Top Scoops

Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | Scoop News | Wellington Scoop | Community Scoop | Search


NZ And Its Royal Egalitarian Heritage

It's taken more than 70 years for politicians to convince New Zealanders they should get rid of royal titles and honours, but this coalition government finally looks set to do it. John Howard writes.

The reasons given now to rid ourselves of ties to the Monarchy are said to be that they don't fit into New Zealand's modern egalitarian society. But it's much deeper than that.

Fortunately, one former Labour politician and cabinet minister was in the habit of recording events, stories, conversations, in fact, anything which struck him as noteworthy. That politician was John A Lee.

He lived through tempestuous days and he writes with vigour. He did it, he says, because old issues, fiercely contested, tend to be forgotten but are inevitably raised again years later.

Lee, among others said; "Nothing happens in politics by accident."

He writes; "The wet/dry - Catholic/Protestant period had to be lived through to be believed."

He was expelled from the Labour Party under the spurious charge that his actions contributed to the death of Michael Joseph Savage. For that, what he writes becomes even more compelling.

If a former National Party politician ever found the guts to write about their party with as much candid openess, criticism, and perhaps bitterness, as did John A Lee, New Zealand would be the better for it.

Lee wrote many books, three of which I have in my library. Simple on a Soapbox - Political Notebooks - Rhetoric at the Red Dawn.

In Political Notebooks he writes at page 34;

" William Barnard, Speaker 1936-44, was never knighted, nor was William Jordan while High Commissioner. (to London)

The party, particularly Peter Fraser and Walter Nash, was against titles.

Walter at all conferences and caucus discussions on titles was completely opposed. Until he wanted one for himself.

When he did accept a title he quoted - as an excuse - the fact that Jordan was knighted after returning to New Zealand from his post in London. What he did not say was that the Labour cabinet had refused Jordan a title, and it had only been granted after National came to power and Sid Holland became Prime Minister.

That was characteristic of Nash. He was always against things unless something was coming his way."

And on page 30 he writes;

" When a by-election occured in Remuera in the late 1920's, Tom Bloodworth was selected as the Labour candidate. He rocked members of the Labour Party by saying that if elected he would be happy to "shake hands with visiting royalty."

Even as late as 1930 an affirmation of this sort caused a chill of horror to reach the Labour spine, something the radical historian tends to forget.

Tom's affirmation drew big headlines in the press through the whole country.

As an MP and Wellington Labour councillor, Peter Fraser had refused to dine with royalty. In parliament the Labour Party boycotted the visit of the Prince of Wales shortly after the war and refused to dine with the admirals when the Massey government arranged a function for the visiting United States fleet.

When Fred Bartram MP visited England and accepted an invitation to Buckingham Palace, the Trades Hall trembled.

Bill Parry, later the Hon Bill, called the Union Jack a piratical flag and Peter Fraser in a rhetorical gesture put the flag on the floor, and to the audience's delight, wiped his hobnailed boots on the national emblem. In those days Peter squared his shoulders with reverence only for the singing of the Red Flag. Attitudes changed when he became prime minister."

So this sophistry about royal titles not now fitting in with New Zealand's egalitarian society is bullshit.

The plan to rid New Zealand of the titles and honours system has been within Labour and, I strongly suspect National, for decades. It's just that a former high-profile Labour politician has written about it whereas, to the best of my knowledge, National politicians haven't.

Scoop readers will, however, recall that it was the National government under Jim Bolger in 1995 who established a committee which ultimately recommended ending titles.

John A Lee wasn't totally blameless either. But the history of every country begins in the heart of a man or woman and I think John A Lee had that heart.

Finally, I suppose, politicians are the same everywhere. They promise to build a bridge even when there's no river.

© Scoop Media

Top Scoops Headlines


Gordon Campbell: On The (Delayed) Judgment Day For Theresa May

When under stress, British PM Theresa May reportedly eats peanut butter straight from the jar. Crunch time is looming... More>>


Gordon Campbell: On Politely Fake Political Obituaries (And The Paris Discord)

One unfortunate side effect of “personality politics” is that when prominent politicians die, the niceties we observe at the death of private individuals get automatically extended to them as well... More>>


Unique And Vanishing: NZ Biodiversity Losses Match Global Crisis

One might think that it is buffered from some of the effects of biological erosion, especially since people only arrived less than 800 years ago. But as we show, the impact on wildlife has been catastrophic. More>>

Your Name Here(ish): Sponsor A Section On! has just launched Section Sponsorships - the newest way for you to gain exposure for your brand to Scoop’s high value audience of 500,000 monthly readers. More>>


You Did It! The Scoop 3.0 PledgeMe Closes

Update: The Scoop 3.0 Crowdsale and Crowdfunding Campaign met its target with a total of $36,024 pledged. It looks like it has all been worthwhile. We are nearly there and will ride again in 2019, our 20th year of operations. Moreover the past week has brought a number of inquiries from larger organisations, many of which have till now failed to respond to our messages... More>>