The prime minister’s significant other should be seen but not heard

credit: Luke

No one elected Clarke Gayford. He is the prime minister’s baby daddy – no more, no less. He hasn’t even put a ring on it so his commitment to her is no more than any casual boyfriend who got his girlfriend up the duff. Whether he will even be around in the future is as uncertain as any other defacto relationship. Marriage is no guarantee of anything but it is at least a publicly made commitment to your partner that is legally binding.

The politics of Jacinda Ardern being an unmarried mother with no husband is not as shocking as it would have been in the 1960’s. However, even if her baby daddy was her husband he still should be quiet and in the background just like all other Prime Minister’s spouses have always been.

Most people can hardly picture what Helen Clarke’s husband looked like and apart from a couple of letters to the editor he kept his head down and his nose firmly out of his wife’s job.

ANDREW GORRIE
Helen Clark and her husband Peter Davis

Peter Davis wasn’t targeted by the media because he kept out of the media just like all the Prime Ministers’ wives before him had done. He understood that he was not a celebrity. He also was not an attention seeker. He didn’t attempt to use his partner’s position to build his own career.

Here are a few of the spouses of previous New Zealand Prime Ministers.

Prime Minister Robert Muldoon and his wife Thea attending the royal wedding, 1981


Mrs Joan Bolger is the wife of former Prime Minister, The Honourable Jim Bolger, and is the Lady Sponsor of HMNZS TE KAHA. Back in 1996 it was Mrs Bolger who had the honour of christening TE KAHA at the ship’s launching ceremony in Melbourne, Australia.


New Zealand’s Prime Minister John Key and his wife Bronagh arrive for APEC talks in Lima, November 18, 2016.

I don’t know about you but I know very little about all of those spouses. The media ( quite rightly) did not show much of an interest in them. There was an unwritten rule to leave them alone and when the media focussed on John Key’s children many people felt that they should have been totally off limits and that the media should have left them alone.

Others argued that John Key’s son and daughter had used the media to promote their own careers so were legitimate targets. I really don’t know which came first. Did the children decide to use the media interest to benefit themselves since it was already there or did they spark the interest of the media because they were promoting themselves?

The same question applies to Clarke Gayford. Is he simply making the most of existing media attention or did he actively seek it out rather than playing the traditional role of a seen but not heard Prime Minister’s partner?


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