Morgan Godfery: The monarchy has lost meaning

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The Duke of Cambridge is on a celebrity tour. Photo / Getty Images
The Duke of Cambridge is on a celebrity tour. Photo / Getty Images

I have on the best authority that "the young royals are certainly very glamorous". I'm also reliably informed that "the royal couple are very charming and clearly care a lot for the people".

This seems like the language of courtiers - instead it's the view of the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition.

There's something about power and prestige that makes our politicians weak at the knees. But parse the bootlicking language and the real meaning of the royal tour is clear: it's a celebrity tour.

There's little talk of Prince William, Kate and Prince George in their constitutional or ceremonial capacity. The coverage is tabloid - what Kate is wearing is of international importance. The benefits are framed in economic terms - the coverage is supposedly priceless.

But these are our future monarchs. Prince William, Kate and Prince George aren't tourism salespeople. If monarchy has any meaning, surely its meaning is constitutional? The coverage suggests not.

The monarchy is the embodiment of the state and the government is its agent. The Queen reigns but the Government rules. However, the Queen's reign is nominal. The Governor-General already performs all of the functions of the head of state. He or she dissolves and prorogues Parliament, appoints and dismisses governments and assents to bills. If a New Zealander is already performing all of the functions of an effective head of state, why do we persist with the charade that the Queen must remain the head of state?

Monarchy is a colonial hangover - and some of us seem too comfortable with that. But New Zealand doesn't have to measure its identity against Britain. Our country was established on the principle it would be a "better Britain". That meant abandoning her rigid hierarchies. Yet here we are, a supposedly egalitarian country anchored in the Pacific, persevering with one of the oldest and most undemocratic hierarchies of all. Monarchy.

We are not the Britain of the South Pacific. We are more multicultural, increasingly reliant on Asia and anchored in the Pacific. The national story isn't one of monarchy and glorious allegiance to a Queen 18,000km away.

I have it on royal authority - from a Kingitanga [Maori King movement] supporter - that we won't find "the trick of standing upright here" until we define our national identity on the basis of where we are, not what we were.

Ditching the Realm of New Zealand for the Republic of New Zealand is an important part of our evolving identity. If I could ask the Prime Minister one question it'd be this: if he thinks the flag represents a colonial and post-colonial past, why doesn't he think the same of monarchy? If he was consistent, we'd have a referendum on both.

• The Herald on Sunday will publish a range of different views "out of leftfield" over the next few months.

- Herald on Sunday

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