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John Key’s Referendum Destined to Fail

John Key’s Referendum Destined to Fail

In 2003 Helen Clark and Margaret Wilson forced through the abolition of appeals to the Privy Council. This was despite opposition from a majority of New Zealanders. Calls for a referendum fell on deaf ears. The government got its way by steadfastly ignoring public opinion.

This year John Key hopes to force through the abolition of our national flag. This is also despite opposition from a majority of New Zealanders. Unlike Helen Clark, John Key has accepted that such a change requires the approval of the majority of the people in a referendum. However he will not get that approval.

The likely outcome of the referendum will be a resounding personal defeat for John Key. The merits or otherwise of replacing the flag will be side-lined, and the referendum will become a poll on John Key's performance, not the flag.

Helen Clark forced an unpopular policy through by ignoring opposition to it. John Key is making a fundamental mistake if he thinks that an unpopular proposal will get the approval of the public. All that will happen is that he will be hugely embarrassed when his pet project is rejected by the people. There are already signs that the prospect of this inevitable outcome is causing discord within the National Party. The majority of National Party members and voters do not want to change the flag. This week’s report of crisis meetings of the government caucus, whilst no doubt exaggerated, show that the party is beginning to regret allowing the Prime Minister’s whim to sidetrack the government, and risk its credibility, all at a significant financial cost to the taxpayer. John Key’s judgement is on trial.


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