With apologies to his fan club . . .
He led us calmly and diligently through the pandemic while his Minister was swanning around Dunedin, and the public is firmly on his side now in the blame game over bungling at the border.
While not entirely fair or accurate, that is where things are at and hence the shock on Wednesday when Health Minister David Clark moved to secure his own hide by, as was widely described, throwing Ashley Bloomfield “under the bus”.
“The Director-General has accepted that the protocol wasn't being followed, he has accepted responsibility for that and set about putting it right,” Dr Clark told media with Bloomfield standing off to the side, crestfallen and a little teary.
Asked if he would accept any responsibility himself, Dr Clark replied: “The director-general has already acknowledged that the system did not deliver here.”
A poll on the Newshub site has 92 percent of respondents feeling he should no longer be Minister of Health; no corresponding poll could be located on Dr Bloomfield's employment situation.
That might be because a fully-subscribed Ashley Bloomfield Fan Club has morphed into the AB Defence Society without skipping a beat or stopping to consider how ineptly the ministry he leads handled our border protection in the weeks after coming out of lockdown. (It was also largely unprepared for a pandemic in the first place.)
Then, when a multitude of issues came to light, it took a whole week to work out just how absent its supposed testing regime had been for Kiwis returning from around a globe in the throes of an escalating pandemic. The steady drip of Covid-19 cases now being detected in isolation facilities illustrates the irresponsibility of our health authorities, who the team of 5 million had been relying on.
Both Bloomfield and Clark insist their relationship is tickety-boo. The same probably can't be said for the Minister and Jacinda Ardern, who was possibly relieved that a political poll out this week had Labour down only nine points from the heady heights of support it registered immediately post-lockdown.
Reports this week of crammed buses transporting new arrivals (some not wearing masks) to isolation facilities shows there are still gaps in risk management, although Dr Bloomfield wasn't concerned as “very strict protocols were followed”. Can someone explain why he and Dr Clark are still fronting discussion about managed isolation, despite responsibility for it being taken off them?