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1 March 2010

Gareth Hughes tries to have his cake and eat it.

Published in Society & Culture by Gareth Hughes on Tue, February 16th, 2010

Today I was sworn in as an MP and recited an oath pledging allegiance to the Queen and her heirs. I think it may be the first oath Iíve ever sworn because they arenít that common any more now that weíre past the feudal period.

It seems so weird to be pledging loyalty to an old lady (albeit a nice, grandmotherly one) and her quirky kids, who live on the other side of the world.  Iíve never met her, never seen her, definitely didnít vote for her, yet because of a quirk of history she is our head of state and I have to pledge allegiance to her if I want to take my seat in the House of Representatives.

I appreciate some people think highly of the monarchy and New Zealandís tradition and various roles as colony, dominion, and commonwealth member but feel it really is time to move on and be an independent country in both constitution and practice. Kevin Hague, last year attempted to swear allegiance to the Treaty of Waitangi when he was sworn in, and I while I didnít try like him, I believe our MPs in the future should acknowledge the Treaty and tangata whenua as well when they pledge allegiance to the people of New Zealand.

If I was going to swear my allegiance to the Queen, Iíd personally rather it was the band fronted by the mercurial Freddie. Later this year Keith Lockeís Head of State Referenda Private Members Bill will be coming back before the House. Keithís Bill would give Kiwis the chance to vote whether we should investigate changing our constitution so that future MPs wouldnít have to swear allegiance to an out dated concept that doesnít have relevance to modern day Aotearoa New Zealand.


Gareth Hughes is a Green Party list Member of Parliament who has pledged allegiance to a royal family which he himself describes as comprising "an old lady and her quirky kids who live on the other side of the world".   On his own admission he has done so in order "take my seat in the House of Representatives".    Gareth does not actually come out and say it, but he leaves his readers with the clear understanding that he has uttered a false oath as a matter of political expediency.

In 1860 the crown demanded that our people take the oath of allegiance to the Queen.   Those who refused (the great majority) were driven off their land by British soldiers and forced to find refuge in the forests of the Waikato, where many subsequently died from British musket fire, or at the point of the British bayonets.   But their memory endures, and their courage and sacrifice will remain as an example to us for generations to come.   This was not a "quirk of history" as Gareth Hughes tries to suggest.   Our resistance to the oath of allegiance goes to the heart of our identity as a people, and has been an enduring feature of our long struggle against imperial rule.

In contrast, Gareth Hughes will go down in history as just another unscrupulous politician with a sense of entitlement.   His flippant attempt to distance himself from the monarchy, while pledging his allegiance to it, will not wash.   Gareth would like to have his cake and eat it, but he cannot.   He has shown himself to be disloyal both to the crown and to his own political principles.

One thing that may be said in favour of the oath of allegiance to Queen Elizabeth is that it is meaningful.   Members of parliament must accept her authority as head of state and they must follow her orders as Commander in Chief, or else be in breach of their oath.   Thus it is not too difficult to determine when a subject of the Queen has been true to the oath, and when they have betrayed it.   But Gareth Hughes now proposes that it be replaced with an oath of allegiance to "the people of New Zealand" which would be essentially meaningless.   It would amount to a solemn repetition of all the pious claims and vain boasts that politicians are prone to make upon the hustings, and nothing more than that.

The propoosed oath of allegiance to "the people of New Zealand" would be an instrument of public flattery and political posturing such as "the people of New Zealand" can do without.  And in the particular case of Gareth Hughes, one has to ask why anyone would take his profession of allegiance to "the people of New Zealand" seriously, when knowing that his pledge of "solemn allegiance" to Queen Elizabeth was by his own account taken with fingers crossed and tongue-in-cheek.