Clarke Gayford lashes back at Sir John Key for 'name slinging' in COVID-19 criticism of Government

Clarke Gayford has lashed out at Sir John Key following his criticisms of the Government's COVID-19 approach, accusing him of "name-slinging" and disinformation and suggesting none of his ideas are even new.

The fiancé of current Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern took aim at Sir John on Twitter on Wednesday afternoon, after his column - published by several media outlets over the weekend - took issue with the Government's conservative response to the pandemic.

In the op-ed, he referred to New Zealand as a "smug hermit kingdom" and compared us to North Korea, urging the Government to fling the country's borders open to both Kiwis overseas and visitors.

"...There has been no coherent plan shared with the public for when or how these might be achieved. The only urgency we've seen for months is an enthusiasm to lock down our country, lock up our people and lockout our citizens who are overseas," he wrote.

"Public health experts and politicians have done a good job of making the public fearful, and therefore willing to accept multiple restrictions on their civil liberties which are disproportionate to the risk of them contracting COVID."

The piece was roundly criticised by COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins and Otago University epidemiologist Professor Michael Baker - and even by pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, who shut down Sir John's claim the Government could have bought vaccines earlier for $40 million more.

Sir John Key and Clarke Gayford don't see eye to eye on the Government's COVID-19 response.
Sir John Key and Clarke Gayford don't see eye to eye on the Government's COVID-19 response. Photo credit: Getty Images

Now Gayford has joined in denouncing Sir John's piece and subsequent media appearances, suggesting he could've used his platform to encourage vaccine uptake rather than tear the Government down.

"Now that the dust has settled a bit are we able to rationally reflect on what exactly Sir John Key has added to the conversation and cause of our once in a generation pandemic response? Was there a single new idea that wasn't already planned, discussed or in train?" he wrote.

"It was such a shame that the name slinging & use of disinformation divided his contribution into partisan politics. Having such valuable reach across all platforms should have been a golden ticket to present as a mature statesman & a popular former PM to help swing us all in behind the vaccine drive. The win-win was sitting there."

Gayford went on to do just that, urging Kiwis to get the COVID-19 vaccine so New Zealanders can get "back to a semi-normal life free of restrictions".

"The thing that should unite us all in this is the desire to return to a normal life. The way you play a part is to use the incredible power you have of personal connection to help persuade those who are reluctant...

"Because our future and so many lives depend on it, and for selfish reasons I have a 3yr old who needs to see more of her mum."

On Wednesday, the National Party released its COVID-19 plan, which included a plot to end lockdowns and restart international travel.

At the 1pm coronavirus press conference, Hipkins said National wanting to "throw open the borders" just as Key suggested indicates they are "willing for Kiwis to get COVID for Christmas".

He says they haven't provided any data modelling or insight into how they would manage the virus in the community.