Sixty Joyless De-Britished Uncrowned Commonpoor Years (1949-2009)

Elizabeth II Vice-Regal Saint: Remembering Paul Comtois (1895–1966), Lt.-Governor of Québec
Britannic Inheritance: Britain's proud legacy. What legacy will America leave?
English Debate: Daniel Hannan revels in making mince meat of Gordon Brown
Crazy Canucks: British MP banned from Canada on national security grounds
Happy St. Patrick's: Will Ireland ever return to the Commonwealth?
Voyage Through the Commonwealth: World cruise around the faded bits of pink.
No Queen for the Green: The Green Party of Canada votes to dispense with monarchy.
"Sir Edward Kennedy": The Queen has awarded the senator an honorary Knighthood.
President Obama: Hates Britain, but is keen to meet the Queen?
The Princess Royal: Princess Anne "outstanding" in Australia.
H.M.S. Victory: In 1744, 1000 sailors went down with a cargo of gold.
Queen's Commonwealth: Britain is letting the Commonwealth die.
Justice Kirby: His support for monarchy almost lost him appointment to High Court
Royal Military Academy: Sandhurst abolishes the Apostles' Creed.
Air Marshal Alec Maisner, R.I.P. Half Polish, half German and 100% British.
Cherie Blair: Not a vain, self regarding, shallow thinking viper after all.
Harry Potter: Celebrated rich kid thinks the Royals should not be celebrated
The Royal Jelly: A new king has been coronated, and his subjects are in a merry mood
Victoria Cross: Australian TROOPER MARK DONALDSON awarded the VC
Godless Buses: Royal Navy veteran, Ron Heather, refuses to drive his bus
Labour's Class War: To expunge those with the slightest pretensions to gentility
100 Top English Novels of All Time: The Essential Fictional Library
BIG BEN: Celebrating 150 Years of the Clock Tower

Monday, 9 April 2007


I was re-reading the latest post Chez Holden just now.

I am (still) working on a number of posts which respond to substantive issues, but it struck me that it might be helpful for the ongoing debate for me to emphasise some few points of agreement. Yes, they exist, and are quite considerable.I may part company with a few of my Monarchist fellow travellers on some or all of these points, but it is helpful for me to write this for several reasons. One is that Lewis can then stop repeating himself on some points: at the moment, he continues to resemble Long John Silver's parrot in repetative energy. While this is praiseworthy, for the purposes of this debate, it is also pointless if we agree.

The second is that Monarchists in general must, if we are to truly maintain our institutions properly, engage with these arguments. I write this not only in the hope of helping Lewis Holden, who is, we all know, a gentleman, but also in the hope that my own side will bring our accumulated wisdom to bear on the better stewardship of our sacred constitution. We cannot hope to prevent the dark advent of a republic if we do not engage with the arguments which make change persuasive, and I urge my brethren who stand with me on the Queen's side to approach these arguments with an open mind. So cry haro and to the points of convergence

Point One: Our Westminster System is broken.

I agree with Lewis that the New Zealand system, as it is at present, puts far too much power in the hands of the executive. Parliament is supreme and untrammelled, with no second House, and the Governor-General is appointed by the Prime Minister. The only things which have held this in check up until now are the governing power of convention, and the political realities of government. If the Prime Minister (of whatever stripe) is determined enough, or devious enough, both of these obstacles can be removed: both convention and public opinion can be ignored. Few of our politicians have gone that far, but increasingly convention is undervalued, and hence negotiable. (I've got a post coming on that). Lewis goes on to say that the Governor-General is hence an ineffective backstop (because he can be dismissed by the PM, and/or has no recognised authority for intervention). I am not sure this last point is convincing, and I do think the problem is probably with the politicians increasingly playing hop-scotch with the system, and not the system itself, but I do not disagree action is needed to better protect our freedoms. I am not entirely sure what action I favour, and I have been considering a range of options, from restoring a reformed Legislative Council to codifying convention. (This should not ideally be necessary, but the times we live in make it so). Perhaps the solution is just politicians from across the spectrum with character who won't try to bend the (spirit of the) system? (A forlorn hope).

I am not even opposed to the idea of Parliament, or a Commission, recommending the appointment of the Governor-General to Her Majesty the Queen, so as to give the office more independence. I welcome thoughts on this: If it is an outrageous concession, I am prepared to retreat to previously prepared positions and retract it.

2. The Queen is not a New Zealander

More on this in a future post. The Queen is Queen of the United Kingdom, and we think of her as such. While technically, she is Her Majesty the Queen of New Zealand, to the extent that most people think of it at all, they think of her as the Queen of the United Kingdom, and as the representative of our culture and heritage which has come from that sceptred isle. As Lewis points out, news from Britain always improves Her Majesty's poll rating. That is no bad thing; the Queen is a focus of family loyalty throughout her realms, and I support the continuance of such ties. While the Queen might not be a New Zealander, she isn't foreign either. She is the head and the visible symbol of that great family to which we all belong., which is not ethnic, or imperial, but cultural and traditional. It is no doubt necessary for the better government of her realms that she should govern each of them separately, but psychically, we elide that difference, and there is little point in pretending that we do not.

3. Celebrity Culture spells doom for the Monarchy.

Curb the Press or lose the Crown, as someone (I think Muggeridge) might have said. There is a difference between legitimate freedom of the press (opinion, commentary, news), which ought not to be supressed, and the sort of icky private details about the exact mechanics of the man's bits and where he put them, and what they did. I really, really do not want to know. It isn't in the public interest, it isn't legitimate news, it's just icky muck-racking, and I don't like it. In a more self-controlled age, we could rely on publishers and editors to recognise something other than the imperative to sell newspapers, but Murdoch pushed that out of the window (along with his allegiance to the Monarchy).

There are probably more points of agreement, but these three will do to begin with. No use frightening the horses with too much compromise and concession to the realities of modern life. Discuss. Is our system broken, and why? Is the Queen a Kiwi (or a Canadian, or an Aussie, etc.), and if not, does that make her foreign? And what should we do about the media, if anything?

I will be interested in the responses here, and I offer them as a contribution to both debate and mutual understanding. I don't make a habit of the last, but I think Mr. Holden has earned it.

Cross-posted at the Kiwi Examiner


Lewis said...

Excellent. That makes life much easier.

Just a few comments on each point:

1. I don't think I've ever said that the Westminster system is broken, just the bit that's keeping it in check - the head of state. As you can see from my last post, my argument is that we could elect the G-G, we could make them independent of the executive, but that isn't enough to create a proper check on the executive. That's exactly why I quoted Bagehot... but I'm sure you know that :)

2. The issue of whether the Queen is or isn't a "New Zealander" is really what the meaning of that term is. I suspect that is where we differ.

3. The monarchy has been consumed by the celebrity culture not because of the fourth estate, but because of Hollywood. Murdoch just broke convention and allowed his papers free reign to treat the Royals as celebrities.

Swift said...

There we are. Convention again.

I thought you would be pleased. I suspect some of my fellow travellers will not be. I also meant to add that I accept your invitation to fight tooth and nail over every little detail of the remaining divergent ground-but then, you knew that. :-)

Lewis said...

Haha. It's funny, because I read a speech by one Mr Tony Abbott on the weekend regarding republican proposals being devoid of "detail" and then putting forward an unlikely scenario devoid of detail...

Palmerston said...

I know you Canucks, Kiwis and Aussies get a little perturbed when the international media say "Britain's Queen", even when she's pay tribute at a Commonwealth event - but guess what: devolution is killing Britain, and it just may be that we will share the monarchy on a more equitable basis as a result of it.

Beaverbrook said...

I agree with the three points. I've always seen the Queen as British and first among equals, but still it would be nice if the press would at least respect the role she is playing when she plays it. At Vimy they should have referred to her as the Queen of Canada and not as "Britain's Queen", given that she was paying tribute to Canadian sacrifice. But the press is incorrigible, didn't you know.

You can add another monarchist stupidity: If you vote for a republic, you'll get kicked out of the Commonwealth. Yeah, right. My eyes roll everytime I hear that one - a position more laughable than defensible, and there are others. This is a good exercise and it might be worth our while to catalogue them and put them away in some locked box.

Beaverbrook said...

While the Queen might not be a New Zealander, she isn't foreign either. She is the head and the visible symbol of that great family to which we all belong., which is not ethnic, or imperial, but cultural and traditional.

This is key and I think represents what is so great about our monarchy, as something other than a Tribal Chief, which is what the nationalists crave. As you pointed out, that can only be a good thing.