Paul Little writes:
Prince Charles, the plant whisperer, falls into that rapidly growing category of people who were “greenie before it was trendy” and have “always been a bit of an environmentalist in my own way”. Good for him. But he has also been revealed over the past seven years to be someone obsessed with secrecy and whose dealings with the British government tread a very fine constitutional line at best.
He has gone to great legal lengths to prevent publication – sought by the Guardian newspaper under official information legislation – of 27 letters written to MPs lobbying over matters close to his heart.
Topics included, according to testimony by law professor Adam Tomkins, “the perceived merits of holistic medicine, the perceived evils of genetically modified crops, the apparent dangers of making cuts in the armed forces, his strong dislike of certain forms of architecture”.
The merits of his opinions are not the issue. The issue is that he is attempting to influence politicians – something which, as monarch, he will be prohibited from doing – and does not want the British public to know this.
After seven years of legal actions, a tribunal of three British judges ruled a month ago that the letters should be released. This decision was vetoed by the Attorney-General who effectively confirmed the letters were damaging by saying their release would “have undermined (the Prince’s) position of political neutrality”.
In other words, he is not politically neutral. There is now – after pressure from the Royal Family – an absolute block on any future publication.
Why should we care about Charles’ efforts to stop British people knowing what he thinks? The British tolerate the institution of monarchy in part as a money-spinning tourist attraction. For us, it doesn’t even have that benefit.
Constitutionally, he will be New Zealand’s head of state when he ascends the throne. But do we want as head of state – however notional the role – someone who not only flouts constitutional convention by attempting to influence politicians but also tries to conceal the fact when attempts are made to bring it to light?
All very good points. Our Head of State should be politically neutral – and be a New Zealander.
The Republican Movement has a “It’s time for change” campaign to coincide with the visit.
If we do not change, then one day Charles will be King of New Zealand.