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Flag thoughts and settling dust – Dedicated to our esteemed Dear Leader and Audrey Young

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Preface

Due to personal circumstances (and a tussle with a ‘bug’ that seemed to take a fancy to my body), this blogpost is a couple of weeks late. Therefore, it is worth more as a “retrospective” than anything else. Apologies for the delay.

PS: The bug lost.

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Flag thoughts and settling dust – Dedicated to our esteemed Dear Leader and Audrey Young

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The People’s Verdict

The verdict is in; the people have spoken; ‘Old Blue‘ has been retained as our current flag.

By now most will be aware of the voting results;

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second flag referendum results

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Just over 1.2 million  voters cast their ballot to retain the existing flag. That is 68,502 votes more than National party vote share (1,131,501) in the last election. If ‘Old Blue‘ was a political party, it could probably govern in it’s own right, without the second-rate hangers-on that National relies on to remain in power.

So, 1,200,003 people were not inclined to change our flag. There was no one particular reason – there were several;

  • War veterans fought, and many perished, under that flag (or, at least, commemorate ANZAC Day under it)
  • There was no popular movement for change – the two referenda were handed down from On High, and foisted upon the public
  • Some did not like the process of deciding the candidate-designs in both referenda
  • Some did not like the fact that three out of four (later, with the addition on Red Peak, five) options were eerily similar, bearing the silver fern
  • Some thought that $26 million could be better spent on health, education, housing, increasing Pharmac’s budget to buy new cancer medicines, and other more worthwhile and pressing causes
  • Some viewed it as a deliberate ploy by National to distract public attention from growing social and economic problems confronting us
  • Some did not like the Kyle Lockwood design
  • Some viewed the government’s decision to reinstate Knighthoods as contradictory to changing our flag
  • Some remembered Key’s rejection and denigration of the 2012 anti-asset sale referendum and wondered why they should support our esteemed Dear Leader’s initiative, when he so casually derided a popular, grass-roots movement to voice opposition to asset sales
  • A fair few voted against change as they saw it as a de facto referendum on John Key’s government (much like the September 1997 Compulsory Retirement Savings Scheme referenda, which many treated as a vote of No Confidence in the National-NZ First Coalition government at the time)
  • Some were not convinced of the need for change
  • Others viewed the alternatives as a “branding” exercise rather than advancing our national identity
  • And a fair few simply liked the current  ‘Old Blue‘, full stop.

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The high cost of the referendum rankled with many - especially as early childhood education budget cuts and Pharmac's inability to fund new cancer drugs was not lost on many people.

The high cost of the referendum rankled with many – especially as early childhood education budget cuts and Pharmac’s inability to fund new cancer drugs, was not lost on many people.

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The only real surprise was that the numbers voting to retain the current flag was only 56.6%. Previous public opinion polling had indicated that between 61%  and 65% opposed change. Even as recently as a few weeks ago, a UMR Poll showed 59% opting to support the status quo.

A matter of National identity

One of the most trenchant criticisms of the flag referendum process is the contradiction of Key’s government returning New Zealand to British Knighthoods.

Discussion of wider aspects of nationhood such as becoming a republic and electing our own Head of State were also muted.

On 29 October, 2014, Key maintained the aspirations of a new flag expressing our own modern,  independent identity;

“Our flag is the most important symbol of our national identity and I believe that this is the right time for New Zealanders to consider changing the design to one that better reflects our status as a modern, independent nation.”

In another example of Key’s multiplicity of opinions, his comments were contradicted two years later on 2 April this year when he uttered this eyebrow-raising assertion;

“We are at the core … a British colony and I thought there was an argument that New Zealanders could be treated in a way which reflected that.”

So much for “independent national identity”.

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Key’s restrained/rehearsed  response

On TV3’s The Nation, on 26 March, Lisa Owen interviewed our esteemed Dear Leader, John Key. His face was studiously calm and seemingly unperturbed by what was obviously a rejection of his beloved silver fern flag reform. Key’s tax-payer funded media minders had earned their salaries and trained him well.

Key’s composure was perhaps a little too perfect;

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The Nation - interview John Key - flag referendum - 26 march 2016

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During the interview, Key blamed voters for voting along “party lines”;

@ 1.22

“Well, that was because what we saw was some really big numbers that looked like they were along party lines. Seventy percent of Labour voters for instance in the polling indicated they would vote for the current New Zealand flag when it was Labour policy to change the flag via a referendum.”

Astoundingly, Key cheekily tried to re-write recent history by denying any favouritism in the flag debate;

@ 3.18

“Well, in the end, you gotta remember I didn’t back the horse. What I did was open up a process which allowed ten and a half thousand to put in a submission…”

Oh, of course, not Dear Leader. You had no preference at all, right? These images below – they are images of  your  evil duplicate, from a Parallel Universe,  right?

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john key-with-flag

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key-with-alt-flag-lapel-badge

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It was noticeable that Key had no lapel pin on his jacket-breast in the interview with Lisa Owen (nor on TVNZ’s Q+A, the following Sunday). Even after the people had spoken in a referendum promoted by him and his government, he could not bring himself to wear the mandated flag of our nation.

It will be interesting to see what pin he will be wearing in future, if any. After all, as Key himself pointed out;

@ 2.03

“..and actually now, as a country, let’s get behind our flag.”

Indeed, Dear Leader; let’s get behind our flag. And you can start by wearing it on your lapel.

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Audrey Young’s response

In examples of childish foot-stomping, petulance, Audrey Young’s piece on 25 March in the NZ Herald was hard to beat;

“It is not even a failure to persuade because Key did not campaign heavily for change.

If anything, he failed to campaign strongly enough.

He always answered questions about changing the flag but he did not lead a campaign to change it in the way the late Lloyd Morrison might have done.”

Young’s assertion that “Key did not campaign heavily for change” beggars belief. As the two images above show – along with other evidence easily available on the ‘net – Key was one of the prime movers to replace the current flag.

Young would have to have been living in a snow-cave in Antarctica; in a bathysphere at the bottom of the Marianas Trench; or a moonbase on the Dark Side of the Moon, not to have noticed Key’s cheerleading for the Kyle Lockwood flag.

“He wrongly counted on the Greens and Labour actually following their own policy and embracing the referendum rather than politicizing the process.”

Which illustrates Young’s lack of knowledge on the referendum voting patterns (as well as over-looking the fact the entire process had been politicised when Key took a personal position on which flag he  supported).

In fact, many of the electorates which voted to retain the current flag are held by National MPs;

Auckland Central (56.5% current flag, 43.2% alternative flag)

Botany (51.5%, 48.3%)

Christchurch Central (56.4%, 43.4%)

Coromandel (54.5%, 45.3%)

East Coast (57.5%, 42.3%)

Hamilton East (51.9%, 47.9%)

Hamilton West (55.2%, 44.6%)

Hunua (53.4%, 46.5%)

Invercargill (60.0%, 39.9%)

Kaikōura (53.0%, 46.8%)

Maungakiekie (59.0%, 40.8%)

Nelson (51.9%, 47.8%)

New Plymouth (50.7%, 49.1%)

North Shore (50.4%, 49.4%)

Northcote (56.1%, 43.6%)

Ōtaki (57.4%, 42.4%)

Pakuranga (53.2%, 46.7%)

Papakura (59.0%, 40.9%)

Rangitata (51.6%, 48.2%)

Rangitῑkei (56.0%, 43.9%)

Rodney (52.4%, 47.3%)

Rotorua (56.2%, 43.6%)

Taupō (53.0%, 46.8%)

Tauranga (50.1%, 49.7%)

Tukituki (56.5%, 43.3%)

Upper Harbour (55.8%, 44.0%)

Waikato (52.2%, 47.6%)

Waimakariri (51.0%, 48.9%)

Wairarapa (56.8%, 43.0%)

Waitaki (50.4%, 49.4%)

Whanganui (59% – 40.8%)

Whangarei (58.5%, 41.3%)

Even our esteemed Dear Leader’s own electorate turned against him;

Helensville (56.6%, 43.3%)

In the last election, National scored 58.39% of the Party Vote and 65.17% Electorate Vote.

So For Audrey Young to whine about Labour and the Greens not towing the official Government Party Line on this issue is childish finger-pointing and blame-gaming. Perhaps she should take it up with National’s own supporters.

After all, in National-held Invercargill, the vote was a staggering 60% to retain ‘Old Blue’. I doubt if that far-south electorate is a secret  Labour and Green stronghold and hotbed of left-wing,  anti-government  activity.

And where did Key’s support go in his own electorate?

Audrey Young’s whinging continued;

“To those who didn’t like the design of the silver fern alternative, it was the public’s choice.

To those who didn’t like any of the five finalists in the first referendum, they were the Flag Consideration’s Panel’s Choice.

To those who wanted Red Peak among the finalists, Key and the Green Party got it added and shut them up.

To those in Labour who say a new flag should not have been considered until New Zealand becomes a republic, he can say “hypocrite.”

That’s not they were saying in 2014 when Trevor Mallard released its policy saying “We believe that the time has come for a change and it is right for the issue to be put to the public.”

To those who did not want a referendum at all, did they want a choose imposed on them?

To those who thought it was a waste of money, it is not what they were saying in 2013 on the referendum for state asset sales for which the Government had received a clear mandate at the 2011 election.

To those say who say people should have been asked first if they wanted change, it was a question biased towards no change.”

It seems fairly obvious where Young stands on the flag referendum. She brooks no dissent; no contrary opinion; and certainly does not respect the will of the people.

For example, her ridiculous notion that “to those who didn’t like the design of the silver fern alternative, it was the public’s choice” – is arrant rubbish. The Kyle Lockwood option on the ballot paper was one of four  decided by the Flag Selection committee.

Of the four, three had the silver fern and could be considered nearly identical. (The fourth option – Andrew Fyfe’s Koru flag design – was so abysmal as to be a sure bet to be relegated to last position in voting preferences. No personal offense intended Mr Fyfe.)

Of the four options, a silver fern was bound to win. The public had few real choices in the matter.

Audrey Young left out one “To Those“, which I will offer in the form of one of her own statements, slightly amended;

To those who fume at the referendum result, get over it!

Key got his referendum. He simply did not get the result he wanted. Audrey Young insults voters with her whiney little tanty.

This time – unlike the referendum on State Assets which he thumbed his nose at – he cannot ignore the Will of the People. Not unless he wants to lose the 2017 election, and probably the next one or two after that.

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Other matters to consider: 1 – Similarity

Perhaps the Number One argument in favour of changing our flag was “Old Blues” similarity to Australia’s flag;

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anzac-flags

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Which is not a unique situation, as Hungary and Italy also have similar flags;

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hungary-italy-flags

 

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As do France and Russia

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French Russian flags

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And try remembering which is which when it comes to Indonesia and Poland!

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Polish Indonesian flags

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Changing a flag because it bears a similarity to another nation’s emblem does not – on the face of it – seem a necessity when so many others are striking in their sameness.

Quite the contrary, if any two nations on the face of this  little planet have a reason to share a similar design – it is Australia and New Zealand.

After all, we have a similar pattern of colonisation;  shared history, language, culture, values, economy, and we laud our ANZAC tradition. To an outsider, there is little appreciable difference between Australians and New Zealanders (except we don’t have an accent).

Why shouldn’t our flags be similar as well?

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Other matters to consider: 2 – Stubborness

By now, our elected representatives should know that New Zealanders don’t like being told what to do. Our stubborn streak of “sticking it to the man” was epitomised in that 1981 cult classic, “Goodbye Pork Pie“. The entire movie (in case the title wasn’t sufficient to give it away) was a middle finger raised at the increasingly autocratic National government of the day. (What is it about National governments that tend toward authoritarianism?)

The flag referendum, unlike it’s more successful predecessor, the firefighters’ referendum in 1995, and the anti-asset sales referendum in 2012, was not a grass-roots movement by the people.

It was handed down, from on-high, and by golly the government would demand that we vote on this matter.

People did not want the referendum,  and the cost – at a time of cuts to many social services and lack of funding for new anti-cancer drugs – rankled with many.

But vote we did. Over two million New Zealanders.

Not because we wanted to.

But so that a flag change would not be carried by a minority who were either Key-sycophants, or disliked our current flag sufficiently to vote for change, regardless of dirty political manipulations at play.

So, vote we did.

And we sent a clear message to the National government as clearly as a certain little yellow mini did, thirtyfive years ago. The message, in case anyone missed it: stop fart-arsing around!

Bolshie lot, aren’t we?

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Other matters to consider: 3 – Real Change

If New Zealand is going to embrace  change and adopt a new flag, it must actually mean something. It must mean a new start to building our own nationhood.

Otherwise, any flag-change – without meaningful change to back it – simply becomes a re-branding exercise. Which is precisely what our esteemed Dear Leader seems to have had in mind; a re-brand rather than a republic.

It was no coincidence that Key’s own preference was for the Silver Fern – a commercialised brand symbol on everything from the All Blacks to Air New Zealand.

This was a re-branding exercise for NZ Inc, and  many (if not most) people saw through it.  John Key’s seeming lack of understanding the meaning of  real nation-building (see: “A matter of National identity” above) doomed his pet project from the start.

John Key is not the right person to effect this kind of sea-change in our country’s destiny. He never was.

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Other matters to consider: 4 – Where were Maori, our Treaty partners?

During this entire exercise, very little – if any – inclusion of Maori culture made it to the final five designs. It is like they never existed.

And yet, there were many offerings that the Flag Selection panel could have chosen from;

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possible maori flag designs

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Instead, the final offerings to the public were Pakeha notions of flag-design.

Perhaps it explains why the Maori electorates voted to retain ‘Old Blue‘. For them, it would be “change” that was no change at all. Sticking with the current flag, albeit with elements of musket-enforced British colonialism, was little different to alternatives on offer.

In this matter, the Flag Consideration panel was an abject failure, tainted with mono-culturalism.

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Key “get’s Behind our flag” – by ignoring it!

Remember how our esteemed Dear Leader said on TV3’s The Nation, on 26 March,

“…and actually now, as a country, let’s get behind our flag.”

This is how he backed up his words on 5 April, during a press meeting;

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Helen Clark 'The pragmatism and focus I have are what the UN needs right now' - John Key

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What is on his lapel? Nothing.

That is how Key “gets behind our flag”.

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Final Word

The final word on this saga has to go to out-going Governor-General, Jerry Mateparae, who, on 28 March opined on Radio NZ;

“Sometimes we’ve got distracted, and that’s the nature of politics, and that’s also possibly the nature of such an important emblem of who we are – this represents us…”

(Audio link)

Rich irony indeed; the Establishment’s figurehead complains that people were distracted from a referendum that many considered a distraction in the first place.

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References

Electoral Commission: Second Referendum on the New Zealand Flag – Preliminary Result

Electoral Commission: 2014 General Election Official Count Results – Overall Status

Good Returns: Do not file New Zealand Superannuation just yet

TVNZ News: Two-thirds against changing flag, poll shows

NZ Herald: Poll indicates flag unlikely to change

Radio NZ:  Current flag the favourite – poll

Beehive: First steps taken towards flag referendum

TV3: The Nation – interview with John Key

Radio NZ: Media commentator Gavin Ellis (audio) (alt. link)

NZ Herald: Audrey Young – John Key a loser on flag referendum but not a failure

NZ Herald: How did New Zealand vote?

Wikipedia: Helensville – 2014 Election

Fairfax media: Andrew Fyfe’s Koru flag design

NZ Herald: UK forgets NZ ties, Key tells Cameron

Otago Daily Times: Asset sales referendum ‘waste of money’

TV1 News: Helen Clark: ‘The pragmatism and focus I have are what the UN needs right now’

Radio NZ:  Flag debate – Politics distracted people from real meaning – Sir Jerry (Audio link)

Other Bloggers

Bowalley Road: Whoops And Cheers For Democracy’s Flag

Bowalley Road: Was Class The Decisive Factor In Determining The Flag Referendum’s Outcome?

Pundit: God Save the Flag vs God Defend the Flag?

No Right Turn: A referendum on John Key

The Daily Blog: Not a bad result for opponents of the colonial flag

The Daily Blog: Battle Lines: Occasional Dispatches From the Class War

The Daily Blog: Key’s Colonial Daze

The Standard: Flag distraction result today

The Standard: What the flag vote means

Previous related blogposts

Letter to Radio NZ: Key, the flag, and irrelevancies

Letter to the editor – a new angle in the flag debate

Flying the flags of discontent – MOBILISE!

The Flag Referendum – A strategy for Calm Resistance

John Key is a principled man – except when a photo op arises (A Photo Essay)

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 6 April 2016.

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John Key is a principled man – except when a photo op arises (A Photo Essay)

20 March 2016 5 comments

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Prime Minister John Key draped in current flag at NZ Open

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“Key has led the charge for changing the New Zealand flag but clearly he’s open to being spotted in the current one, having been involved in some banter with former Australia cricket captain Ricky Ponting at the New Zealand Open golf tournament in Arrowtown on Sunday.”

The journalist – Peter Thornton – who wrote that piece has missed the point entirely: it was a photo-op.  Our esteemed Dear Leader would run naked through Hades if there was a photo-op involved.

Whether it be babies, kittens, or puppies…

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john key photo op (1-4)

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Though some weren’t quite so keen…

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john key photo op (5)

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Some turned out to be downright dodgy…

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john key photo op (6)

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And some turned into an unmitigated disaster…

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Act member for Remuera, John Banks and Prime Minister John Key stop in for a cup of tea and a chat at the Urban Cafe. 12 November 2011 New Zealand Listener Picture by David White.

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But let’s get back to kitten and puppies – always an easy, safe bet for a photo-op… (especially with a visiting compliant Royal chucked in for good measure)…

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john key photo op (7-9)

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Talking about visiting Royals – they are proven rich-pickings for Key to exploit for photo-ops…

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john key photo op (10)

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And there were photo-ops-galore with various sundry Royals…

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john key photo op 11-14)

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Chuck in an Aussie Prime Minister…

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And another Aussie Prime Minister…

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John+Key+Julia+Gillard+Visits+New+Zealand+HLo_hFr7PRPl

 

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Yet another Aussie Prime Minister…

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And – wait for it! – an Aussie Prime Minister!!

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Ok, that line of Aussies was getting tedious. Let’s try something different.

A former New Zealand Prime Minister…

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Or the current Brit Prime Minister.

Slow down, Dear Leader, you’ve got Cameron dead in your sights for that manly grip…

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Britain's Prime Minister, David Cameron (L), greets the Prime Minister of New Zealand, John Key, outside 10 Downing Street in central London September 18, 2013. REUTERS/Andrew Winning (BRITAIN - Tags: POLITICS)

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See? Nailed that handshake…

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john_key_and_david_cameron__number_10_Master

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Enough of Prime Ministers. Let’s try a current German Chancellor…

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Angela+Merkel+John+Key+New+Zealand+Prime+Minister+IxtkHCovagLl

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Or a US State Secretary…

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Maybe another Royal…

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john-key-prince-charles-rachael-park

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And a Queen or two…

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[*scrape, scrape, shuffle, bow, bow, grin like a commoner*]

[*scrape, scrape, shuffle, bow, bow, grin like a commoner*]

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Key and Queens

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Some bloke from China…

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New Zealand's Prime Minister John Key (L) shakes hands with China's President Xi Jinping during a welcoming ceremony of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, inside the International Convention Center at Yanqi Lake, in Beijing, November 11, 2014. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon (CHINA - Tags: POLITICS BUSINESS)

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And some bloke from America…

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Here is our esteemed Dear Leader with perhaps The Most Important Bloke in America…

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And we know what followed next…

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key - letterman

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Though perhaps not quite as embarrassing as this…

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RWC_JohnKey

 

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*facepalm*

But just to keep the “common touch” with the Great Unwashed…

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Key in toy boat

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And when you get tired of doing your own driving…

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But for the Top Prize for photo-ops, you just can’t get more Ordinary Blokey than hanging out with Ritchie and The Boys…

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Still hangin’ out with Ritchie and The Boys…

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Ah, John, I think this is The Boys telling you ‘enough is enough, go the f**k home!

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Good night John!

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Ok… getting a bit wanky now…

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And then it just hits rock-bottom, in Key’s eagerness to be In-On-The-Act…

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It’s obvious that our esteemed Dear Leader is not shy in front of a camera.

Any camera. (No bedroom jokes please – this is a family Blog.)

In the past, Key has worn several lapel-badges pinned to his jacket;

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His most recent addition being the Kyle Lockwood flag-alternative;

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Key with alt flag lapel badge

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It appears that at no time has Key ever worn the current New Zealand flag on his lapel. One can only assume he is ashamed to wear it.

Which became confusing when he stood with current Aussie PM, Malcolm Turnbull, for another photo-op;

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lapel badge - key - turnbull

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It seems wholly inappropriate that Key stood in front of a large version of the current New Zealand flag – whilst wearing something on his lapel that carried no real meaning, and had not yet been decided by popular vote.

But perhaps Key has a deep abiding belief in the Kyle Lockwood flag-alternative and is exercising his personal commitment to change. He is committed to his principles.

Except…

When a photo-op presents itself…

In which case…

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Prime Minister John Key draped in current flag at NZ Open

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Screw those principles.

Smile for the camera, Dear Leader!

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References

Fairfax media: Prime Minister John Key draped in current flag at NZ Open

Previous related blogposts

What are you hiding, Mr Key?

John Key: When propaganda photo-ops go wrong

Not all photo ops are welcomed events

Letter to the Editor – the Royal Visit and endless photo ops for Dear Leader

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Annoying little guy and ritchie mccaw

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 15 March 2016.

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The bloated ego of a vain man – When John Key refused to listen

27 September 2015 2 comments

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Fuck you my little Kiwi Peasants!

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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;

@ 0.45

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;

@ 0.50

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;

@ 1.23

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.

@ 2.19

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;

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Schedule 2 Voting paper for second flag referendum
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So if the TV3-Reid Research question was “basic” or “not  terribly  sophisticated” – what does our esteemed Dear Leader think of the second ballot paper, which is nearly identical?

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.

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Appendix1

A strategy to subvert John Key’s vanity project

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spoil and foil - flag referendum

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References

TV3 News: Political poll – Support low for flag change

TV3 News: Key – Flag poll question ‘not sophisticated’

Radio NZ: Checkpoint – Key brushes off poll but admits changing flag a tough ask (alt. link)

NZ Parliament: New Zealand Flag Referendums Act 2015 – Schedule 2

NZ Parliament: New Zealand Flag Referendums Act 2015 – Voting paper in second flag referendum

Wikipedia: 2002 General Election

Wikipedia: Referenda in New Zealand

Other blogs

No Right Turn: So much for the PM’s vanity project

The Standard: The flag poll

Previous related blogposts

Letter to the editor – John Key’s legacy?

The Flag Referendum – A strategy for Calm Resistance

Flying the flags of discontent – MOBILISE!

The slow dismantling of a Prime Minister continues

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 22 September 2015.

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