All four major dailies (sorry Waikato Times does not qualify :-)) have editorials today on restorying titles to our top honours, and opinion is mixed.
They may sound quaintly English nowadays, and no sizeable Commonwealth country outside of Britain uses them any more, but knighthoods still have a place in New Zealand. The previous Government did away with them without a clear mandate to do so and its decision always rankled with a large section of the community. In their eight years’ absence, equivalent non-titled honours have not caught the public imagination. The loss was noticed every Queen’s Birthday and New Year.
National’s reinstatement of the titles appears to be broadly popular, so much so that it is a wonder the party did not declare its intentions loudly before the election.
The Dom Post declares medieval titles make no sense:
The change is intended to confer greater status on honours recipients. Holders of the titles introduced by the Clark government do not enjoy the same recognition as those who were made knights and dames under the old system.
But to address one anomaly, Mr Key has created another. He has reinstated a quaint, antiquated system that has no relevance in 21st-century New Zealand. …
Each year New Zealand grows more confident and more secure in its unique identity. Inevitably it will become a republic. It makes no sense to revive an antiquated system that has its roots on the other side of the world.
The Government’s decision to unilaterally reintroduce the titles of knights and dames is a retrograde step, one totally out of kilter with New Zealanders’ sense of egalitarianism.
Although the revamped honours will still be a New Zealand, rather than a British system, it will still have connotations of colonial times, and that has no place in our society as New Zealand moves forward in the 21st century as a confident and independent nation.
The ODT sits on the fence somewhat but mildly supportive:
While many will welcome reversion to an honours system recognising society’s special contributors with the familiar titles of “Sir” and “Dame”, it is less obvious the move has been thoroughly thought-out, let alone discussed in any meaningful fashion with either the country or the Parliament.
It has become clear since the system was changed and the titles abolished in 2000 by Helen Clark and the Labour-led government that the replacements have failed to excite the imagination and thus, arguably, have contributed to a de facto demotion in their social and cultural significance.
If people are going to be recognised for their good and public-spirited works, then it should be with a title or honour that has resonance. …
But whether celebrating success in 21st-century New Zealand requires a wholesale reversion to “Knight and Dame Companions”, at the pleasure of the Queen, others may find debatable.
Mr Key and his Government obviously think so and, as is their prerogative, have made a decisive intervention.
Whether it stands the test of time only time itself will tell.
So that is 2-2 in the editorials!Tags: Dominion Post, honours, NZ Herald, ODT, The Press