Having watched John Key's obviously flagging campaign for a new flag, Andrew Little had some advice for the PM in Parliament yesterday. Give up while you are behind. Cancel the coming referendums. Divert what remains of the $26 million budgeted for your "vanity project" into something of much more utility. In short, flag it.

Of course, the last thing Little would want to see is the Prime Minister pulling the plug on the whole exercise. There is plenty more time and opportunity to really rub Key's nose in what is looking like being an embarrassing and expensive failure.

Yesterday's poking of the stick at the Prime Minister was based on some questionable extrapolation by Labour of figures detailing the costs of the official information panel which organised a series of poorly attended meetings around the country. So poorly attended that Labour claims it cost $2000 for each person who showed up, while a separate initiative which saw 1.6 million postcards sent to homes resulted in only 15,000 being returned at a cost to the taxpayer of $93 each.

Little was not short of ammunition to confront Key in the House. But he had a not so little problem of his own.


Labour rolled up to last year's general election with a change-the-flag policy which was not a lot different from Key's agenda.

Little had to pretend he was unaware of this. But with repeated reminders coming from Key's direction, Little was effectively tackling Key with one hand tied behind his back.

"If it is so much my project and my idea, why the hell is it the Labour Party policy then?" Key pondered aloud before supplying figures of his own, including reaching 1.18 million people by Facebook, while there had been 10,291 alternative designs submitted.

There was some light relief when Winston Peters , who is opposed to a new design, questioned one of Key's major reasons for change -- the similarity between the New Zealand and Australian flags. "Is it not a fact that we designed our flag in 1904, well before the Aussies copied it."

Displaying over-the-top deference to age, Key said he acknowledged that Peters was involved in the debate in 1904 before slating Peters and his New Zealand First colleagues as "a bunch of dinosaurs" -- a description which seemed to quite please them.

Little then held up several designs, including one picturing a whale. Quick as a flash, Key resurrected David Shearer's stunt of holding up two snapper in the House.

"I accept that a whale is a mammal and not a fish. But the last Labour leader that came to Parliament dangling those out like that leader was gone by lunchtime; I reckon he [Little] might be too."

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