Too many Government pratfalls
attempting to silence health officials over sewage and mould running down the walls at Middlemore Hospital.
That in itself will be nothing new. Governments have used various tactics over the years to wrestle the narrative and control the story. But those levers are usually pulled behind closed doors.
Clark has erred unforgivably by exposing the inner workings of the political machine; if the leaked voicemail is genuine, he has compounded that error by appearing to link that silence to the possibility of future employment.
Even worse, if that were possible, he has placed a potentially damaging recording in the hands of a man he played a role in removing: the message was for former Counties Manukau District Health Board chairman Rabin Rabindran, who resigned after clashes with Clark over issues at the hospital.
The ‘‘rocket man’’ is likely to walk away from the crash, but it represents yet another incident of uncontrolled and damaging combustion in a young coalition Government struggling to launch.
Shane Jones is a walking, talking combustion engine. He likes nothing more than lighting a fire under what he deems the soft underbelly of corporate complacency and regional neglect.
He will find plenty of fuel for his latest populist attack, on dairy giant Fonterra, but his incendiary language and calls for co-op chairman John Wilson to ‘‘catch the next cab out of town’’ go too far for a man of his standing and influence.
Some dismiss the oratorical arsonist as a political outlier and a mere buffoon – fellow ministers roll their eyes and shrug their shoulders at the latest outburst from ‘‘Jonesy’’ – but it’s not just his reputation and a few ivory towers he’s burning down.
Jones is a minister of the Crown, a party to some measure of Cabinet responsibility. No-one is expecting him to entirely toe the line, but they are right to be concerned at his penchant for obliterating it.
Others have been joining him at the bonfire: Broadcasting Minister Clare Curran was lucky to survive her naive meeting with former RNZ head of content Carol Hirschfeld and the clumsy handling of the fallout; Kelvin Davis has frankly made a pig’s ear of communicating the Government’s highly sensitive moves towards cutting the prison population; and Phil Twyford has demonstrated that a man wanting to build 100,000 homes must first have a good grasp of the numbers.
Some of this has been simply amateurish. Such things are often a sign of a Government that has outlived its mandate and begun to implode around the core of its own perceived importance. In its tiredness it can trip over the most obvious hurdles.
This Government is barely nine months old. It needs to find its feet, and quickly.