Bill English thinks he was pro Springbok tour

Written By: - Date published: 8:51 am, January 20th, 2017 - 102 comments
Categories: bill english, john key, national, same old national - Tags: ,

Previous Prime Minister John Key could not recall what his views on the Springbok tour were, despite him being aged 19 at the time and despite it being the most dramatic local upheaval that had occurred in decades.

My strong sense that his pronounced view had been calculated within an inch of its life is strong.

New PM Bill English has a somewhat similar view but without the intense PR polishing that Key’s position had.

He thinks that he was probably for the tour.  The sense of calculation is high, the sense of honesty is very low.  It was such an intense divisive time I thought that all 19 year olds would have remembered clearly what they thought.

From Newshub:

The 1981 Springbok Tour provoked sporting and political civil war in New Zealand.

Families and friendships were divided and the country became a two nation state – those that were for the tour versus those against.

Now, Prime Minister Bill English admits he was “probably for it”.

“I was keen to see the tour happen – thought sport shouldn’t be mixed with politics.”

He seems to think that the tour increased his understanding of Maori issues.

“It helped persuade me particularly as a politician to be committed and spend time on the Maori related issues in New Zealand and I’m pretty satisfied about where that’s got to,” Mr English says.

Maybe that is an acknowledgment that he now believes the tour was wrong.

His comments suggest a vacuous superficial approach to the important issues that New Zealand has faced.  They are also pretty meh.  Disinterest rather than upset is my first response.

One thing is clear.  English is no John Key.  He is less polished and less calculated in his responses.

102 comments on “Bill English thinks he was pro Springbok tour”

  1. James 1

    “One thing is clear. English is no John Key. He is less polished and less calculated in his responses.”

    It does not matter that he is not a John Key. It only matters that he is not an Andrew Little.

    That’s the choice voters will have.

    English would lose against Ket – but I’m fairly confident he will win against Little.

    • Carolyn_nth 1.1

      Although the election vote isn’t between the party leaders, but between the parties. Enough of the personality politics – Key was made too much of as the face of the party.

      Maybe with English as leader, voters will look more closely at policies, and actions, and how the rhetoric relates to the realities.

      Seems to me with his statements on the 1981 tour, English is stating similar views to many Kiwi conservatives – especially those into sports.

  2. Morrissey 2

    English was a well known member of the notoriously right wing Southland Society, which in 1981 was a rowdy (and usually drunken) pro-tour element on the Otago campus.

    It’s a measure of his character that the most he is prepared to admit is that he “thinks” he was pro-Tour.

    • + 1 yep – I distinctly remember abusing those pro-tour louts, (and they pretty well all looked like a young billy), when we marched against the tour in dunners.

      • Corokia 2.1.1

        I’m pretty sure I remember Michael Laws being one of the pro tour crowd at Otago Uni. The atmosphere on campus was tense and the pro rugby boys (and it was basically all male) were intimidating.

        • marty mars 2.1.1.1

          yep I lived under the saddle and wore my anti tour badge with pride at the rugby club. Very tense times and ended my playing and enjoyment of rugby days. Yet marching in dunners and welly filled me with such energy and determination. We believed, we took a stand and we didn’t buckle under extreme police and state provocation. We knew we weren’t alone and we knew we were on the side of justice. Those lessons can be learned by the younger today, those lessons and actions are needed today imho.

        • Morrissey 2.1.1.2

          the pro rugby boys

          You mean pro-apartheid rugby boys. Most of the anti-tour protestors were rugby fans, just not pro-apartheid rugby fans.

          • corokia 2.1.1.2.1

            Pro-tour then. They would never accept being called pro-apartheid, even though the pro-tour stance was supportive of an apartheid state.

            I knew a few anti-tour protestors who were pro-rugby, but to assume that “most” were rugby fans is a bit of a stretch. Seems like the typical Kiwi assumption that we all ‘love our rugby’ . Well I never have and I’m sick of such generalisations.

            Facing up to riot police while trying to march on Carisbrook was a scary experience for a 19 year old girl , but it was the right thing to do. Like marty, I think it gave me life long strength and determination to get out there and stand up for things I think matter.

            • Morrissey 2.1.1.2.1.1

              Fair comment, corokia. But whatever their actual proportion in the community, I dare say there was as high a proportion of rugby fans amongst the protestors as there was among the pro-tour mob.

    • Red Hand 2.2

      “thinking” he was pro-Tour might be personal reticence.

      “His personal reticence could have something to do with the unwelcome media attention he received last year when gay website GayNZ.com alleged in an article that one of his teenaged sons had posted abusive statements with homophobic overtones on Bebo. Bill reportedly called the allegations a “disgusting and sick attack” on his son. It was an issue which affected the whole family, many of whom share Bill’s desire for privacy, despite his public life.”

      http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10517639

  3. Cinny 3

    There are some moments in NZ history that you don’t forget. The ’81 Springbok tour is one of those moments, i was nine.

    Is this all the news that newshub could find to generate on the outgoing PM? By crikey there has been a huge absence of any national mps doing any actual work this year.

    All I’ve been seeing in the media is a massive amount of work being done by the opposition parties, but nada from the out going government. Just this lame as story via News Hub attempting to make the soon to be ex PM appear relevant. What a load of click bait crap from NewsHub.

  4. Enough is Enough 4

    “Maybe that is an acknowledgment that he now believes the tour was wrong”

    I think that is the sentiment of many pro tour people. It is possible to change one view in time. I know many people who didn’t think sport and politics should not mix, but with the benefit of hindsight agree that the tour should not have happened.

    I don’t think it is a sensible strategy to condemn everyone who supported a sporting tour 36 years ago, if in that intervening period they have changed their world view.

    • red-blooded 4.1

      I think that’s a fair call Enough is Enough, however I’d expect English (or anyone else) to front up and say, “I was pro-tour, but I realise now that I was wrong.” That would be an honest, honourable answer.

  5. whateva next? 5

    sport shouldn’t be mixed with politics? would you bring back the roman sport of gladiatorial games then? It would be cheaper than the All Blacks

    • Carolyn_nth 5.1

      John Key did a lot of mixing of politics and sport – using it for his own PR and to boost his popularity. Interesting that Bling sidesteps that approach in more recent times, and focuses on his learning about “Maori related issues.”

    • mickysavage 5.2

      Rugby was a cornerstone of the Apartheid system. Not selecting players because they were black and only allowing Maori to tour South Africa as “honorary whites” were examples of how awful the system was.

      If politics should be kept out of Court then Muldoon should have not signed the Gleneagles agreement. His subsequent breach of this trashed New Zealand’s international reputation.

      • Paul Campbell 5.2.1

        The “honorary white” thing was only at the end, earlier they simply banned Maori’s from touring at all and the NZRFU accepted that as valid – to me that says a lot

        Of course the NZRFU’s timing was always bad, they toured during the Sharpville massacre, and during the Soweto uprising … many people forget that in 1976 African nations boycotted the Olympics not because South Africa was there, but because New Zealand was, and the All Blacks had just toured SA

  6. Nick 6

    English is a classic politician, tell lies when it suits him, tell the truth when it suits him, and obfuscate when he doesn’t know whether to speak the truth or lie.

  7. Bill 7

    So he was a right prick of a kid who grew up to become a middle aged right wing prick. But along the way he might have learned something about Maori issues…maybe. And he’s got a little insight into what a prick of a kid he used to be…maybe.

    But stepping back for a moment.

    If anyone who fucks up is roundly condemned and dismissed because “wrong thoughts”, then there’s no avenue for them to move down. And the condemnation leaves everything entrenched and us all a bit fucked. And that same culture also acts as a barrier and prevents people from acknowledging any fuck ups they may make.

    Example from a discussion I was having the other day. Some years back, a friend put a learning module for kids together that sought to explain or demonstrate blood flow by suggesting that when skin is pinched it turns white. After the module went out, someone pointed out the inherent (and unintended) racism. But my friends boss sought to defend her by arguing that she (my friend) was a good person, a conscientious person, and so therefore could not possibly do anything racist. And so my friend (who was young at the time) while quietly acknowledging she’d fucked up, found that by acknowledging her unintentional racism, she was forced to doubt her own ‘goodness’, because good people (apparently) aren’t capable of being racist. Only bad people are racist.

    Hope I’ve explained that clearly enough to make the point.

  8. Brutus Iscariot 8

    Still flogging this horse?

    You’re like the old US cold warriors still harping on about the commies 35 years later.

    Time to move on. There’s only a tiny rump of NZ’ers who are interested now.

    • shorts 8.1

      its a wonderful character test – the answer given shows character or lack thereof – not by if they were pro or anti but in their ability to actually answer, given how badly the previous Prime Minister handled questions on his personal views about the tour…. it is now a “thing”

      deal with it

      • Puckish Rogue 8.1.1

        Its not a “thing”, the only people that care about the answer is the tragics for who the tour protests were the high points of their lives

        Most others couldn’t care less

        • McFlock 8.1.1.1

          lol

          I think you’ve just taken a character test closely associated with the one shorts described.

          • Puckish Rogue 8.1.1.1.1

            As I was around 7-8 years at the time it sort of passed over my head

            • McFlock 8.1.1.1.1.1

              About the same here, but I still care about whether the people who were old enough to give a damn, did.

              And I also care about whether our current leadership has the integrity to give a straight answer about their attitudes to those events, with the benefit of hindsight.

              • Puckish Rogue

                The question has become so politically loaded that any answer given will be criticized no matter whats said so I don’t blame English for his answer

                • If “any answer given” will be criticised, including that given by English, why wouldn’t he simply go with the truth, unspun?
                  ‘Coz, Tory?

                • McFlock

                  So why do tory pms seem to choose the response that receives criticism on the basis that they’re political cowards, rather than pandering to the majority or, even more shocking, simply telling the truth and showing integrity?

      • AB 8.1.2

        +1 Shorts.
        Taking the test myself and trying to be honest.
        I was anti-tour. But in hindsight I wish I had had the courage to be more active about it.

    • Yep – goes to character. Bill knows he was on the wrong side of history, so there’s a question of whether he has the integrity to own it publicly. The answer apparently is “No, he doesn’t.” Key’s blanket refusal to answer suggests even less integrity than Bill, but more cunning.

      It may have happened over 35 years ago, but for those who were around at the time it’s an excellent character test. Unfortunately for Key and English, they were both around at the time.

    • mickysavage 8.3

      It is the current response and the level of spin applied that is relevant.

      People’s views can change. How they present this says a lot about them.

      • Brutus Iscariot 8.3.1

        Of course he’s going to spin it.

        He knows it’s a “gotcha” question, why else would it be asked?

        • McFlock 8.3.1.1

          How is it a “gotcha” question?

          If he answers it honestly, and if he’s honestly not a jerk, it’s fine.

    • Tricledrown 8.4

      Thanks etu Brutus you have betrayed all your rwnj’s who harp on about Venezuela etc.
      Bill English is not that dumb and has cleared the Deck’s
      Rugby is a religion in this country and people have long memories .
      Labour Green’s have to make hay while the Sun shines.
      This issue is not going to change 1 voters intentions.
      Well said.

  9. Puckish Rogue 9

    How many people really care about that now?

    • DoublePlusGood 9.1

      People who care about integrity in one’s actions. It’s not about whether he supported the tour or not, it’s about whether he discusses his views honestly and with integrity. Those are supposed to be vital attributes in politicians (even if National have well proven otherwise)

  10. Paul 10

    I hour 20 minutes.
    The length of time it takes the trolls to get their lines for the day from their puppet master.
    Note the remarkable similarity between bi and pr’s messages (@8 and @9)

  11. …the trolls … get their lines for the day from their puppet master.

    Well, either that or there’s a fairly obvious response to this post from a right-wing perspective, and more than one right-winger made that response. But yeah, that “puppet master” thing seems a lot more likely…

  12. Tricledrown 12

    Its the economy stupid.
    The 1981 Tour lost Labour that election
    We are barking up the wrong tree.
    The Economy is ticking along smoothly.
    Labour has to focus on issues that will win votes.

    • Paul Campbell 12.1

      Labour gained seats in the ’81 election, National ended up with a majority of 1 (in a FPP election), remember it was Marilyn Waring crossing the floor over nuclear warships later that term that nominally brought them down.

    • red-blooded 12.2

      Tricledrown – “Labour” didn’t ask the question, and “Labour” aren’t discussing it. It was asked by a reporter and is being discussed by a group of people who think it’s worth discussing. Apparently, that includes you.

      I agree that this isn’t going to change people’s votes, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not worthy of discussion. The pro/anti-Tour issue definitely helps to give a sense of a person’s values if they were old enough to form their own views at that time, and so does the way that person has developed since then and “owns” this issue. As I said, above, I could respect someone who said they had been pro-Tour at the time but now realised they were wrong. Fudging the issue doesn’t impress me, though.

  13. Gabby 13

    I doubt if he gave much of a shit beyond appearing to fit in, which would be tricky in Dunedin in 1981.

    • Paul Campbell 13.1

      There were marches down the main street of Dunedin twice a week during the ’81 tour, people were arrested in the game at Carisbrook (who knew there was a law against more than one people blowing a whistle at a rugby game), the Carisbrook rugby posts were cut down, the airport was shut down, TV was shutdown during the Auckland test in the bottom half of the South Island.

      If he didn’t fit in it was because he was pro-apartheid

  14. Brutus Iscariot 14

    You should ask his opinion on the 1951 Waterfront Strike, and then dissect his answer to make a thread about it here.

    • Puckish Rogue 14.1

      To be fair the question worked out so well in the last debate between Clark and Key…

    • Wonderpup 14.2

      I shook the hand of a watersider on a picket line this very morning. To think that time simply evaporates issues around worker’s and human rights is inane. Its powerful to be in a left progressive heritage that stretches back to include generations of struggle.

  15. swordfish 15

    As a teenage geezer, I marched against the 81 Tour (and I know Mickey, 1Prent and a few other Standardistas did as well), but … and I hate to say it … I can’t help agreeing with our close and much-cherished Tory chums on this thread – we’re getting into flogging a dead horse territory here.

    Many New Zealanders were pro-Tour in 81 … particularly Nats, particularly rural folk and particularly Southlanders … so hardly a revelation.

    Indeed, too much attention on the matter could become counter-productive for the Left. Most voters really couldn’t give a shit what English thought 36 years ago and they might well view any current Opposition focus on the issue as both dangerously out-of-touch in election year and just possibly bordering on a little vindictive.

    After three successive Election defeats, it’s absolutely vital Labour and Greens escape the activist echo-chamber and immerse themselves in as deep a possible understanding of the issues most important to swing (and perhaps, non-) voters. I may be going out on an outrageous limb, here, but I’d suggest the rights and wrongs of the 1981 Springbok Tour ain’t one of them. Even if expanded into issues surrounding English’s current honesty and character – still Won’t resonate.

    Although I kept schtum at the time, I have to say I also thought the posts over recent years critical of Key’s rendition of his Tour views were pretty pointless too. Slight whiff of desperation and a kind of esoteric self-indulgence on the part of activists.

    Then again, if it’s just confined to a one-off post on The Standard purely to help motivate us ageing anti-Tour marchers at the start of a long election campaign – no probs and forget everything I just said (assuming you hadn’t already 🙂 ).

    • Puckish Rogue 15.1

      Careful swordfish that kind of treasonous talk can get you in trouble, next thing you know it’ll be..

    • Pat 15.2

      stop talking sense

    • Ad 15.3

      It’s such a baby-wee-warm-bath logic to be able to forget Takaparawha Day 501, and while we’re at it Waitangi Day and ANZAC Day and Labour Day and all that ewww stuff involving actual political contest and work – after all we haven’t had a good Maori versus the troops fight for a while what’s the point of complaining, or indeed a decent hundreds-dead overseas war for a while either so why ever bother naming and shaming politicians who took us to war, and hell what are unions for or marches in the street for anyway, right?

      Who the fuck needs memory or historical accountability anyway?

      Why don’t we just rid ourselves of all that hopey-changey stuff that the left has got its head kicked in for over two centuries like collective action against injustice and discrimination, and consign ourselves to fighting the election to things we don’t really need a memory or conscience for, like: consumer confidence, inflation, savings, and unemployment?

      Relax, and just let the whole of the past go. Let’s just leave all that silly stuff about the past for historians and people who give a damn about what actually formed this country in the first place.

      • swordfish 15.3.1

        As always … you excitedly grab hold of the wrong end of the stick (or should that be baton ?).

        It’s Election Year … and I’m talking tactics (with the average swing-voter in mind) … not the moral rights and wrongs of the 1981 Springbok Tour. I know it’s tempting but try putting aside your virtue signalling just for a moment. Like I said, … at the tender age of 17, … I marched against the Tour, put my body on the line against a pretty vicious Red / Blue Squad (and indeed wider Police Force) and I’m proud of it.

        ” … or indeed a decent hundreds-dead overseas war for a while either so why ever bother naming and shaming politicians who took us to war”

        Blimey ! This from someone who appears to be closely associated with the local Clintonista Cold War Warrior brigade – an unusually gutless little band of Establishment shills practically frothing at the mouth for the outbreak of WWIII (chicken-hawks that they are).

        Much of the rest of your comment was bordering on incoherent.

        • Pat 15.3.1.1

          or is he playing devils advocate…hard to tell with Ad.

          • Morrissey 15.3.1.1.1

            “I was playing devil’s advocate” is invariably the response—he would call it a riposte—of Jim Mora on the rare occasion one of his guests challenges one of his complacent right wing statements.

        • mickysavage 15.3.1.2

          I didn’t spend much time on the post.

          It is not a campaign weapon as such. It is an analysis of how National politicians respond to questions of what they did at a younger age.

          English’s attempt was not too bad. Key’s response used to really annoy. I guess that I am somewhat sensitive because I was born just after Key and just before English and I damn well know what my attitude to the tour was.

          • Carolyn_nth 15.3.1.2.1

            I think for a lot of left wingers who were old enough in the 1980s, the 1981 tour and protests were a significant moment in NZ history (a rupture and challenge to the establishment). Maybe not so much for conservatives.

    • tc 15.4

      +100 swordfish

      How about focusing on the bs he’s dished out as a major player in the hollowing out of our economy.

      Fiscally neutral tax cuts, balanced budgets, asset sale proceeds etc

      Ffs move on people and grab the initiative

    • Hanswurst 15.5

      I agree that it lacks real relevance or impact. Additionally, I can’t really see the point of trying to hang the label of a bumbling incompetent on English, simply because he manifestly isn’t one. In terms of his answer and is being less polished than Key’s, it’s six of one and half-a-dozen of the other, as far as I’m concerned. Neither is a brilliant answer (and Key came in for limited and fruitless lambasting over it, just as is happening / will happen to English — how quickly we forget), but nor is either especially bad.

      More importantly, I think that criticising National over a lack of political slickness is a bad tactic for the left, engaging in a fight that it will not win, because the idea of progressivism is about something else. By all means, try to be as slick as possible, but trying too hard to exploit the slightest hint of unvarnished spin perfection from the Right will simply distract from the issues where their massive financial and PR assets don’t give them such a disproportionate advantage.

  16. Ant 16

    English:

    “I was an enthusiastic supporter of the Springbok tour. The NZ resistance opened my eyes to the reality of apartheid and also to the admirable conscience of my fellow Kiwis. I’ve certainly grown since then.”

    Why is that such an impossible response for a politician? Would it really cost a million votes?

    • It’s difficult for a right-wing politician to answer, which is why Brutus Iscariot calls it a “gotcha” question further up.

      Most people these days accept that it was wrong to help maintain Apartheid, which is effectively what the tour supporters were doing. So English won’t want to admit to being one of them.

      But there’s still a sizeable National-voting constituency out there who were also tour supporters and still believe they were right, not to mention a lot of South Africans who fled here following the demise of Apartheid. So English can’t say supporting the tour was wrong without alienating his support base.

      That leaves him with not a lot to say, unless he values personal integrity more than he values staying on-message.

      • Paul Campbell 16.1.1

        I think it’s only a “gotcha” question if you’re trying to do that mealy-mouthed thing of trying to appease the morally wrong people who still think that supporting apartheid was the right thing to do

      • Brutus Iscariot 16.1.2

        Yes, it’s the “when did you stop beating your wife” question of NZ politics.

        • Paul Campbell 16.1.2.1

          Only for National trying to appease their right wing racist voters (not all their voters, but a significant minority they depend on to get elected) – Helen was openly proud to have been anti-tour

        • Psycho Milt 16.1.2.2

          Meh. At one time, left-wing politicians would have had trouble answering an enquiry as to whether they’d viewed Stalin favourably, because a truthful answer wouldn’t have reflected well on them. Being on the wrong side of history is a bugger.

      • “That leaves him with not a lot to say, unless he values personal integrity more than he values staying on-message.”

        Qft

  17. BM 17

    Yes Apartheid was bad I think everyone gets that.

    Nothing has changed though, South Africa is still a racist shit hole the only difference is that it’s the blacks holding the whip and the whites getting persecuted.

    There’s absolutely no future for white people in South Africa, the government has made that very clear, given the opportunity all white South Africans would be gone in a heartbeat if they could.

  18. Sabine 18

    God the double dipper form Dipton is fucking bore.

    He can’t remember what he supported in 1981 and he may have or have not changed his mind about what he can’t really remember from 1981 and please fucking vote for me.

    Yeah, fucking right Tui.

    • james 18.1

      “God the double dipper form Dipton is fucking bore.”

      But then again so is “Angry ‘I wear contacts now’ Andy”.

      Good thing is English has proven a safe set of hands (most people polled say that the economy is going in the right direction).

      Given the choice of the borings ones – I pick an English win.

      • Pucky – you are to be congratulated for having ceased the continual droning you used to do, big noting Key and National, handing them the victory you were certain they’d already won, etc. At least now you’ve a modicum of good manners here. Sad though, that James has taken up your bilious blue baton and is parroting <ad nauseam the very same message that you wore out so boringly.James is the new Pucky. Ho and hum. How very, very dull.

      • alwyn 18.2.2

        That is just a rogue poll. The truth is nothing like that.
        People (Labour Party insiders) have told me in confidence that the Labour Party internal polling has Labour at 37%, the Greens at 19% and National down to 29%. They know because Andy has told them.
        Mind you he did read the results without his glasses on. Everything looks better if it is totally blurred.
        Andrew is going to release the numbers on Monday.

  19. Tamati Tautuhi 19

    Amazing the Double Dipper and JK can’t really remember whether they supported the Springbok Tour or not, and these guys are running the country?

  20. Key’s would be impossible for most people to read, being written in Parseltongue, ‘n’all.

    • BM 20.1

      Parseltongue?, I hadn’t realised snakes had gotten around to putting their language to paper.

      On a Harry Potter theme, maybe English is one of Keys Horcruxes through which he’ll live on?

  21. Judith Collins, Aragog.

  22. So, who is J.K.Rowling?

    • alwyn 24.1

      “So, who is J.K.Rowling”
      Wasn’t he the one who succeeded Norman Kirk as leader of the Labour Party?
      The one described as “a shiver looking for a spine to run up” by Muldoon, who then beat the hell out of him 3 times in a row?
      Or was that perhaps another Rowling?

  23. Seems you know very little about Bill Rowling, alwyn, or at least you seem to hold to the shallowist description of him. If you were to be described as a J.K.Rowling character, would you be a cashier at Gringotts?

    • alwyn 25.1

      “you know very little about Bill Rowling”.
      Really? I presume you are talking about Wallace Rowling, or don’t you know his real name?
      I just listed enough about him for even a semi-literate person to recognise who I meant.
      Is there anything I said that was wrong? He was described that way, and he did lose 3 times against Piggy didn’t he? I could go on at enormous length about his career if you like but, given you don’t even appear to know his real name it would be rather a waste of effort.
      Actually I tend to favour the view that both Rowling and Muldoon were in the wrong parties. Rowling would have been far better suited to National and Muldoon was a typical Labour Party bully-boy of the time.

      As far as the fantasy characters of the Potter books I haven’t any idea. I have never read any of them. They are children’s books aren’t they any therefore I am long past bothering with them. That is not to say you shouldn’t stay with them. If you enjoy them keep reading them.

  24. Rob 27

    I was pro tour , I was 8.

  25. It does not matter that he is not a John Key. It only matters that he is not an Andrew Little.

  26. DS 29

    The problem with Key isn’t that he was pro-Tour. Half the country was pro-Tour in 1981. Had Key just said “I was pro-Tour, I was wrong, let’s move on,” no-one would bother with it (no-one gave Jim Bolger a hard time during the All Blacks/Springbok matches in 1996, despite Bolger actually being in the Muldoon cabinet fifteen years earlier). The problem with Key was that he chose to *lie* about his stance.

    There is no issue with English here. Yes, he was pro-Tour, but as I said before, so was half the country. He’s prepared to admit it. Let’s move on.

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