The bloated ego of a vain man – When John Key refused to listen
A TV3 Poll on 20 September confirmed what many of us already suspected; the majority of New Zealanders are not interested in changing the flag.
For whatever reason, most respondents chose to stick with the status quo;
Want to change the flag: 25%
Keep the current flag: 69%
Don’t know: 6%
The poll was conducted from 8 to 16 September, and surveyed one thousand people. Even when the margin of error (+/-3.1%) is taken into, the result is a decisive and unambiguous ‘Yeah, Nah!”.
The response of our esteemed Dear Leader was one of arrogant dismissal.
On the morning of Monday, 21 September, on TV3’s “Paul Henry Programme” (which this blogger has not seem, but is quoting from the TV3 web-story), Key gave his response to the poll;
“It’s, with the greatest respect, not a terribly sophisticated question. It’s yes or no question but within all of those numbers there will be some people who will say they will never change and others who say they’ll never change but if… you press them they might change.”
Key had parroted precisely the same line earlier on Radio NZ’s Checkpoint;
Key: “Ok, so it’s not a terribly sophisticated question. It’s a yes or no question [unintelligible]-“
An increasingly exasperated Guyon Espiner posed simple questions to the Prime Minister – and elicited anything-but-sensible responses;
Espiner: “Aw, come on though. This is the best question. It’s a simple question; do you want to change the flag, yes or no. And only 25% of people want to change the flag. It’s a great question.”
Key: “So if you ask more sophisticated questions, fair enough, [garbled] the people who just want to say ‘I won’t change under any circumstances, that’s it, I’ve made my mind up’. That number is under 50% and falling. So everybody else is in a, ah, they will, they’ll say to a pollster ‘Yes, I’ll keep the current flag, but they’re open to change and they’re considering it.“
Key kept repeating the mantra that the ‘Yes/No’ question from the TV3-Reid Research Poll was “basic” and was insistent in his (obviously pre-prepared tutored) responses to Espiner that different questions would yield different answers;
Espiner: “Yeah but that might be a valid argument if we hadn’t seen the options, Prime Minister. But we’ve got those options out there. People have seen the four options. Then they’ve been asked. And they’ve said, over-whelmingly, they’ve screamed this, ‘no, we don’t want to do it‘.”
Key: “Yeah, like I’ve said, yeah, y’know it’s a very basic question. If you have a look at a more sophisticated basis [sic] you get different answers.“
Espiner: “So the 70% of people who say they don’t want to change the flag, do you think that they, what, don’t know their own minds, or…?”
Key: “No, like like I said to you, y’know, if you ask a more comprehensive question, you get a much more granular [sic] breakdown. And therefore, and then you get to the number of people who just say, ‘no, I don’t want a change’. And that is under 50%. But, y’know, it’s a big number and that’s what makes it difficult, because for a lot of people, y’now, they say, “Oh, it’s out history’ and that’s it. But for goodness sake, every audience I go to at the moment I ask them this question, y’know, at some point in the speech, and I haven’t had an audience that’s been more than 50% at wanting to keep the flag, and in fact the vast overwhelming bulk want a change [unintelligible]-”
Espiner: “Well, come on, that’s just a, that’s just a nice little anecdote though. This is a scientific poll. I mean, we take these numbers seriously, you take your 47% party vote pretty seriously. You can’t have that, and then say ‘Oh yeah, but the poll’s rubbish because I went to a meeting and everyone liked it’.”
At one point, Key invoked the 1972 Kirk-led Labour government as a justification for his increasingly monomaniacal flag-quest.
Key: “…It’s not a new debate. I mean, whatever the merits you think that, it goes all the way back to Norman Kirk.”
Espiner’s response was immediately derisory;
Espiner: “Oh, we’re not going to start blaming Labour from 1972, now, are we?“
Key’s insistance that the TV3-Reid Research poll was flawed because the question was too “basic” or “not terribly sophisticated” is a cop-out.
The actual Reid Research poll question was;
Now you have seen the final four flags, do you?
- Want to change the flag
- Keep the current flag
- Don’t know
That poll question is similar to the proposed second part of the Flag Referendum. Schedule 2 of the New Zealand Flag Referendums Act 2015 is specific how the second referendum ballot paper is to be laid out;
The reality is that this poll has put the “frighteners” into Key.
Perhaps for the first time he has glimpsed the potential implications if the referendum fails to replace the current flag. John Key’s credibility will have taken a severe pummeling; he will have spent much of his “political capital” for no good reason; and it will be seen as a personal failure for his leadership skills.
New Zealanders will have every right to ask why Key spent $26 million on a referendum which only 25% of respondents – less than National’s core voter-base – supported.
The flag referendum will do for Key what a 1997 referendum on a proposed compulsory superannuation savings scheme did to National-NZ First coalition Treasurer, Winston Peters. At that referendum, 92% of voters (from a postal ballot turnout of 80%) voted against replacing NZ Super with a private savings system.
The poll was widely seen as an indictment of Winston Peters and the Bolger-led National-NZ First coalition Government.
A failure of this magnitude will be remembered as “Key’s Folly” – a moment when one man’s ego out-stripped his common sense and he began to believe the hype created by National’s taxpayer-funded spin-doctors and party strategists. In other countries, such ego-driven leaders build massive bronze statues of themselves.
Even Key is not as delusional as to think his “popularity” would let him get away with a 20-metre metal-version of himself in front of Parliament.
As more polls on this issue appear, pressure will increase on Key to dump this fiasco.
The question is; is Key’s ego greater than his much-vaunted political-acumen?
It hasn’t been so far.
A strategy to subvert John Key’s vanity project…
NZ Parliament: New Zealand Flag Referendums Act 2015 – Schedule 2
Wikipedia: 2002 General Election
Wikipedia: Referenda in New Zealand
No Right Turn: So much for the PM’s vanity project
The Standard: The flag poll
Previous related blogposts
This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 22 September 2015.
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