If you have seen my tweets or know anything about me you know that I pretty much despise the Monarchy. I don’t really see the point of it and perhaps naively, I think that New Zealand becoming a Republic wouldn’t be much of a hassle. Over the last few days there has been a lot of talk about the Queen because the PM was visiting her as a guest at Balmoral. Much has been made of the fact that this hasn’t happened before and this is an example of how close John Key is with the Royal family (i.e. visits by Prince William etc).
I am a deeply cynical person and I think this is a very clever PR exercise by the family who are fast losing their relevance even in Britain. Most Britons that I have come into contact with do not have strong feelings about the Monarchy one way or the other. It’s almost out of laziness that they continue to hold onto the Monarchy (which is arguably why New Zealand hasn’t been rid of it either). The British Royal family has had pretty good PR in the last 5 or so years. William’s wedding/marriage followed by baby has pretty much removed all the bad will from the Charles/Diana years. But I think they are acutely aware that countries such as New Zealand, Australia and Canada do not have any particular reason not to be a Republic. I am sure they are aware of the surveys that are routinely conducted on our feelings towards being a Republic. They know that the conversation is happening. I think John Key is an easy target. He loves this stuff plus it is also good PR for him and when he comes back he is going to do their PR for them by stamping out any conversation about NZ being a Republic.
As with MMP, marriage equality and nuclear free campaigns, we can lead the way despite being a small country. We can be the country that Canada and Australian governments look to when they think about being a Republic or we can be the country they use as an example of why the Monarchy is just fine. At the end of the day we can be apathetic about this. Our system of checks and balance is not very robust. We do not have a written constitution for the judiciary to use when interpreting the laws. Parliament is supreme and there’s virtually no separation between the executive and the legislative branches. We can be apathetic or we can think about ways we can strengthen our democracy while becoming a Republic in the process.
Maybe I am being offensive to those Kiwis who can trace their ancestry to Britain. But I can’t tiptoe around those feelings when the idea of an undemocratic head of state repulses me so much. In the end what I’m saying is that so what if John Key got driven around by the Queen. She is just a person with a very good PR team. Why should we be swayed by that when we can be the intelligent nation that seeks to be an example of what stronger democratic mechanisms look like?