Wednesday, 6 April 2016

John Key's Colonial Daze.

"No, no, Mr Key, you are our New Zealand subject, not our British subject."
“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.”
That was John Key’s pitch to the British prime minister, David Cameron, in a pull-aside at last week’s nuclear summit in Washington DC. The New Zealand prime minister was attempting to soften the treatment being meted out to Kiwis under the UK’s harsh new immigration regime.
Now, we all know our Prime Minister is notoriously loose with the language he uses, so our first impulse is to dismiss Key’s constitutionally and historically nonsensical “We are at the core … a British colony” as just another (particularly bad) example of his verbal and conceptual imprecision.
We would simply assume that he was attempting to play the “How can Mother England treat New Zealanders so badly after everything we’ve done for her?” card. Riffing on that favourite teenage riposte: “I didn’t ask to be born!” Something along the lines of: “Hey! It was your lot who colonised New Zealand in the first place! Remember?”
But if those were our assumptions, then we got it badly wrong. Because this morning (4/4/16) on Paul Henry’s show, with David Cameron nowhere in sight, John Key said it again. Twice.
“We are a British colony.”
Somehow, New Zealand’s Prime Minister has convinced himself that, constitutionally, his country remains a colonial appendage of the United Kingdom. That the granting of Self-Governing Dominion status in 1907 never happened. That the 1931 Statute of Westminster, which the First Labour Government adopted in 1947, thereby signalling this country’s emergence into full and independent nationhood, is but a figment of our historians’ imaginations. That the independent “Realm of New Zealand” – of which Queen Elizabeth II is “Sovereign in Right” – has no legal existence.
Can Key really be so ignorant? Can the man who has led this country for eight years truly possess so tenuous a grasp on its political and constitutional realities? Surely not. Because if it’s true; if our 176 year journey as a people towards nationhood and independence means precisely nothing to him; then we are all in much more trouble than we thought.
It must mean that all the Prime Minister’s recent talk about changing the New Zealand flag to “better reflect who we are” was utterly insincere. What would a country that is still “at the core … a British colony” want with a flag that did not proudly display, in its top left-hand corner, the Mother Country’s Union Jack?
Even more puzzling is what the Prime Minister believes himself to be doing all day. Because colonies are not governed by Parliaments and Prime Ministers, they’re ruled by Governors. And these Governors are in no way accountable to the people they rule, but to an imperial government far, far, away.
If New Zealand is “at the core … a British colony”, then it is neither independent, nor a democracy.
It couldn’t be, because, historically speaking, a colony is a place where imperialism rips-in, rips-out and rips-off. A place where the indigenous people are duped, dispossessed and exploited.
Oh, heck, wait a minute …
This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Tuesday, 5 April 2016.


Nick J said...

Aha Chris, you've tumbled it. We are an imperial appendage at the edge of the (mainly) Anglo American financial empire. Key knows the whole thing from the core, he is after all thoroughly inculcated with an internal view of Wall St / City bankers.

I see two issues here:
* Sovereignty and self determination, which might appear real in legislative terms is constantly under attack from the forces of international capital. I have read Waynes comments on things like TPPA and feel he has a good grasp of the realities of "how it actually is" without him ever challenging the status quo with a vision of something better. Like Key he is more than a "useful fool", an active promoter and beneficiary of our lack of sovereignty seems more likely.
* Our melding of a colonial people with an indigenous people with a further overlay of multi ethnicity. Keys idea that we are a British colony may be an insult to Maori (I cant talk for them), I definitely find it insulting. In a century and a half there is still no settlement of the process yet Key carries on as if there is no issue. As for the British they should hang their heads in shame at their treatment of NZers as just another people who have to apply for limited work permits etc, the blood of our people has been spilled for their benefit. yet they erect barriers to people and trade. How dare Key claim we are "theirs".

greywarbler said...

Talking about the way the British have treated us. We were fervent in supporting them through world wars and after with food parcels etc. Then
Brit needed to join the EU, and we were excess baggage, unlike the French who had dragged their colonies with them. We couldn't hang onto the edge of the ermine cloak however.

Then there was a furore over us possibly adulterating our butter which was not allowed in the quota agreement that had been hammered out by PM John Marshall. I think the softened more spreadable butter we introduced to the market, was thought to contain oil as an extra, and our Brit offices were entered by Customs I think and documents seized. But we had just been double whipping and not extracting so much water, so getting an emulsified effect, and haha our Brit competition couldn't nail us on that.

But this is the treatment we have received. I don't forget that hostile invasion of our premises, particularly seeing that my birth father went over there to fly in WW2 in 1943, was killed in 1944, and has remained ever since in a French grave, which incidentally is carefully tended by the French people. In Brit, it would probably have weeds growing around it or been sold off to developers.

Anonymous said...

Well let's see - "New Zealand" is a product of British colonisation of Maori, our institutions and systems and a lot of family trees are a direct legacy of that, and yeah, I think the British probably owe us compensation - I don't see what Key got wrong. The fact that we're an independent nation doesn't erase how we got here.

Anonymous said...

We are no longer a colony in law , but most of our law's and way of life reflect our British colonial past.
John Key is simply trying to maintain the right of entry for NZ'rs to Britain in face of Britain's obligations to the EU which make entry and work for NZ'rs a lot more difficult.
There is nothing malicious or silly in his conversations about our being a colony, he is simply in character to the part he is playing.
John Key and his government is supported by about 50% of the voting public who have a deep and abiding appreciation of his political skills.

Martin English said...

NZ is obviously a British colony, but you speak as if that is a bad thing. Wasn't it your vote, along with the rest of the staunch imperialists of Her Majesty's loyal opposition, who defied the radically progressive Keys in his attempt "by referendum" to remove the very heart of our most sacred connection to Home ?

Max Ritchie said...

For greywarbler: Not the issue here but just to correct you re graves of those who died in France. Most of the Commonwealth soldiers etc who died in France (and elsewhere for that matter) are in cemeteries tended by the War Graves Commission and very well indeed. No weeds and no developers. Your late father would be well looked after, although I note that he's in a French cemetery. The cemeteries I've visited in the UK are similarly cared for, although I'm not sure if they are Commission ones.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"New Zealand" is a product of British colonisation of Maori, our institutions and systems and a lot of family trees are a direct legacy of that"

Not what he said. He didn't even say WAS a colony.

The flag is the "heart of our most sacred connection to Home?" Was that irony? Hopefully, otherwise it's a ridiculous statement. Interesting that Key should make an appeal to our British connection when he was so keen to get rid of the flag though :).

If we are owed anything by Britain, it's because they spent a great deal of time and effort expending New Zealand lives in their various wars, using them as shock troops. But essentially fuck 'em. We produce food. In the long run that's probably worth more than some free medical treatment.

Damien Grant said...

the word colony has a wider meaning that subject to political control. You could say that 'Browns Bay is a South African colony' and people would understand that you meant the suburb contained a large South African population and not that it was under the control of Pretoria.

Viewed in this sense, Key was correct. Let's not also exclude he was playing the sympathy card hard in order to gain an advantage in negotiations.

Victor said...

'Can Key really be so ignorant? Can the man who has led this country for eight years truly possess so tenuous a grasp on its political and constitutional realities?'


'It must mean that all the Prime Minister’s recent talk about changing the New Zealand flag to “better reflect who we are” was utterly insincere'"

Well, dogone, who'd have thought it!

Meanwhile, I wonder how this is playing in Beijing.

pat said...

LMAO......but then I probably shouldn't....Key represents us after all (sadly)

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"You could say that 'Browns Bay is a South African colony"

True. Haven't thought of that. Not sure it applies nowadays though.

Does that make the Beehive a colony of drones? :)

Victor said...

I might be mistaken but, half listening to the radio today, I think I heard JK referring to "the Eastern Block", probably in reference to Russian support for his predecessor's UN leadership bid.

Could someone please take the Queen of New Zealand's first minister aside and explain to him that the Berlin Wall has fallen and the Warsaw Pact wound up. Do it gently as it might be a shock to his system.

greywarbler said...

@Martin English
Nothing in politics is as simple as you describe. Why people voted against the tea towel are varied. You trying to pin it to one line of thought shows scornful disinterest in or an inability to read the thoughts of the NZ public.

and Max Ritchie
I was using hyperbole when I talked about NZ war graves in Britain.
The saying applies that beauty is only skin deep. Keeping the graves in good condition is admirable, but the attitude to the people whose lives were sacrificed needs to reflect real respect for that loss to them, their families and country. In Ypres I understand they have a short memorial ceremony regularly, daily? In Crete, and in Le Quesnoy du Nord I understand we are not passe' -

Our sacrifice in WW2 has become an artifact of past Britain to a great extent, shadowed by our losses on Gallipoli in WW1. The social values that my birth father thought he was conserving when he entered the killing space, are now missing in action in Britain, and through the mutual English language, in the USA also, and ultimately here. We now seem to have more in common with Germans who come to visit and reside here than many British.

greywarbler said...

Incidentally Chris that is an interesting image you have for this post. The Queen seems to be taking a measuring sideways glance at Jokey Hen, who seems to be carefully looking away perhaps while he thinks of the next most expedient thing to say and do. The Queen is not someone you do deals with, what now?

Guerilla Surgeon said...

The Queen is not someone ONE does deals with please. :)