There has been much heat, and very little light, resulting from John Key's casual suggestion it might be time for New Zealand to get a new flag.
While most political parties nodded in agreement with key, the suggestion prompted a sadly predictable response in the leftish bloglands, with comment-mongers on The Standard decrying it as a clumsy attempt to distract people from Nationals apparent electoral woes (though it's rich for a party Labouring (pun intentional) at 33% to be pointing out anyone else's polling problems).
But I think the frothing is misplaced. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. And sometimes a politician wondering about whether we should have a look at changing the flag is just that.
I honestly can't see how this could be a diversionary tactic. I credit John Key with more intelligence than that. After all, he's wiped the floor with us twice now. Or are you suggesting that's so easy even an idiot who thinks the public will be completely befuddled by a ploy so obvious can do that?
I think Key has been so effective in colonising the middle ground (and some on the left so quick to abandon it in favour of a small-but-ideologically-pure corner of the debate) that he has driven many on the left quite mad. Everything has to be part of a Grand Conspiracy (possibly featuring a Needlessly Large Weather Machine and a Secret Base inside an underwater volcano). Which tells you a lot about how desperate he has made us. Every action and utterance by John Key is analysed and deconstructed to find the true motive, the real dark seedy manipulative purpose because, you know, it is impossible Key might just genuinely be wondering about whether we should have a look at changing the flag. It's got to be something else. There has to be an ulterior motive! And we have to be the first to spot it or at least the ones braying most loudly about it.
If Key had a motive beyond just wondering about whether we should have a look at changing the flag, I suspect it probably would be causing mischief on the left. Because - like it or not - he's got our number. And the paranoid ramblings and aghast wailing emanating from the blogatariat prove it. An casual comment from Key, and the left is veritably turning itself inside out in an effort to show how caddish - and yet stupid - Key is, lobbing this debate into the middle of an election year. An so a lot of time and energy is wasted in Exposing John Key's True Motive in wondering whether we should have a look at changing the flag.
A less demoralised and desperate left would have said, "Yeah, we've been saying that for years, welcome to the party, John." After all, mos of us would probably support replacing the flag , or at least talking about it. Gnashing our teeth at how duplicitous Key is just makes us look sad and hopeless.
In this case, I think he genuinely believes it is a debate worth having; and election year would be the obvious time to do it, as you'll get a better response than with a stand-alone referendum. As most of us would largely agree with the end, and the means, I don't really see what all the fuss is about.