Opinion: The real reason All Blacks flag was left out

The All Blacks flag flying high at the Bledisloe Cup on August 15 (Photosport)
The All Blacks flag flying high at the Bledisloe Cup on August 15 (Photosport)

In what is a huge call, the classic All Black flag has been left out of the options for a new New Zealand flag.

It is quite a shock: I was certain a plain silver fern on a black background would be among the final four.

So what happened?

Well, it is important to note that this wasn't an independent decision by the flag panel - John Key and the Cabinet had to sign off the final four on Monday.

That means the omission of the classic silver fern has the Government's say-so.

Key and Cabinet could have simply said: "Where is the classic All Black silver fern?"

It is a big decision to go ahead without it as an option so the flag panel and Cabinet obviously have a plan.

In fact, the omission looks to be a highly strategic decision

Key obviously needs a change - his political pride is on the line.

He gave up on the classic silver fern a while ago and is now pushing one of the Kyle Lockwood composite-compromise examples to win.

Remember, the first round is a four way run-off. If the classic All Black flag was in there it probably would have won that because of all the sports fans out there.

But at that final stage where 50 percent of the vote is needed, would it have struggled to get the wider cross-section of Kiwis because an attitude that it was just a sports flag? Would people have felt alienated that it was the All Blacks flag? Maybe it would have lacked that cross-over appeal to beat out the current flag and change would have failed.

So that looks to be the tactic here - keep the classic All Black flag out altogether so one of the compromise options could get through and have the best chance of knocking off the current flag.

The problem is the compromise options may be seen as underwhelming too.

Remember, Key has come up against a very powerful force in New Zealand - the Kiwi 'Yeah, Nah' attitude.

Will Kiwis turn off the compromise flag or will they galvanise? That's the $26 million question.

It is a gamble for the Prime Minister. The great political salesman now has to pull off a massive political sales job.

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