Friday, 19 February 2016

Flagging Our Opposition.

Sending The Prime Minister A Message: UMR Research asked people to respond to the following question: “The flag referendum has been a distraction and a waste of money. New Zealanders should send John Key a message by voting for the current flag.” Two-thirds of UMR’s respondents agreed with that statement.
 
STRANGE DAYS we’re living in, when New Zealand’s youngest voters are the most vociferous defenders of their county’s flag. It has become a commonplace of post-war political sociology that youth and radicalism go together like Ché Guevara’s image and T-Shirts.
 
Even before the youth rebellions of the 1950s and 60s, the close correlation between tender years and tender ideals had been apparent to no less a figure than Winston Churchill. “He who is not a socialist at twenty, hasn’t a heart”, the great man observed, before immediately alienating every twenty-year-old (and socialist!) by adding: “He who is still a socialist at forty, hasn’t a head.”
 
When it comes to the Flag Referendum, however, Churchill’s formula fails spectacularly. Instead of 18-29 year-olds favouring Kyle Lockwood’s Union Jack-less fern and stars design by an overwhelming margin, UMR Research reveals that nearly three-quarters of them (72 percent!) will be voting to keep the New Zealand flag exactly as it is.
 
Only the followers of another Winston are more determined to keep the Union Jack in its proper place. NZ First voters prefer the New Zealand Ensign to Kyle Lockwood’s silver fern by a whopping margin of 66 percentage points (83-17 percent). Are we to take from this that only about a fifth of Winston Peters’ supporters are serious about putting their country’s independent future ahead of its colonial past?
 
Or, is something else at work?
 
UMR Research clearly thinks so. Why else would they have asked people to respond to the following question: “The flag referendum has been a distraction and a waste of money. New Zealanders should send John Key a message by voting for the current flag.” Two-thirds of UMR’s respondents agreed with that statement. But, once again, it was the 18-29 year-olds who did so most vociferously. Fully 71 percent of them agreed that Mr Key should be sent a message.
 
Is this what the Flag Referendum has turned into? A referendum on John Key? People voting to humiliate the Prime Minister because they know they can do so without upsetting the entire political apple-cart? If so, then politics in New Zealand has reached a very interesting point. The electorate may be rapidly tiring of the National Party’s leader, but it has not yet grown weary of the National Party Government.
 
In other words, Mr Key may have got on a great many of the public’s nerves, but on its all-important hip-pocket nerve he has not got. The economy is still growing (albeit slowly) unemployment is falling, and inflation is as low as most people can remember. Wage rises may be low and infrequent – but, when they are given, they are real. And if you’re one of those voters lucky enough to have both feet on the property ladder, then the “wealth effect” of constantly rising house prices is unlikely to recommend any other party (except Act) for your serious electoral consideration.
 
The Flag Referendum thus permits people to lance the boil of their accumulated frustrations with the Prime Minister easily and inconsequentially. It’s a political diversion so very clever that one is sorely tempted to speculate that it’s exactly what Mr Key had planned all along.
 
And all those angry 18-29 year-olds? Are they going to be content with simply voting to retain the present flag? Will that really be sufficient to purge their twenty-something socialist hearts of resentful millennial rage? One suspects not.
 
And it is here that the political story takes a rather sad turning. Were our young voters living in the United States their hearts would be responding to the uncompromising summons of Senator Bernie Sanders: who, by remaining a socialist into his mid-seventies, has well-and-truly given the lie to Winston Churchill! Living in Britain, they would have Jeremy Corbyn (another superannuated socialist!) to whom they could give their hearts. But here, in New Zealand, there is a dearth of charismatic socialists on whose electoral altar they can lay down their youth and enthusiasm.
 
Guyon Espiner, writing in The Listener, likened Andrew Little to a rather dour Police inspector. Pitted against the grasshopper carelessness of John Key, Espiner argued, DCI Little might be just what the electorate is looking for. Or, at least, what forty year-old voters with a head might be looking for.
 
Those flagging a heart-felt vote, will just have to keep on looking.
 
This essay was originally published in The Waikato Times, The Taranaki Daily News, The Timaru Herald, The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 19 February 2016.

14 comments:

pat said...

think you have hit the nail on the head here...the flag referendum will be a popularity contest around Key without having to topple gov.....the hip pocket issues however are just around the corner so not only will Key not get his flag(despite the blatant attempts to manipulate the electorate yet again)....but the National Party will lose the election as well .....unless the worlds central bankers can keep their juggling act going for another 18 months....what chance that?

Anonymous said...

You might be right re 'the young folks' - but the most common opinion I hear is
'I'd consider changing for a good design, but all these designs are terrible.'
I share this opinion.
The winning flag looks like the designer chose a Silver Fern, then when they got to the middle changed their mind to the Southern Cross. And it looks like a Weetbix packet.
Of course anecdote is not data, and my friends may not be a representative of all NZers. I'm in my mid 40s.
Plus there's no real reason to change the flag - no change of constitutional status or public mood.

A wild guess - the union jack is actually a plus to 'the young folks'. It represents our history, and not subservience to Britain. The Gallipoli centenary and similar have brought history and the flag to mind. These days non-white kids are taught to be proud of their heritage, white kids less so. That is the message they get from their primary school teachers (fashionable lefties almost to a woman). For people of British descent, the flag with a union jack is a link to their history, something to be proud of. 'Them young ones' don't remember any subservience to Britain. What one generation rejects, the next embraces.

You haven't mentioned Labour's utter hypocrisy - changing the flag has been a long term policy, and was in their manifesto. Yet they are now all against it, because that nasty Mr Key is behind the change.

That really is grasping at straws re Andre Little!
As someone said, he looks like Wallace (of Wallace and Gromit) - or a background muppet on Sesame street.
I suppose commenting on his appearance isn't fair. Looking odd never hurt Muldoon. But his manner doesn't inspire confidence.

Victor said...

Personally, I'll be voting for the old flag because the suggested alternative is an insult to my sense of aesthetics and the way it was chosen was an insult to my intelligence.

But the Bernie phenomenon interests me, as (to a lesser extent) does youthful Corbynmania.

Is there a deep-seated psychological yearning for a straight-shooting, compassionate, caring but angry grandfather to hector Mum and Dad along the lines of "Is this how you treat my grandchildren?"

And none of the above is an attempt to explain Bernie away or diminish him. He may yet prove the best thing to come out of America since Jazz.

Anonymous said...

I am 78 years old and will vote to keep the present flag ,not as a protest against John Key but because I believe our present flag is of superior design to any of the others.
I am Labour by background and inclination but will not vote for Labour at the next election simply because of their stance on TPPA, they say they are against the TPPA, as I am, but if elected they will retain TPPA and not agree to the parts they do not like.
They will not get away with that nonsense on the international scene and it is irresponsible of them to say so.
I will not give my vote to National, NZ first or the Greens so it looks like I become a non-voter.
Little and Labour are a disappointment to say the least.

Richard McGrath said...

@pat - You're possibly right about the next election result depending in part on the fortunes of the world's economies. But would Labour have acted differently and refused to borrow and spend as National have? I don't think so.

I will be voting for the old flag but would prefer to see it in black and white rather than red, white and blue.

Richard McGrath said...

@Anon at 12:50 - don't vote (or better still spoil your vote) unless you really like a candidate or party and feel they are worthy of a tick. Don't give your sanction to the scum who oppress us.

Jack Scrivano said...

With all the talk of ‘let’s give John Key a bloody nose’, most people seem to have lost sight of the fact that the proposed alternative flag design is just not very good. The whole selection process was probably doomed from the start. What do ‘worthies’ (sporting and other) really know about good design?

Anonymous said...

I will not give my vote to National, NZ first or the Greens so it looks like I become a non-voter.

Which means you've become a de facto National voter and a de facto TPPA supporter. Don't like the TPPA and are angry at Labour - vote Green or New Zealand First. But for heaven's sake, vote.

peter petterson said...

Only a handful of seats are needed to get the Left into power. Labour may actually be the recipient of these few seats. The Maori Party should lose its List seat and gains in Christchurch and Auckland for labour

pat said...

@ Richard

probably not, and i have no problem with that.....its who they tax and what it is spent on that matters....and am fairly confident there wouldn't have been tax cuts and a war on the public services

Anonymous said...

Good to see some jokers thinking Labour will win in 2017. Excellent joke

AB said...

Anonymous at 12:50:
"I will not give my vote to National, NZ first or the Greens so it looks like I become a non-voter."

Reply by Anonymous at 09:35
"Which means you've become a de facto National voter and a de facto TPPA supporter. Don't like the TPPA and are angry at Labour - vote Green or New Zealand First. But for heaven's sake, vote."

Yes - please "Anonymous at 12:50", please vote for the least worst. Don't join the missing million.

Hi Vis. said...

I refer to two Winstons. I in army speak " say again " that of Churchill's last line of his famous quote." But it is,perhaps,the end of the beginning." The Northland by-election, the work of another Winston called Peters, the TPPA protest of the " fourth of February ", the rolling strikes on the western seaboard of the USA ,the bus drivers strike on Friday in Auckland, the polling in the USA might deem to be just that, " the end of the beginning."
There are rumours afoot in Whangarei in inner circles as we speak and I hope they might be affirmed. Perhaps we will see another order out of left field. A " New Coalition " Government in 2017. I hope and pray.

tyke15 said...

Most objections to our flag appear to involve it's supposed likeness to the Australian (see Richie McCaw's comments about when he decided we needed a new one for an example).
Those who can't tell the difference bewtween a flag with four red stars and one with six white stars ought to visit Specsavers before they next get behind the wheel of a car.
And there's absolutely nowt wrong with it (the one wth four red stars).
It tells the world where most of us had our origins