Springbok tour

There’s a few standard questions that seem to get asked of any Prime Minister and party leader, like have they smoked cannabis. And what was their view on the Springbok tour. Bill English has been asked that.

Newshub: Bill English was pro-1981 Springbok Tour

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.”

“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.

When Mr English’s predecessor John Key was first asked about his stance on the tour he couldn’t recall, saying: “I can’t even remember… I don’t even know.”

While the comments attracted some controversy, Mr English says it’s feasible someone could lack an opinion on it – despite how divided the country was at the time.

“New Zealanders aren’t always motivated by arguments, political issues, they like a quiet life,” Mr English says.

Some in social media have been quick to ridicule English, both for supporting the tour and for being a bit vague. It is something Key was often criticised for, by a few people who thought something that happened about 35 years ago is of great importance.

The tour is a distant memory for many people, and more than half the population have no memory of it – they weren’t born then, or where very young.

I’m not surprised that English is not totally clear and succinct when asked about the tour off the cuff.

People who went on every protest march they could, or who watched every game they could, they may have very clear memories of their tour stance. Many more people were somewhere in the middle.

I have to stop and think through my views on the tour.  The Springboks arrived in New Zealand on 19 July 1981. My first daughter was born two weeks later. I certainly noticed some of what was going on through the tour but it wasn’t my highest priority.  I was living just about as far from the tour as one could, so it was only something in the news to me.

I was a keen rugby fan and in general supported the right of sports teams to tour. I would have opposed it if the visiting team had tried to dictate who could and who couldn’t play for New Zealand teams due to their race. But that wasn’t an issue.

So I thought the games should be able to go ahead.

But I also supported the right of protesters to make their views known.

I was strongly against apartheid, but I wasn’t convinced a ban would help. I thought sporting visits to a non-apartheid country might help by pressuring South African rugby and the South African government.

I was dismayed about the more extreme things that happened.

I was against the more extreme protests, the hijacking of protests by what appeared to be anarchists or people that just used it as an excuse for violence and mayhem.

I was against the extreme and violent reactions by tour supporters.

And I was against some of the very heavy handed tactics of the police.

For me it was a complex situation, and although the cause of the problems were black and white the issues for me in New Zealand were much less clearly delineated.

Regardless of what I thought about the tour over half a lifetime ago (for me) it is ridiculous that my views or anyone else’s views should be some test of goodness in 2017.

And I think that those who try to make a political issue out of it now are at best wasting their time, or more likely will be acting counter-productive to advancing their cause.

Sweeet victory

In another rugby final today: Cromwell wins title for first time in 35 years

Not since 1981 has Cromwell rugby tasted a victory so sweet.

The premier side was crowned the Central Otago champion after an intense 21-18 victory over Maniototo at Alexandra on Saturday.

Players were overcome with emotion at the final whistle, some even shedding a tear in the moments after.

Cromwell players pose with the trophy following its win over Maniototo in the Central Otago premier rugby final at Alexandra.

Great to see this result.

I know how sweet a victory like that can be – I was playing for Cromwell when they last won in 1981.

I might try and find an old photo.