Few leaders have been spared from the false rumour mill – be they rumours about their supposed sexual conquests or orientation, criminal activity, terminal illnesses, fertility, birthplace or any of the above of their loved ones.

They are spread no less harmfully by those with benign intent than those with malicious intent.

Usually they fade away.

But the false rumours surrounding the Prime Minister's partner Clarke Gayford reached such a crescendo that unprecedented actions have been taken by news organisations, the police and the PM herself to some extent.


Ardern and her office have handled it well.

When she knew the Herald had plans to run a story featuring the Police Commissioner's statement exonerating Gayford, Ardern's office clearly saw it as a chance to try to exert some control.

A legal letter was prepared and issued soon after the Herald published yesterday, setting out the risk of repeating the rumours, in case anyone was tempted to.

The Police Commissioner's statement saying Gayford has never been the subject of a police investigation or charge was the catalyst to publish - in the public interest.

The issue has been a private distraction for the Prime Minister at a time when she is trying to prepare for the Government's first Budget - and her first baby.

There was no knowing the extent of the damage it was doing to her reputation.

Now the rumours around Gayford are no longer rumours; they are false rumours.

National leader Simon Bridges had almost a trickier job than Ardern yesterday. He had to say he would not tolerate rumour-mongering from his MPs – and at the same time deny that any of them had engaged in it.


They were certainly hearing the rumours, which is why he raised it at caucus on Tuesday to set expectations.

It is hard to believe that somehow his own caucus were the only subgroup in the country hearing the rumours but not passing them on.

But careless gossip does not amount to a National Party campaign.

Although Ardern and Gayford are victims, she is not accepting victimhood in any form.

She has returned from Europe with a new confidence after footing it on the world stage with Macron, Merkel, May and Her Majesty.

And she fronted this issue confidently - even though it was to say she would not be commenting on it. She said she would be smiling her way through it and she did.

It looked like a smidgen of relief on Ardern's face yesterday that this may be the beginning of the end of the ordeal.