As predicted, the flag won’t be changing

As predicted by almost everyone except those who have spent the best part of a year wishful thinking, the flag won’t be changing.

To be fair, I was listening to David Farrar and he knew what his polling was showing. He explains on his Arts, Lifestyle and Travel blog precisely why the vote wasn’t for change.

As I’ve got better things to do at the start of Easter long weekend than wait for the results and write the blog post tonight, I’m doing it in advance. Why do I think the status quo won.

First of all, let me say that it is very possible that regardless of all the factors, it is more than likely the vote would have been for the status quo. There has never been a poll showing a majority for change, and few if any countries have ever ever voted to change their flag. It is normally done by fiat from Government, or as a result of constitutional change such as becoming independent.

I’m proud of the fact we are one of the few countries where we have actually got to have a vote on what our flag will be.

However it may have been a lot closer than what the actual result will be. A number of factors basically doomed any chance there was of a change. Here’s what I think they were:  

Partisan Politics

If the referendum had not been been advocated by John Key, then it might have gone very differently – say if it has been a CIR.

But the parties of the left were so obsessed with a chance to give Key a loss, than they did everything possible to ensure a no vote.

Almost universally it is the more progressive side of politics that is keenest to throw away colonial symbols.  You would normally expect the biggest support to be from the Greens, then Labour, then National, then NZ First. NZ First as a nationalist party was always going to oppose any change. But look at how Green and Labour MPs declared they would vote.

Only one Green MP out of 14 and one Labour MP out of 32 are backing a change. This is purely because they see the referendum as about bashing up Key, not the best flag for NZ. It is impossible that 44 out of 46 left wing MPs really prefer a flag with the union jack over one with the silver fern.

And their supporters have gone along. If you are on the left and support a flag change, you get monstered on social media. Anyone supporting a flag change gets vile messages on social media.

Normally I would say support and opposition for a flag change would be approx:

  • National: 35 for/65 against
  • Labour 70 for/30 against
  • Greens 80 for/20 against

Instead I’d estimate support and opposition is around:

  • National 55/45
  • Labour 25/75
  • Greens 30/70

So the maths is simply impossible. National voters are divided more or less equally (Key in favour has shifted some to favour) but Labour/Green voters are almost block voting against. Unless National voters backed it 75/25 it can’t pass.

He was right. Farrar does go on to explain other points as to why it didn’t change, but it was the numbers that mattered.

The left-wing will try to smear John Key with this, but the bottom line is this: he believed in a  flag change, campaigned for it and lost…that’s politics.

Labour, on the other hand, went against their own policy that has existed since 1972, is still their policy and they essentially lied to their supporters about why they opposed a flag change when their policy supported it.

They have been shown up to be utter hypocrites and petty politickers, opposing the flag change simply to get a hit on Key. Which, just quietly, still hasn’t happened.

Farrar explains:

There will be no flag change for at least a generation, and probably longer. No Government will want to go near this again. I’d like to think NZ will become a republic in the next 20 years, but I doubt it.

The parties of the left have been hoping this will be the start of the end for John Key. I think they will be disappointed.

There certainly has been a lot of anger and opposition to the referendum and its cost. But this has been more polarising than changing people’s opinions of Key. Those who dislike him, dislike him even more. But there’s been no sign of a change in the polls, and it has been apparent for some time there will be no change. The cost has been known for over a year, and is an issue with many. It will give other parties a cudgel when the Government won’t fund something, but again they’ve bene trying to use the cudgel for the last year and it hasn’t worked.

National in February averaged 47.8% in the polls to 29.5% for Labour. A year ago it was 49.0% to 30.5% and three years ago it was 47.4% to 33.4%. So the gap has been:

  • Feb 2013 – 14.0%
  • Feb 2015 – 18.5%
  • Feb 2016 – 18.3%

The big winner from this has been NZ First. It has allowed Winston to be de facto Opposition Leader for a few months and get much more publicity than normal. NZ First has gone up consistently in the polls and may be able to stay up. They could even replace the Greens as the third largest party.

This is not necessarily good for the left (or NZ). Peters hates both Key and the Greens. He could go either way. But what he likes most is power. He is far more likely to go into a two party coalition than a three party one. In a two party coalition he can demand a policy or funding win for every bill the Government wants passed. In a three party coalition Labour can’t guarantee Greens support on any legislation, so Winston is in a weaker position to demand stuff.

Peters may get 10% next election. If he does, Labour is really only viable as a partner if they are at around 38%.

John Key believed in change and campaigned for it. Labour believed in change and betrayed their principles.

 

– Kiwiblog


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