Labour's Flag mistake

9 March 2016

Labour’s decision to turn the flag referendum into a political issue has done the party no favours with voters or Andrew Little’s standing as a future Prime Minister.

If Labour were really opposed to a new flag, fair enough. That’s their right and the role of an opposition party. But it does appear they changed their stance when they thought it might be more popular to oppose it and brand it a ‘vanity project for John Key.’ After all, a review of the Flag is a longstanding Labour Party Policy.

As Labour battle to communicate what they stand for, this does little to help that quest.


They need a clear message that tells us what they stand for. They are clearly working on what that will be. But their views on the Flag is not something that will dictate who wins the next Election. So they shouldn’t focus on it. They need to focus on things that affect New Zealanders in the back pocket.

Anything else just prevents them getting that message across, particularly when people are bombarded with thousands of messages every day. In a nutshell, people will only remember a few issues when they decide who to vote for. So make those issues be your core messages that will help them get ahead.

What could Labour have done?

Andrew Little would have been far better to have joined John Key in his support for flag change in a similar way to what John Key did with Helen Clark over the anti-smacking legislation. He would have been respected as a leader who did what he thought was right. That would have been the focus of the media coverage.

But most importantly, this would have then allowed him to focus on more important issues that he could potentially have won votes from. All this has done is leave people wondering what Labour really thinks, limited the chance for more serious issues to be discussed, and ensure that anyone who doesn’t like John Key votes against the new Flag. Basically, no-one wins.

For more on my media training or crisis communication planning workshops, contact or 029 200 8555


Filed under Media Training

Written by

Pete is a leading New Zealand media trainer and regular blogger for his company, Media Training NZ . He has helped leaders from all sectors of society communicate with the media and other stakeholders. Pete is a former daily newspaper reporter and press secretary in the New Zealand government. From these roles, he understands the media process from both sides of the camera.

Leave a comment

Fields marked * are required

My Latest Blog Posts

28 April 2022
Luxon's tax question problem and possible answer
3 February 2022
Christopher Luxon on the money with 'caring' comment
16 December 2021
Why Greg Foran is my Media Communicator of the Year

Subscribe to our newsletter and get our FREE ebook '5 Steps to Pain Free Media Interviews'

Get your copy now

Media Training NZ Limited
PO Box 105721
Auckland 1070
PO Box 36-251
Christchurch 8011
Email: Pete Burdon
Tel: 029 200 8555
Website by
Limelight Online