Labour Leader Andrew Little yesterday found himself bogged down in a social media quagmire.
On the one hand he had to deal with criticism of Labour MP Sue Moroney who tweeted a picture of a beachside bach flying the fern flag and asked whether someone living in a flash bach should be able to decide what flag we flew.
And then he appeared to blame right wing commentator Matthew Hooton for some of the violent language used ion social media, in particular some of that attacking Cabinet Minister, Paula Bennett.
Ms Mooney’s tweet was a revealing insight into the degree to which many Labour MPs took a highly partisan view of the flag change process.
But Mr Little on his way to Labour’s weekly caucus meeting said he had spoken to Ms Moroney about her tweet.
“I thought it was ill-judged and inappropriate, and I’ve told her that – I just didn’t think it was a good look.”
She has since posted another tweet: “Apology for any offence caused by my tweet yesterday – none intended. I regret it & can see how it could be misinterpreted. Of course …..”
Meanwhile Mr Little is suggesting that if Labour came into power then there could be a debate about New Zealand becoming a republic that might be “triggered by events” which is probably code for the Queen dying.
Last September, Labour’s flag spokesman Trevor Mallard, told POLITIK that a future Labour Government might want to begin that discussion with a view to establishing a republic in time for the bi-centenary of the Treaty of Waitangi in 2040.
He thinks a long lead in time is required for that.
“What we are talking about is a proper package of constitutional reform,” he said.
“Eventually you’ve got to do a big package which would involve the republic, the flag and probably the anthem as well.
“But it’s got to be a package.”
That didn’t stop Mr Little from having a go at the prime Minister (who was absent) during Question Time yesterday.
“In view of the fact that polls during the course of the referendum process repeatedly showed that there was no public appetite for changing the flag, does he now think that spending $26 million on flag referenda was the best use of public money?”
It was left to deputy Prime Minister Bill English to deal with which he did by pointing out that despite the fact that it was Labour’s policy to change the flag, the members all voted against it.
But Mr Little’s most controversial suggestion yesterday was that the escalation of violent language directed at politicians on social media was somehow the responsibility of hard line right wing commentators like NBR and RNZ commentator, Matthew Hooton.
But Mr Little may have got it slightly wrong with respect to the comments directed at Ms Bennett.
The first tweet — “there’s nothing wrong with a bit of sexual violence” – which was placed on her timeline was by a well-known east Auckland political activist, John Lehmann.
Mr Lehmann formed the Government Accountability League in 1997 after he campaigned against Asian migration into Howick.
He wanted the league to be a sort of New Zealand version of Australian Pauline Hanson’s anti multi culturalism “One Nation” party.
Very shortly After Mr Peters’ Whose Country is it Anyway?” speech, Mr Lehmann organised a public meeting to endorse Mr Peters’ anti migration views and became something of an anti-migration spokesman in the media.
Since then, other posters have issued more direct and violent threats against her on her Facebook page.