Holiday, Her Majesty, honours and how to progress

A random thought, 1 June 2018

Queen’s Birthday weekend: holiday; genuflection; showers of honours on the deserving and undeserving.

The holiday marks winter for us but not for the monarchy, warm-glowed by The Wedding of Harry and a divorcee from Canada.

It also marks a corner of the constitution in which the sixth Labour administration shows no inclination yet to be a “government of transformation”. Republican Jacinda Ardern kneels to the monarchy, her republican party alongside.

So some Labour time-servers are to be knighted and dame-d this weekend, as National time-servers and donors were in Sir John Key’s time. Medieval traditions live on, even for those who might once have called themselves radical or at least progressive.

Ardern could, were she transformative, pass selection of the gong-ees from half of Parliament, the governing parties, to the whole of Parliament: a parliamentary commission on which all parties are represented, with a supermajority required for each honour.

Honours then would be more likely to be those of the nation, not just the whim of temporary Beehive tenants.

If Ardern could take another transformative step: rededicate Queen’s Birthday as Civil War day, remembering the 1860s war and the long winding climb back post-1970s towards honour in a bicultural nation.

Does a foreign monarch signify that nation? Ardern could gently progress towards nationhood by legislating that there will be no successors here to the Queen or, if that is too fast, to King Charles III.

Meantime, she could pick up Sir George Grey’s late nineteenth-century push to have the Governor-General elected by plebiscite — perhaps initially from among candidates approved by the cross-party parliamentary commission. That would ease the transition to an elected, essentially still ceremonial, president of the new republic.

Oops. Furnishing Aotearoa/New Zealand with twenty-first century pomp and paraphernalia looks rather like real transformation. Perhaps the seventh Labour government? If there is one.