The Prime Minister’s apparent concession to consider allowing the Red Peaks flag into the flag ballot if other political parties agreed is more or less meaningless.
That’s because Labour would only agree provided that the first ballot also asked whether people wanted a change at all.
the Prime Minister says they are playing games and being disingenuous.
But their reaction last night to an offer from him to come and talk about the flag choices is an indication of how hopelessly partisan the whole flag change project is becoming.
Labour’s reaction would mean — if the majority voted for no change — that the process stopped there at the first ballot.
National List MP Chris Bishop said the Select Committee considered this but decided against it.
He tweated that it was a stupid idea then and still was now.
Last night support for Red Peaks on its online support page was running around 45,000.
And ACT’s David Seymour is continuing to publicise his support for Red Peaks.
And he says the Government should revise the short list and delay the referendum till after Christmas.
“First, let’s accept we need some better options,” he said.
“At least one, and probably two of the original four options offered seem to have little support at all.
“Two options are just variations on the same flag – they feature familiar icons, but there is little meaning or story.
“Red Peak should be amongst the options.
“There may be other better options as well – we need to revise that short-list.”
And he is arguing there is not enough time.
“Unless we have a change of tack, it is easy to see the country wearily decide to stick with the current flag in March next year.
“We should revise the four options and delay the first referendum until early next year.
“We can then debate the flag options over the Christmas break, over our backyard BBQs. We can fly our preferred flag on the beach, from the bach, whatever.
“But let’s have a national conversation about our options, and do it at that one time of the year when families and the generations get together.”
Mr Seymour said the Cabinet could invite the committee to reconsider the four options.
“Given the groundswell those options should include the Red Peak flag.
“The committee should be required to consult with the design and artistic community in New Zealand, or even appoint a sub-committee with those design skills to recommend two replacement flag options, from the current four.”
“Or more simply, Cabinet could just replace one of the four with Red Peak.
“The revised set of options could be announced later this year, in say November
“Then in February or March next year we would choose a preferred flag in the first round of referenda. And a few months later that can run off against the current flag, as planned.”
But at his press conference yesterday Mr Key revealed how much his trust in the bi-partisan approach to the change has been shaken by what he says is Labour playing games.
He said they needed to change their process on the flag project.
“Instead of lying to the public and saying they are opposed when their policy is actually to change the flag, if they want to treat the whole process with respect then they are welcome to come and have a discussion with me,” he said.
“But this is not the way they have played the thing and they have not played with a straight bat.”
During protracted questioning on the issue at his post Cabinet press conference Mr Key did finally admit that he had always liked the Kyle Lockwood fern and Southern Cross designs.
But though yesterday was the first time he was willing to concede that there could be ways the red Peaks flag could be considered — he will want a lot more from labour before that will happen.
And that leaves Labour in an awkward situation of effectively blocking the possibility of what is looking like an increasingly popular flag from being considered.