Mike Doig gave us Viewpoint tonight about the Monarchy. He said":
I remember the 1953 Coronation quite clearly. I was eight years old, and living in England. A lot of people bought a TV set for the first time so they could watch it live. We didn’t have a TV, but our entire primary school went to the local cinema to see the colour movie of the Coronation a while later. We were given Coronation mugs and we were taught to sing a new song called “We’ll all be New Elizabethans”. It was to be the start of a new golden age.
That was 70 years ago. It breaks my heart to say this, but over those 70 years Britain has been in relative decline on just about every measure you can think of, and it’s getting worse. My viewpoint is that the Monarchy, and hereditary privilege in general, has a lot to do with that sorry state of affairs.
Let me move forward to 1993. I was at the annual general meeting of the Wool Research Organisation in Christchurch. The wool industry was facing big problems and the meeting was important. The chairman was a sheep farmer from Southland, a big tough-looking character. He opened the proceedings by telling us he was just back from a trip to London, where he had lunch at the Guildhall or some such place. He spent the next ten minutes telling us that he met Princess Anne, and how wonderful she was. He was as proud as punch.
I mention this because it illustrates the insidious and corrosive way the system works. I will come back to that.
Monarchists trot out lots of arguments to support the status quo. For example:
- “The Monarchy ensures stability”. Possibly it does, but what Britain needs is change, on many fronts, to avoid becoming a third world nation.
- “The Monarchy sets a good example to the rest of us”. You have to be kidding!
- “Who would you choose to be head of state, if it wasn’t the King or Queen?” This is a favourite argument. Monarchists suggest implausible candidates such as Margaret Thatcher or Benny Hill. It would appear that out of a population of 65 million, you couldn’t find a good President to serve for a four or five year term. I don’t believe it.
- “The Monarchy encourages tourism”. OK, I’ll give you that one.
Look at it another way. If you bought a new electric toaster from Briscoes, and it didn’t work, you’d take it back and demand a replacement. If Briscoes refused, you’d be hopping mad.
The trouble with a hereditary ruler is this: if they are no good, you can’t demand a replacement. You can’t get your money back.
Think about this. If Prince Charles had broken his neck playing polo and he died, we would have just crowned King Andrew. Next in line would have been the unappealing Princess Beatrice. And if Andrew had also died young, next in line would be Prince Edward, and he would be even worse. It doesn’t bear thinking about.
I’m not too bothered about the money which is wasted on the Monarchy, or how many castles and palaces and servants they have.
I am a republican for three more basic reasons. First, the Monarchy has prevented Britain’s political and constitutional development, where overhaul is badly needed. It sits on top of an archaic and self-serving system of inherited privilege. For example, the House of Lords is farcical. There are nearly 800 of them. You can become a Lord by donating a large sum to the Tory party. Britain’s political system and many of its institutions are no longer fit for purpose.
Secondly, and thinking back to our sheep farmer, ordinary people are dazzled and distracted by the celebrity of the Royals, no matter how unsavoury some of them are. It saps ambition and distorts what is considered to be success in life, and it locks the British into a wholly rose-tinted view of their history and their future. It makes cronyism acceptable.
Thirdly, it is a question of taste. I cringe when I hear ‘your majesty’, or your royal highness’, or when I see people bowing and curtseying to the Royals. It’s like some mediaeval fairy tale. Why should Willie Apiata, VC, bow to King Charles? It should be the other way round.
What should we do? Well, I hesitate to suggest the Royal family should all be done away with, as happened to the Tsar and his family in 1917. (By the way, his first cousin King George V could have prevented that, but he didn’t.)
New Zealand, along with Australia and Canada, should, and probably will, politely tell King Charles we no longer want him as head of state.
As for the British, I’m afraid things will have to get a lot worse before they get better.