“New Zealand Prime Ministers have on a number of occasions realised their comments or behaviour were ill-judged, gotten over their own egos and apologised to people for doing them wrong,” says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern should climb down from her now indefensible position that members of a South Auckland family ‘should have known’ they needed to be tested for COVID-19 and not go to work and make a sincere apology.

“She’s made these people’s life hell.

“She’s accused two of them of breaking rules that didn’t exist at the time they went to work and heaped untold pressure on them by claiming they were ‘facing the judgement of the entire nation.’

“Jacinda Ardern has created an image over the years of being better than this – a supposedly kinder, more honest politician than her peers.

“Instead she and her Government are now doubling down, arguing angrily with anyone who’ll listen by suggesting this poor family simply ‘should have known’ better, despite the opaque and confusing communication it received.

“The Prime Minister should learn from history that it’s possible to say sorry, mean it and live to fight another day.

“In December 2015 then Prime Minister John Key publicly apologised for suggesting Labour MPs were ‘backing rapists’ in their representations on behalf of detainees on Christmas Island.

“After some time he simply said, ‘I’ve reflected on my comments … I’d like to withdraw and apologise.’

“The apology was accepted by then Labour Leader Andrew Little.

“In the same year, when his self-described ‘light-hearted banter’ with a waitress wasn’t appreciated, Sir John immediately apologised to her, before having to do it all again publicly when it turned into a media storm.

“I admit Helen Clark wasn’t as forthcoming as Sir John.

“She liked to apologise on the country’s behalf for things other people had done – to Samoa for the dawn raids, the Chinese community for historic racism and the ‘gay and lesbian’ community back in 2002 for discrimination.

“She did once apologise personally to the United States Government, which took offence at her comment in 2003 that ‘I don’t think that September 11 under a Gore presidency would have had this consequence for Iraq.’

“The point is, Prime Minister, it can be done.

“You may feel you have further to fall in the reputation stakes, given the persona you’ve so successfully curated.

“But you really should do what’s right and begin repairing the damage you’ve done to this family and the wider Papatoetoe High School community.

“Not apologising will be a black mark on your tenure as Prime Minister, a reputational stain you’ll struggle to expunge with time.”