Matt McCarten on politics

Matt McCarten is a Herald on Sunday political columnist

Matt McCarten: PM adds honours ego trip to royal list of trinkets

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Is it just me or does everyone feel embarrassed about how pathetically cynical our Prime Minister is by bestowing our country's highest honour on the spouse of the Queen?

Prince Philip is known for only two things: wandering two steps behind his wife at public engagements, and frequently embarrassing everyone with his moronic mutterings that have at times bordered on racist and sexist.

I bet the increasingly doddery 90-year-old doesn't even know what his new trinket is, let alone the name of the guy who gave it to him.

Assuming John Key is not a revolutionary republican deliberately undermining our imperial pretensions, he certainly has achieved turning our honours system into a joke.

How crass, edging a minor Greek noble on to the same table reserved for our country's top 20 New Zealanders. We are told these spots are reserved only for a few because of their exceptional selfless dedication and contribution to our nation.

Instead, our highest honour is used by Key as a bragging device with other politicians attending the festivities on the other side of the world. The fact this Government isn't sponsoring any public celebrations here recognises that most New Zealanders don't give a toss about British royalty anyway.

The only reason we put up with it is because we know the role of the Queen in this country is a fiction. Buckingham Palace has hinted that it would rather we just grew up and stopped covering up that we are just too lazy to formalise the fact we've run our own country for more than a century.

Does anyone think the Queen is even consulted on who our government appoints as Governor-General? Imagine if the Queen actually started to exercise her constitutional rights on legislation.

Maybe she could intervene over her Government's intention to sell her dominion's public assets against the wishes of her subjects.

I'm sure that would swiftly transform our Prime Minister into a republican.

Apart from inertia, I suspect the real reason our establishment won't cut ties with the monarchy is because it can't bear to do away with knighthoods.

It must be heaven to many of our elites to finally kneel before someone in a costume with a toy sword and be told they are no longer a mere mortal. What an ego trip to have other aspirants fawning over you. It would be impossible to suppress your smirk.

No more waiting in line for anything - and you'd surely be upgraded to first class wherever you went.

Michael Cullen, a former Labour man, disgracefully joined the pigs' trough this week. What is it about Labour politicians that they need this approval? Fancy giving Roger Douglas a knighthood for transferring our public wealth to a small number of favoured individuals and making our country more unequal.

And then giving one to Michael Fay who made a fortune because of Douglas. It only rubs salt into the wounds.

And what of former Labour Speaker Jonathan Hunt being promoted by Helen Clark to become one of the 20 most honoured New Zealanders? For what? Being an expert on wine and cheese? For services to the taxi industry?

I support recognition for those who work in the voluntary sector helping others selflessly. Also those who use their skills and talents for the greater good; or even sportspeople who make us proud of ourselves.

But somehow the thought that senior politicians around the Cabinet table decide to give knighthoods to other politicians, businesspeople, senior civil servants and judges is distasteful.

I would have thought these recipients had more than enough prestige, power and money in their careers without politicians paying them off as they morph into a well-gilded retirement.

We could stop this sort of cronyism by just selecting a jury of 12 ordinary citizens from the electoral roll each year and asking them to select, from recommendations, who gets our honours.

After all, if we assume they have the judgment to send a citizen to jail, I think they can determine if someone is worthy of an honour.

Instead, on Monday we had the leader of the National Party giving our country's most prestigious honour to an old man, just so he could be a big-noter at this week's booze-ups in London.

Key has cheapened the honour for everyone who actually deserves it.

- Herald on Sunday

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