Brian Rudman is a NZ Herald feature writer and columnist.

Brian Rudman: Hang this royal line up for good

Prime Miister John Key. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Prime Miister John Key. Photo / Mark Mitchell

It was ironic that in the week that the Labour Party democratically elected its new leader and ballot papers went out around the country for the upcoming local elections, Prime Minister John Key flew a remote Scottish facility to check out the condition of New Zealand's next three heads of state. To say nothing of that of our present overseas monarch.

It comes as no surprise than Mr Key and his family had to agree not to disclose details of what goes on behind the walls of Balmoral Castle. Coming from a country which survives on the back of sheep and cows, he appreciates the value of good breeding secrets. And the remarkable success the British have achieved in producing a royal line, complete with three generations of progeny all docilely waiting in line for their turn on the throne, is a trade secret they wouldn't want to fall into the wrong hands.

For the Keys it must have been a remarkable sight. A castle full of future heads of state of New Zealand - and of anywhere else that wants to share one - all lounging about in an orderly queue, potting grouse, putting golf balls, and waiting their turn.

No wonder politicians are seduced by monarchy. Imagine, not a pesky election to worry about for at least another 70 or 80 years.

Of course, borrowing the head of the hereditary British Royal family as head of state for a remote multi-cultural Pacific Island democracy in the 21st century, is as bizarre as the method the Tibetans once used to chose their leaders.

Unlike the British, who put all their faith in one stock line, the Tibetans ensured a certain mixing of the gene pool, by falling back on a belief in reincarnation. When a leader died, the courtiers went searching the land for a new-born boy who, in their eyes, was the old leader, reborn.

As a kid, I found it made great National Geographic reading material, but to my questioning young Western mind, irrational. Choosing a leader by astrological charts and the way a baby cooed at visiting courtiers, seemed crazy. No crazier or incomprehensible, of course, than the hereditary selection method for choosing our New Zealand's head of state, and throughout most of the world, both are now seen as similarly flawed. Except in a few isolated spots, such as New Zealand, and the estate visited by the Key family last weekend.

Mr Key did let slip that the latest prince in the queue, New Zealand's head of state circa 2060-2080, was a "bonny" baby. I do hope that "Trader" John followed that through and had a few moments to negotiate a trade deal with Grandpa Charles, who's been quick off the mark to exploit his new grandson through his Highgrove Estate shop. Whip out the old credit card, switch on the computer, and everything from a Royal Baby Commemorative Mug, made from Staffordshire fine bone china - a snip at $38.40, a commemorative pillbox for $57.60 and a commemorative plate for $86.30 are there for the buying. If you really want to push the boat out, there's even a large rocking lamb for $1140.

As little Prince George is in line to be our head of state as well, let's hope the prime minister donned his trade negotiator hat while beating the heather with Prince Charles, and proposed he add a few commemorative products from his future south seas realm to the family online shopping site. A large rocking Kiwi lamb, a Buzzy Bee, some organic manuka honey nappy rash cream. All with the royal crest of approval, of course.

On reflection, it should have been Mr Key who requested a secrecy clause, to blank out the whole weekend from the rest of the world. How awkward it will have been for him in Paris and at the United Nations in New York, trying to push New Zealand's case for a place on the Security Council, while having to explain why a modern, forward-looking independent Pacific democracy, still has to hang on to the apron strings of the British monarchy.

As he arrived to meet the Queen, the Ministry of Women's Affairs was calling on us to celebrate Suffrage Day, September 19, marking the 120th anniversary of New Zealand becoming the first country in the world to grant women the right to vote. How can we celebrate that, when if Prince George had been born a Georgina, she would have had to cross her fingers and hope a brother didn't follow her if she wanted to ever become Queen.

There is legislation going through parliament to tinker with this piece of hereditary sexism, but it fails to confront the real issue, and that is, that hereditary leaders belong in the pages of old copies of the National Geographic.

- NZ Herald

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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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