A political King

November 21st, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The Prince of Wales intends to continue making “heartfelt interventions” in matters of national importance when he becomes king, rather than adopting the Queen’s blanket impartiality on public affairs, close friends have said.

As Charles III he will redefine the “evolving” role of monarch, as he believes he has a duty to ask questions of those in power on issues such as the environment, on which he has campaigned for decades. Patrick Holden, an adviser to the Prince on sustainability, told the Guardian: “He feels these issues are too serious to ignore.”

So the next King of New Zealand will be a political campaigning interfering King.

If we’re to have a political Head of State, wouldn’t it be better to be one we can choose?

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Do we want a lobbyist as our King?

August 13th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Guardian reports:

The office of the Prince of Wales has said he had a right and a duty to communicate privately with the government “on any matter he chooses”, after the extent of his private meetings with ministers came under renewed questioning.

An analysis of palace records showing that Prince Charles has held private meetings with cabinet ministers at least 36 times since the 2010 general election was seized on by campaigners for a republic who said it showed he was “a political operator and businessman with direct access to government”.

Charles has met the prime minister, David Cameron, seven times and in many cases held meetings with ministers who have responsibility for areas in which he has taken a particular interest, according to the Daily Mail.

The idea of having a Monarch, is that they are politically neutral. When a monarch is more of a lobbyist than a politically neutral figure, then the rationale for remain with the monarchy weakens. Why should one hereditary lobbyist get unfettered access to Ministers to push his personal views?

Hat Tip: No Right Turn

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Our future?

July 10th, 2013 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Guardian reports:

Three senior judges have ruled that the public has no right to read documents that would reveal how Prince Charles has sought to alter government policies.

The high court judges have rejected a legal attempt by the Guardian to force the publication of private letters written by the prince to government ministers.

Cabinet ministers have conceded that the prince’s private letters – dubbed “black spider memos” because of their scratchy handwriting – contained the prince’s “most deeply held personal views and beliefs” that could undermine the perception of his political neutrality. …

Grieve had argued that disclosure of the 27 “particularly frank” letters between the prince and ministers over a seven-month period would have seriously damaged his future role as king. The attorney general said there was a risk that the prince would not be seen to be politically neutral by the public if the letters were published.

“This risk will arise if, through these letters, the Prince of Wales was viewed by others as disagreeing with government policy. Any such perception would be seriously damaging to his role as future monarch because if he forfeits his position of political neutrality as heir to the throne, he cannot easily recover it when he is king,” Grieve had said.

This is almost Orwellian. It is not the publication of his letters that would damage his political neutrality. It is the fact he is in fact in no way politically neutral. His letters are what damage his political neutrality, not their publication.

The argument for the monarchy is that it provides a politically neutral head of state. It clearly does not. Prince Charles appears to be somewhere between Labour and the Greens in his political views. Good on him, but why should he get to become King of New Zealand?

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Paul Little on Prince Charles

November 11th, 2012 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

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.

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Is Phil a Prince Charles?

March 12th, 2010 at 3:11 pm by David Farrar

Brian Edwards blogs on the Prince Charles syndrome:

I assume Phil Goff would like to be Prime Minister of New Zealand. He has every reason to think he deserves the job. He’s served a lengthy apprenticeship, having come into Parliament in 1981, the same year as Helen Clark. And he’s had a distinguished career as an MP and Cabinet Minister. He’s highly intelligent and well-informed on a whole range of portfolios from Justice to Foreign Affairs. And he comes from good Labour stock.

Goff and his party are languishing in the polls at the moment, but their figures are actually better than Helen Clark’s and Labour’s were in early-mid 1996.

Labour in early 1996 dropped as low as 14%. But the overall left vote was pretty strong – with the Alliance and NZ First, they were around 50%.

Labour and Greens have no other potential partners on the left, except the Maori Party, which Labour keeps doing its best to alienate.

But it’s interesting to speculate what might have happened if Clark had not  called the coup leaders’ bluff and stood down. In every conversation I’ve had with Michael Cullen, he’s claimed to have had no interest in leading the Labour Party or being Prime Minister. So Labour’s new leader might well have been Phil Goff: 43, talented, hungry, going places.

Could Goff have won against Bolger in 1996? Quite possibly. A factor in Winston Peter’s decision to go with National in the country’s first MMP election may well have been his reluctance to serve under a woman Prime Minister. So he might just have gone with Labour, and Phil Goff would have achieved his ambition to lead the country.

A big factor in NZF going with National was the sheer arrogance of the Labour negotiators. A Goff leadership might have avoided making that mistake.

I also think Labour would have done quite a bit better in 2008, if Goff had been made Finance Minister in mid 2007.

Popular political wisdom at the moment has it that Labour will not win the next election. If that is right and if Goff’s personal rating as preferred Prime Minister has not significantly improved by then, he’s unlikely to survive long as Opposition leader after the election. In similar circumstances, Clark had 6 months to improve her poll ratings and did so spectacularly. Goff has at least 18 months and National’s social and economic policies will inevitably begin to erode the party’s huge lead in the polls well before then. So Goff is in with a chance, albeit a slender one.

Against him is a less easy, less engaging image than Key’s and a phenomenon which I like to call The Prince Charles Syndrome. Charles, the man who would be king, has simply been around too long. Kept waiting by a mother in excellent health and showing no inclination to abdicate, the once young and attractive prince has lost his appeal to his handsome and exciting son, Prince William.  Kept waiting by the hugely charismatic, if morally flawed Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, the dour Scottish son of a Presbyterian minister, may have suffered the same fate – around too long. And the same may be true of Phil Goff.

At the heart of National’s 2008 election win was the simplistic but potent belief that it was ‘time for a change’. John Key had been in Parliament only 6 years when he became Prime Minister. He was fresh and new and the electorate is giving him a lot of slack. We are still getting to know him.

When the 2011 election rolls around, Phil Goff will have been in Parliament for 30 years, kept waiting for twelve of those years by a woman who in 1996 also refused to abdicate.

So does Phil Goff deserve to be Prime Minister of New Zealand? I believe that he does.

And has he been around too long? Possibly.

I an normally very loath to make predictions about what party will win an election, or even a seat. Partly because of my day job, and partly because I know how quickly things can change.

I was very cautious about the results of the 2008 election, right up to and including election night.

However for most of the last year I have been saying that I do not think Labour will win the next election. Not because John Key is popular. Not because National is in its first term. But because, like Brian Edwards, I do not think voters will choose to elect as a “fresh face” someone who has been an MP since 1981.

Of course it can happen, National could implode. Some sort of event could cause the public to want a PM with 30 years experience in Parliament, rather than John Key. But it is a very hard sell, regardless of what Goff does.

The baby boomer generation did place a premium on experience in Parliament. Holyoake served 25 yars before becoming PM. Marshall served 26 years. Nash did 28 years. Kirk did 15 and Muldoon did 15.

Later on it was shorter. Lange did 7. Bolger 18, Shipley 10, Clark 18 and Key 6.

Even in the old days, 30 years was beyond the waiting period for Holyoake, Nash and Marshall.

Today people distrust more people who have spent their entire life in Parliament. It is, well uncool. Look around the world:

Kevin Rudd became Pm after only eight years in Parliament. Tony Blair took 1 years to be Leader and PM in 14. David Cameron may do it in 13. Even Tony Abbott is in only his 16th year. Stephen Harper made PM 13 years after he entered. Angela Merkel took 15 years.

Now this is not a hard and fast rule. But it is a sign of the massive challenge ahead of Goff, to convince voters that he is a Prime Minister to lead NZ into the future.

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Poor Prince Charles

November 14th, 2008 at 9:55 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports how much Prince Charles dislikes touring New Zealand:

The Prince wrote to friends at the time that if “one more New Zealand child asks me what it’s like to be a prince, I shall go demented”, the Guardian newspaper reported yesterday.

Charles will become King of New Zealand when the Queen dies. As readers will know, I prefer Republic with a written constitution.

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