The Butcher’s Apron or the Tea Towel


The second part of John Key’s failed legacy project is almost upon us. The PM is quietly distancing himself from the flag referendum, not wanting to be associated with failure. He’s relying on the B Team within his cabinet and caucus to try and instill some life into the process and despite twisting the arm of an All Black or two, the pro-change campaign has sunk without trace.

The voters of NZ will choose the current flag. But I won’t be among them.

The choice we are being asked to make is between a bland, lifeless compromise, with all the appeal of a novelty tea towel of the kind most often found in airport duty free shops and the incumbent, an equally compromised representation of colonialism. The current flag is a reminder of all the damage the British Empire has done as it strode around the world for centuries, enslaving peoples, stealing resources, and drawing artificial borders on maps where none were previously.

The simple fact is that wherever in this world the British Empire raised the union jack and rewrote the maps, the result has been misery. In the Celtic parts of the UK, the Middle East, Africa, the Americas and of course, the Pacific, the union jack has represented the removal of freedom, the death of indigenous culture and the forced assimilation of millions of people into the pink bits on the world map.

Here in NZ, we were conquered at the end of empire. We didn’t suffer quite as badly as the aboriginal peoples in the Americas or Australia. As the Woody Guthrie sang “Some will rob you with a six-gun and some with a fountain pen”. The treaty of Waitangi was robbery in ink, with the weaponry kept close at hand.

In Ireland, the union jack is widely known as the Butcher’s Apron. The division of Ireland and consequent civil war are well reflected in that wretched flag’s bloody colour. That foul flag anchors us to a divisive past. It’s not our future and it should not form part of our nation’s identity.

However, we will be stuck with our pale imitation of the equally subservient Australian flag for the time being. But no matter. Without real change, the flag is meaningless anyway. If John Key had any guts he would have proposed changing the countries name to Aotearoa and embracing political adulthood by becoming a republic.

But that’s Key all over. He’s only interested in the flimsy and the fleeting. There is nothing of substance to the man. If they ever make a statue of him, it should be made of tin foil.

Dunnokeyo’s actual legacy will be a poorer, more polarised country, its assets sold out to the lowest of the bidders.

The flag referendum could and should have been a catalyst for meaningful change. Instead, it’s a yawn fest.

I won’t be voting for the Butcher’s Apron. I won’t be voting for the tea towel either.

I’ll be putting the ballot papers to a far more effective use; starting a fire.


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