Thursday, March 17, 2016

Monarchy is an enemy of accountability

Another clanger of a decision from former Chief Ombudsman Beverly Wakem has been released - this one on the release of information about a nomination for a knighthood. Paul Collins was awarded a knighthood in 2014 by National, an award which was somewhat controversial. But DPMC refused to release information on the nomination, including records of deliberations by the Cabinet honours secretariat. And Wakem - who also has a knighthood, and therefore a clear conflict of interest on the question - backed them. The reason? She found this logic, by a past Clerk of the Executive Council, persuasive:

Because Royal Honours are awarded by the Sovereign in an exercise of prerogative power, the process should be free as possible of litigiousness, recrimination and inappropriate comparison. The procedures and conventions should be such as to minimise debate as to whether or not any particular person should have received a Royal honour, or whether or not the kind or level of an honour actually granted was appropriate.

Or, in plain language, "no-one should ever question an honour, ever, because no-one should question a decision of the monarch, ever". Its so very seventeenth century, isn't it?

Except they're not "awarded by the Sovereign in an exercise of prerogative power". They're awarded on the advice of Ministers. And the next effect of this decision is to shield the decisions of those Ministers from any form of accountability. And when Ministers regularly award honours to people who have made generous donations to their party, that simply invites corruption.

But suppose we take the Ombudsman's decision seriously. Isn't the clear implication then that if we want a clean society where Ministers are accountable for their decisions, we need to dissolve the monarchy and become a republic?