult.

He called her "a bottom feeder".

Now here's your problem.

Clarke is the Prime Minister's partner and as such, he takes on a new role and that is to support, not just his partner, but her position as well.

It goes to a degree to free speech, he's his own man and all of that.

But like Israel Folau across the Tasman, as much as you may want to defend your right to basically say what you like, sometimes in life we become part of something bigger and more important than ourselves.

In Folau's case, it's representing your country; in Clarke's case, it's being an extension of your partner's role which, like it or not, is unique in terms of its position, influence and reach, not to mention tradition.

He simply can't afford to be a wide boy.

I asked Ardern about this on Tuesday, she defended it all, in that way she tends to do with most things, filled with just a little bit too much naivety.

She said they both had public profiles before all of this, and she wasn't about to edit his social media work.

Big mistake.

The truth is they didn't have profiles before, not proper large public ones, anyway.

She was an opposition MP with potential, he on a fishing show most of us have never seen, and will never see, on a channel I can't name because no one cares.

The jump from opposition MP to PM is massive, his jump - although not as big - is nevertheless large too, and puts them into a different league of public profile.

She especially, but he as well, are no longer free to just say whatever they want.

She, and by attachment he, are now part of a bigger thing that needs to be respected.

There are basic expectations and norms of leadership, and scrapping and biffing insults on social media isn't part of that equation.

It's something Donald Trump does and the general response to that kind of activity by him tells you exactly how most of us feel about it.

Clarke needs to be the better person.

If I had something to say every time a petition was started, a column was written, a barb was tossed or Twitter lit up … I'd have died of exhaustion years ago.

You pick your fights in life, I pick mine based on what's important to me, and what's important to me is professionalism and being above the fray. What someone I've never met may think of me is not important.

Clarke needs to be above the fray because his partner's job demands it, and I would like to think she would quietly expect it, and dare I suggest he should be keen to give it to her.

They both are custodians of the office - and the office deserves good service.

It takes very little of the Clarke-type activity to tarnish and undermine reputation. She is a new, inexperienced Prime Minister heading a three-party coalition, that's enough to cope without a bovver boy at home grabbing headlines, because he hasn't mastered the art of letting stuff go - or giving weight to stuff that really doesn't matter.