Prime Minister John Key is quite fond of the royal family but must surely now suspect them of some form of subtle subterfuge by reproduction.

Key first mused about changing the flag in 2010. A few months later, Prince William popped the question to Catherine Middleton. Key promised a referendum on the matter in March 2014 and a month later Prince William, Catherine and their new baby, George, flew in to New Zealand for a visit packed with waving Union Jacks.

Key plugged away regardless and, sure enough, just as the Flag Consideration Panel kick off their work, out pops baby Charlotte and here comes Harry, due on our shores on Saturday.

Of course, the real danger to the process of deciding on the flag is not a royal womb but politics.

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This is where Labour comes in, apparently determined to sabotage the process. Labour is a relatively pro-republic party in which most MPs favour a change of flag. Despite that, it has set about political point-scoring, even if doing so undermines the very process that might result in that flag change.

Their primary objection is the order of the questions in the referendums. They argue New Zealanders should first be asked whether they want a change - and have a second referendum only if the majority want change.

Labour claims it is an effort to save money. What codswallop. Labour's objections are an effort to rain on the Prime Minister's parade and get headlines.

The Ministry of Justice advised against putting the change question first. That was because for many people not entrenched in either camp, the final decision will depend on what the alternative is.

Had the Government gone against that advice, Labour would probably now be accusing it of penny pinching over a matter of national identity. Labour's approach is rather selfish and short-sighted and if it has the effect of tainting the entire process, the party might rue it.

It could well save $9 million to $13 million in the costs of a second referendum. But that short-term saving would come at a bigger cost in the long term. Once this is over, it will be a long time before anyone dares to raise the issue again.

Labour has also taken to feeding the perception that it is a "vanity project" for John Key. This primarily comes down to sour grapes. Labour wants a new flag. But they don't want Key to be the one whose name is linked to it. They want it for themselves.

Questioning referendums is one thing, but trying to influence people's votes out of puerile political spite is a different matter. It may be true that Key is keen on a legacy, but it should be irrelevant. The referendums are on the flag, not on the political parties or personalities.

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In reality, Key has a better chance of securing the change than Labour would. Key is a monarchist so there is far less suspicion about his longer-term motives. It is not being seen as the thin end of the wedge to republicanism. Labour's current leader, Andrew Little, favours a flag change as part of a wider move towards a republic. Yet NZ is likely to inch towards republicanism rather than gallop.

Labour would be on firmer ground if its main gripe was that the referendums are not held as part of a general election. The reason for postal referendums is because Key, too, is playing politics. The referendums are timed so the flag debate will be over well before the next election. Key did not want the flag to be a divisive factor in 2017 when National would be fighting for a fourth term. Holding the flag referendum then would only benefit New Zealand First leader Winston Peters, sending older, conservative voters his way to punish Key for his gall.

The referendums are a treacherous enough process. The officials' advice also pointed to the risk of "tactical voting", in which those opposed to change vote for the least appealing option - so the current flag had a better chance of winning.

The referendum process is now before a select committee and the Flag Consideration Panel has started its work of consulting about an alternative. This is the first chance New Zealanders have had to vote on the flag. The politicians would do New Zealand a favour by simply shutting up and letting the public get on with it for themselves.