I’d like to start this column by acknowledging the passing of the Queen Elizabeth II. As monarch for some 70 years she’s been a constant presence in New Zealand public life all that time.
I had the opportunity to speak in Parliament when a motion was passed recently, thanking the late Queen for her service. I was pleased to note that she had visited the Kaipara ki Mahurangi electorate (as it is now called!) very early in her reign, including to Warkworth and Puhoi.
More recently, her son and successor – Prince Charles at the time but now King Charles III – visited Whenupai in late 2019 to participate in an Airforce-led “Queens Colour” ceremony.
It’s been a time to reflect on the meaning of service, with such an exemplary standard having been set at the very top of the constitutional tree.
An illustration of the commitment of Queen Elizabeth can be seen in her connection to defence forces of the Commonwealth. As a young woman, she served as a motor mechanic during the Second World War. A few short years later, as the sovereign she assumed the ceremonial title of Head of the Armed Forces. Elizabeth’s service was both symbolic and highly practical in nature.
I also reflected in Parliament on the fact that “the Crown” is a rather high level, impersonal concept in our system of government. That’s not a bad thing, incidentally, as it means that the King or Queen isn’t involved in the day-to-day hurly burly of domestic political affairs.
At the same time, the service given by this remarkable woman was deeply personal, involving as it did practically every waking moment of her long life, committing her family, highlighting her personal faith and so on.
Delivering her traditional Christmas Message from the other side of the world, in a strange way the Queen was invited to share in the festivities (cold ham, crackers and all) of many a family in New Zealand.
I realise this message has been rather different from my usual fare as local MP but I think that – as a member of His Majesty’s loyal opposition – it’s appropriate for all elected representatives to mark this moment. Thank you for your service, Ma’am.