Not a bad result for opponents of the colonial flag



For opponents of our present colonial flag it wasn’t a bad result. We were always unlikely to win, but support for a new flag has substantially increased.

Last year, opinion polls put support for change at an average 25%. This year the average (over four polls) was 33%. Yet the referendum registered 43% for the new silver fern design. Add to that 43% those who wanted change but felt they couldn’t endorse the Kyle Lockwood design and we’ve probably get to 50%. Add to that again all the progressives who would have voted for the new design if they hadn’t identified it with John Key and we probably have a substantial majority.

Would a better process have got the change option over the 50% mark? Maybe, maybe not. We may have had a more broadly acceptable alternative if the flag panel had done more development work on the designs.

Still, there was a useful debate on why we shouldn’t have a flag representing our British colonial past. This has been so relevant as we commemorate the 100th anniversary of World War I. From 1914 to 1918 the British Empire sent 18,000 New Zealanders to their death in a completely unnecessary war. “Fighting for the Empire” resulted in New Zealand’s biggest tragedy.

We are now in the 21st century and to me all the excuses for keeping the Union Jack in our flag don’t wash.

I don’t think the referendum result was a defeat for those who supported change (including John Key). If anything if was a defeat for those political leaders on the left who were either abstentionist or said they were voting for the colonial flag. What do these leaders say to the nearly one million New Zealanders who voted for change, many of them progressive-minded young people? How do they answer a young relative of mine who put on his Facebook after the vote:

“I’m openly not a John Key fan but I got over the fact of people saying “It’s John Keys” pet project and thought of my children’s children and the fact NZ can have our own identity, with a silver fern that represents us all. Why the fuck do we have to have the union jack for another 50-100 years. No disrespect to our fallen soldiers and all that but come on NZ it’s time to be our own!!!”

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  1. Well Keith, some of antagonism to the “Lockwood flleg” was the hypocrisy of Key (and Willie Jackson) wanting to get rid of the Union flag because of its associations with the British Empire and colonialism.

    Yet John Key reinstated the British Honours Dames and Sirs. John Key, wanted the feel-good rub-off of his associations with Richie outside of the changing sheds. ” “All Blacks captain Richie McCaw will be offered another opportunity to become a knight.”

    Prime Minister John Key confirmed that move on TV3’s Paul Henry Show on Monday as the nation lapped up the Bledisloe Cup victory that marked McCaw’s world record 142nd test appearance.”

    And with the TPPA being undemocratically rammed through, the Union flag may as well be replaced with the Stars and Stripes.

    • No Keith
      Clearly there is collateral damage to “Brand Key” in the flag referendum that Key will rue.

      Consider this well considered thought from this columnist.

      Duncan Garner: The flagging fortunes of a leader chasing a legacy

      Prime Minister John Key has no time for losing, and runs a mile from political disasters.

      OPINION: The flag referendum result gives all of John Key’s haters a rare chance to rejoice.

      For once the prime minister has seriously misjudged the mood of the public.

      And after all these years of preaching financial constraint, that’s $26 million down the toilet.

      Every politician hates losing, but Key hates it more than anyone. It’s a big part of his success, both before and after entering politics. It’s what drives him.

      He’s a chirpy, happy, likeable, positive, ambitious, calculating, smiling assassin.

      I also respected Helen Clark. And she could be warm and likable – especially away from the cameras.

      Key has no time for losing – runs a mile from political disasters, like they never actually happened.

      The flag result is a disaster for him.

      But it’s also not. He’ll say, ‘Oh well, we gave you a chance, we move on’.

      But this was his idea. It was his baby. It’s an entirely own goal. And the people said, No thanks John.

      The public’s given him a bloody nose, but that’s all he got. And he prepared himself for this result.

      He’s headed off overseas to absent himself from all the fallout and dissection of the result, just as the Easter weekend began.

      It’s a total news dead-zone.

      It’s when all the disastrous news gets released. And buried. Total manipulation. Total master-stroke. Maybe a pure coincidence. Highly unlikely.

      Key has so moved on. He did the same with the Northland by-election result – he shot through.

      And it’s Easter and honestly, does anyone care anymore about this flag? I don’t. That was a big part of the problem.

      So why did Key pursue a flag change in the first place?

      Because this was supposed to have been his legacy project – a lasting symbol of his lasting contribution to the country.

      It would have still been flying in the wind in 50 years’ time and we could all say that came in under Sir John Key.

      He’ll get a knighthood too – but bringing those back is not his legacy.

      So what is it? Does he have one? Not really.

      He brought in tax cuts and sold half our assets. That’s not creating a legacy.

      Perhaps borrowing money and being a happy-go-luck prime minister may end up being what we remember him for long-term.

      His Government has borrowed close to $60 billion for future generations to pay back. That’s $8.5b for every year they have been in office.

      That’s $164m for every week they have sat on the Treasury benches. They failed to balance the books in the tough times.

      But did Key have much of a choice? Not really. He had to steer us through a global financial meltdown, collapsing tax revenues and a massive Christchurch earthquake. There was little option.

      So his legacy is that he’s happy John Key.

      He got National back in the game. He was trusted and well-liked by enough people to keep National in office.

      He laughed, at himself at times, mangled his words, was sensible and pragmatic.

      His legacy is that he could end up being the most popular prime minister of all time. A man with few economic options, so he traded on his personality.

      On the other hand, Labour and its support partners had golden economic times while in power.

      They delivered interest-free student loans in the form of an election bribe that National criticised – then embraced – in office.

      Labour also gave us Kiwibank, paid parental leave, KiwiSaver, Working for Families, civil unions, a ban on smacking children, and legalising prostitution.

      Now that’s a legacy. The highest praise possible is that none of this has been dismantled by National.

      I’ll never forget the day Michael Cullen walked into a room in Parliament to announce a windfall gain in tax revenues (Kiwis being overtaxed) and then walked to another room to extend Working for Families to the middle classes at a cost of $500m.

      It was raining money for Labour. It’s been years of pain for National.

      For all the talk of nanny state and voters eventually turning toxic on Helen Clark she can look back on her time in power with pride.

      She set a clear path and used every inch of her formidable personality to make things happen.

      John Key may still be swamped with selfie requests in shopping malls, but that’s not the definition of a great leader.

      Key has enjoyed a tonne of political capital and the disappointing thing is that he hasn’t used it for any meaningful, lasting project.

      Surely that’s not good enough for a man driven by a deep ambition.

      • John Key tried to push the new flag through probably to see how he could talk it up and manipulate us to do his bidding.IF the new flag had been chosen then he would be able to boast “see i can get the dopey NZs to do anything i want”then he would go on bigger and better manipulations.
        This flag stuff had a referendum as a trial run ,the TPPA which KEY knows most people dont want ,didnt have a referendum because it was something he couldnt risk,his money buddies wanted it so he pushed it through.
        Lets hope it fails when Obama is replaced by Trump or someone else who dosnt agree with it .
        While the lineup in America is hopeless ,people comment ,”if in
        a country the size of America the present picks are the best they can do there must be something wrong”
        In NZ we have a traitor, America has a comedy circus made up of a
        doubtful cast.

  2. I would happily vote to change the flag, but this referendum wasn’t about that. It was about accepting rubbish from a mediocre government that couldn’t be bothered to engage people or find real talent. The fern design came to represent the status quo and mindless compliance.

  3. Agree with Doubting Thomas here as tricky Key wants a bob each way right?

    Just like all those who stand and say anything is better than the Union Jack!

    Ask yourselves what side were we on during the last world war????.

      • True also BG,

        But the Brit’s took as much punishment from Nazi Germany bombing and troop loss per capita as our Russian allies did.

        Remember the Convoys that were savagely attacked by U-boats and Russia never had that punishment but Russia was instrumental in saving our ass alright.

        That’s why PM Winston Churchill held onto the pack with Russia though USA wasn’t so thrilled.

        • But the Brit’s took as much punishment from Nazi Germany bombing and troop loss per capita as our Russian allies did.

          Troop loss, maybe, – but as far civilian loss and physical destruction, the Britain’s losses weren’t even in the same ballpark, per capita or otherwise.

    • Question: What side was Key on during the Springbok Tour ?
      Answer: Erm, um, aaahhh, he can’t remember, because it may alienate some voters.

      He’s a finger-in-the-air-test-the-wind-direction-flibberty-gibbet. He’ll jump on whatever side he thinks will get him more votes and take him closer to a knighthood.

      The flag was just that, and more. A perfect diversion to ram through GCSB, TPPA.

    • And what side were the poms on when they left us for the common market in 1973
      And where was the intelligence in 1985 when the Warrior was bombed and we were chasing French terrorists all over the Pacific Hmm I wonder
      I want the Union Jack off the flag but not too replace it with this embarrassement supported by this
      evil deviant as a diversion to the corruption he is engaged in

  4. Sigh, another apologist article trying to defend the indefensible John Key. You are probably a big John key fan in secret Keith. and despite the spin, it was a substantial defeat for John Key, and his second in fact, after he lost the safe National seat of Northland.

    Those political leaders on the left are the winners, they listened to the majority, so what about them Keith? the well over a million voters you want to dismiss and ignore? What does it say about you, others like you and John key who did not listen, but refused to? So what’s John Key’s answer after ignoring the majority from the outset of this farce that wasted so much of tax payer money and time? The “young” as you put it held their own ref and overwhelmingly wanted to keep the current flag, I guess you missed that article.

  5. Key and Keith, a couple of bloviating windbags whose sky-high opinions of themselves are rarely warranted.

    Keep your Kyle Lockwood tea towel as souvenir, Keith -it’s bound to become a sought-after keepsake at National Party fundraisers in the future, as they fondly reminisce about life under our Dear Leader…

  6. John key is a real American, he loves his American home in Hawaii. Hawaii has a Union Jack on its flag.

  7. You might have got over how John Key manipulated and turned the referenda into a shoddy political farce, but I didn’t.
    The country had said repeatedly in polls that it didn’t need and didn’t want a flag referendum at the time.
    But we got it anyway at the cost of over $26 million.
    It was badly planned and badly conducted.
    An unforgivable exercise in political manipulation and ego promotion by the Prime Minister.

    • 43% Isn’t an insignificant amount of people. I know one or two political parties that wouldn’t say 43% is a complete failure

      • then again the total votes equated to 50% of the eligible voting population, so really 3/4 or 75% did’nt give a monkeys about the fishbone fleg, or Keysters covert attempt at invalidating our (we the people of NZ) founding partnership contracts such as the bill of rights ,the treaty & even the magna carta. sure not everyone realised exactly what was at stake, or what the rush was to bury our history – I presume 75%+ smelt a rat with Shonkeys illusion of Democracy ,when he Signs a TTPA document on our behalf knowing that he had something to fear – else he would have had nothing in the Text to hide Right?. Hmmmm now I think about it, I should have known Locke & Key – peas in a pod

      • I agree BG – and if your beloved Dear Leader gets 43% next election, then 57% of the population will be just as ecstatic. Here’s hoping.

    • They ignored the MMP referendum which if MMP won we would get changes that the public voted for to that system
      Collins and the rest of that rabble shelved it and buried it
      Like our un molested Democratic rights

  8. Yep well over 50% would be happy for a change next time I reckon.

    And we’ll have a perfect example of exactly how not to run the process to inform us as well.

    • Not so fast we must remember the “Protest vote” that at least 20% did not vote in because they would not partake in this charade that was hoisted on them.



  9. Well I voted to retain the old flag for several reasons, most of which have been expressed by others in various posts. Perhaps the most ”enjoyable” though was that it was a good English 2-fingers to the virulent Anglophobes (and anti-British in general) who seem to dominated the New Zealand media, so-called “elite” and left-wing circles – including this forum. I think that many pakeha New Zealanders seem to be under the impression that colonialism was imposed on them by a dominant British power – but it was a voluntary settlement and the colonials invited British the military to do the dying for them in the most part. New Zealand – Maori excluded of course – was never under the boot of the British Flag.

    Still, if New Zealanders grew the balls to decide to become a republic I would go for this – and a new flag.

    Happy Easter.

  10. “…all the progressives who would have voted for the new design if they hadn’t identified it with John Key…”

    Oh cut it out. I’m a progressive who would have voted for the new flag if only all of NZ’s real problems had been sorted out and we had $26 million just laying around to spare. The fact that the new flag came from John Key doesn’t enter into it (except that it can now be added to the growing list of National’s wasteful expenditures on things that don’t matter). So stop strawmanning.

  11. 100% SAM,

    This was Key’s masterful diversion tactics when TPPA came along and we the taxpayer paid for it!

    And now PM Key wanted us to pay for his loose mouth also against a defamation case the media case against Bradley Ambrose ???

    We need to get shod of him, before he totally wrecks this country, before the global graze, and our dignity & integrity to boot.

  12. If we drop England and forget about the flag!!! What country would you want to have adopt us?
    Australia who believe they already own us………
    America who have always wanted to control us………
    How about China they’re just about there…………………..
    What about Spain? Korea? South East Asia? Arab countries?????
    Oh and don’t forget RUSSIA very very powerful and rich country that who are communists and could very well be the next super power along with Japan. Or am I just blowing in the wind. Changing the flag is one thing but changing our mother country is another.

  13. Keith, you dropped a ton in my estimation on this. You show the perceptive depth of a bumper sticker.

    It’s the 21st century? We’re still a tawdry little colonial outpost. There were modest socio-cultural improvements under Clark, but now we’re shuttling backwards as a country rapidly.

    Colonial state deserves a colonial flag. New flag can come with real change.

  14. “From 1914 to 1918 the British Empire sent 18,000 New Zealanders to their death in a completely unnecessary war.”
    An elderly friend who died many years ago once told me she had a vivid memory of her beloved eldest brother, looking strange and impressive in his army uniform, coming to bid the family farewell before he went off to war as a volunteer in 1914. His mother stood at the gate weeping as he strode off down the road, and my friend, aged about five, clutched her mother’s skirts and wept too. They never saw him again.

  15. Wow, staggering piece of spin… so let me see if I’ve got this right.
    1: President Key won and the leaders of the Left were the losers???
    2: The referendum had nothing to do with Key?
    3: In reality more people wanted to vote for the new flag/teacloth/piss poor piece of design, but they just didn’t know it themselves?
    4: Doesn’t matter if you don’t listen to the people, just go ahead and spend the money?
    Sorry, but your argument comes across as specious and apologist.

  16. “What do these (Left) leaders say to the nearly one million New Zealanders who voted for change, many of them progressive-minded young people ?”

    Thing is, Keith, every poll I’ve seen on the flag issue that provided breakdowns by age suggested the young were more opposed to change than anyone else.

    What’s more, the February 2016 UMR Research poll found that younger Labour and Green voters (the very “progressive-minded young people” you’re talking about) were much more likely than average to:
    (1) be in the group voting for retention largely because they didn’t much care for the Lockwood design
    (2) be particularly responsive to the political motive: agreeing in overwhelming numbers that “New Zealanders should send John Key a message in this referendum by voting for the current flag”.

    So, I’d say progressive-minded young people wouldn’t be too upset at all by the stance taken by leaders of the political Left.

  17. Getting rid of the flag before we become a republic would be the sort of fluff worthy of an advertising agency. It’d be like painting over rust and pretending the ship of state has been renewed. Keith, you have really disappointed me with this one.

  18. “Kiwi” soldiers were sent to their deaths? Funny, I didn’t realise they were drafted. I thought most volunteered.

    And, of course, the British troops all sat on the beaches, drinking tea, whilst the ANZAC’s were used as cannon fodder, right?

    Wikipedia is lying when it says that 120,000 out of 188,000 Allied deaths and casualties during the Gallipoli campaign were British.

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