Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

Charles should say what he likes: poll

Prince Charles should be allowed to speak up on matters dear to him, a poll of New Zealanders indicates. Photo / Getty Images
Prince Charles should be allowed to speak up on matters dear to him, a poll of New Zealanders indicates. Photo / Getty Images

Prince Charles has been criticised for getting too involved in politics in Britain but most New Zealanders believe their future King should be as outspoken as he wants.

In a Herald Digipoll survey taken after a speech Prince Charles delivered at the recent climate change conference in Paris, only 7.5 per cent believed he should not get involved in contentious issues such as climate change, while 37 per cent believed he should feel free to express his views in general terms.

More than half - 52 per cent - believed the Prince should break with the tradition that a monarch stay removed from politics and freely express his views, as long as he had no power.

Dean Knight, a constitutional law lecturer at Victoria University and adviser to the NZ Republican Movement, said Prince Charles had broken from the tradition that a monarch remain neutral. He was very different to his mother, the Queen.

"She is a paragon of neutrality and being above politics. His track record of being politically involved, expressing views, lobbying, having fingers in pies is troubling. On its face it is inconsistent with the office of Head of State, of monarch."

Mr Knight said New Zealanders were loyal to the Queen, but that did not necessarily transfer to her son.

Labour leader Andrew Little said while Prince Charles was still the heir he should be free to speak his mind "so that if and when he becomes the monarch people understand what kind of man he is".

He believed New Zealand would "debate vigorously" whether to become a republic at the point of succession from the Queen.

Prime Minister John Key has previously said it is inevitable New Zealand will become a republic, but he believed the affection people felt for Prince William and his family could prolong the monarchy's reign over New Zealand.

After an earlier release of the so-called "black spider" letters from Charles to Government ministers, in December a further information release revealed Prince Charles was routinely sent confidential Cabinet documents that were also sent to the Queen. Mr Knight said it was "extraordinary" that the Prince would be privy to such a level of information.

A spokeswoman for Mr Key said no members of the royal family were sent confidential papers by the New Zealand Government, but they were sometimes briefed on Kiwi issues, especially when they visited New Zealand or met the Prime Minister overseas. Prince Charles visited New Zealand in November.

The British Labour Party has called for an inquiry into his access to the confidential papers, claiming it was inappropriate for someone acting as a powerful lobbyist with access to ministers to get such material.

However, some academics in Britain have suggested it is appropriate for the monarch in waiting to learn about the Government in preparation for the role.

The black spider memos included correspondence with the Tony Blair Government on issues ranging from homeopathic treatments to grammar schools. The Prince had also intervened in cases where he disagreed with modern architecture designs for buildings and had long been an advocate of organic produce.

The poll of 750 eligible voters was taken from 4-14 December and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.6 per cent.

- NZ Herald

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