Brian Rudman 's Opinion

Brian Rudman is a NZ Herald feature writer and columnist.

Brian Rudman: How Charles can live Maclary-free

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Prince Charles flies to Whenuapai air force base tomorrow to sign into law, on behalf of his mother the Queen, the Republic of New Zealand Act 2012. He will remain in Auckland for three days to join in the celebrations marking the formal divorce between New Zealand and the long-dead British Empire.

Now wouldn't that be the news story of the decade to write.

Unfortunately, when our future King touches down tomorrow, after whistlestop tours among his mother's loyal subjects of Papua New Guinea and Australia, we're more likely to read simpering nothings about his wife Camilla's stunning outfit.

Nothing highlights the constitutional charade our masters will be playing for the next few days more than contrasting it with Wednesday's American presidential election.

Whatever the excesses and shortfalls of the American electoral system, it has one basic element right. You have to have been born in the United States of America to become its head of state.

And only Americans can decide from among their fellow citizens who that person will be.

It's not a new or revolutionary concept. They've been doing it for more than 200 years. It's what you do in a democracy - in a former colony that has had the gumption to let go of mummy's apron strings anyway.

Contrast that with the forelock pulling and jittery curtsies that will surround the leadership anointing process to be played out in New Zealand over the next week.

I say anointing, because unlike a proper democracy, we don't even have the chance to select, let alone elect, our head of state.

What we've got is our un-elected Queen of 60 years, at 86 too frail to make the royal progress through her far-flung Pacific dominions again, dispatching her eldest son as her deputy - and, in the goodness of time, her successor.

It's not even as if he's being sent out on "appro", like a home appliance the retailer lets you take home to try out before cash changes hands.

Monarchs are not like that. You can't look them over and say, "nah, we want topless Kate and Prince Whatsisname instead".

Nope, Prince Charles is our leader-to-be, like it or not.

Well that's not totally correct. It's true only as long as we go along with the feudal fancy that our head of state has to be the head of the reigning English royal house.

Plenty of old British colonies have ditched the British royals and moved on, retaining amicable relations with the old motherland. Places like India, Pakistan and much of southern Africa. Not forgetting the United States, though they did have to fight a war to achieve independence, unlike ourselves.

The royals themselves have given enough hints over the years that it's up to us to decide when to pension them off, and that when that happens, they'll go quietly.

Unfortunately, the published itinerary for the visit doesn't show any time set aside for a heart-to-heart with Prime Minister John Key along those lines. Instead there's the usual official chores at war memorials and hospitals and trade exhibitions, as well as an 11am performance of Hairy Maclary "with hundreds of schoolchildren at Bruce Mason Theatre, Takapuna".

In Auckland at Monday lunchtime, there's a public walkabout, through the debatable pleasures of the Lower Queen St bus terminus down to The Cloud on Queens Wharf for "New Zealand Shear Brilliance".

It's day-to-day drudgery, which almost makes me sorry for them. They seem as trapped in this meaningless relationship as we, and don't know how to get out of it either. Perhaps the United Nations should provide a counselling service for dragging feudal relationships into the 21st century.

Prince Charles does have a reputation in Britain for pushing the constitutional boundaries and expressing "political" views. If he sees no future in becoming the future King of New Zealand, I just wish he'd find time to let the Government know.

We've dithered so long, it would be churlish to dump the present Queen. But we do have to have an understanding in place with the palace that the monarchy of New Zealand expires with her. It's the natural cut-off point. For Charles, it can only be good. No more Hairy Maclary to endure.

- NZ Herald

Brian Rudman

Brian Rudman is a NZ Herald feature writer and columnist.

Brian Rudman's first news story was for Auckland University student paper Outspoke, exposing an SIS spy on campus during the heady days of the Vietnam War. It resulted in a Commission of Inquiry and an award for student journalist of the year. A stint editing the Labour Party's start-up Auckland newspaper NZ Statesman followed. Rudman decided journalism was the career for him, but the NZ Herald and Auckland Star thought otherwise when he came job-hunting. After a year on the "hippy trail" overland to London, he spent four years on Fleet St with various British provincial papers. He then joined the Auckland Star, winning the Dulux Journalist of the Year award for coverage of the 1976 Dawn Raids against Polynesian overstayers. He has also worked on the NZ Listener, Auckland Sun, and since 1996, for the NZ Herald as feature writer and columnist. He has a BA in History and Politics.

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