Is Clarke an asset or a liability for Jacinda?

Jacinda Ardern, Clarke Gayford and their baby daughter

You’ve got to love Clarke Gayford. He just adores being the centre of attention, one way or the other.? Whether it is as a fisherman, or building a deck, or pushing baby Neve round and round the cabinet table, we hear all about it. No partner of a prime minister has ever had such a high profile, and no partner of a prime minister has ever actively pursued the limelight like he does.

This is not the USA, where the First Lady has a very specific role, working for a large number of charities, and has a very high profile intended to promote issues affecting children and minorities. This is New Zealand, where the families of politicians are supposed to be largely invisible. In fact, it is an unwritten rule that the families of politicians should be off limits and left out of the fray of politics. I think it is time it was a written rule, having seen what happened to John Key’s family while he was prime minister. I would be prepared to take a guess that he never expected the treatment his family received, and I’m also prepared to guess it was one of the reasons he resigned when he did.

Clarke sees himself as Jacinda’s biggest asset and publishes his undying support for her on a continual basis. Which, I suppose, is cute in a way.

The trouble is, it also shows her as a little woman who cannot do anything without her knight in shining armour stepping in to look out for her. In a world where girls can do anything and Keira Knightley won’t even let her daughter watch Cinderella because there are no strong female roles, this is not doing much for Jacinda.

(I disagree with Keira on this. Cinderella is a very strong female character. She survived the death of her parents, being locked in an attic, travelling in a coach made out of a pumpkin, not to mention a wicked stepmother and two ugly sisters before she finally managed to find her prince. Getting my latte in the morning can be hard enough for me some days.)

Remember when Jacinda was avoiding the media by not turning up to scheduled TV interviews? Yes, I know – it seems like a lifetime ago but then Clarke came out with this.

I suppose I should say that it is nice of Clarke to defend his princess, but Jacinda is the prime minister and the country hopes like hell that she is capable of standing up for herself. If she’s not, then we are in more trouble than we ever thought.

Then there was this — a timely reminder that a baby is cute, but a baby at the General Assembly is inappropriate, no matter what Clarke thinks. There is supposed to be serious business going on there. What is he doing at the General Assembly at all? It is not a creche.

Well, Okay. That was a tweet on Clarke’s own page, but these are often picked up by the media. As if he were someone important. And this is the trouble.

Sometimes, Clarke decides to double his role as first Dad with that of the prime minister’s press secretary. Here is an example of that.

Well, whether or not that is true is anyone’s guess. This is the thing about Clarke Gayford. He doesn’t have an official role, so he can say what he likes and he does.

This is what really got me in the end.


A year after Winston Peters decided on who he was going to bring into government, we have a photo of Jacinda looking nervous. Wow. How awesome is that?

After a week where the National party has imploded, the government has probably given a big sigh of relief but Clarke couldn’t stand not being the centre of attention, so he published these photos just to remind everyone about who is running the show.

It is cute the way he protects his princess, but prime ministers need to be able to look out for themselves. I put it to you that, in the long run, Clarke is doing Jacinda more harm than good. Because cuteness cannot win over competency and eventually everyone is going to see that.