Opinion polls on how we will vote at the next election will often be wrong. Things change, even in a few months. If you were asked how you will vote at some indeterminate time in the future, say, two decades away, you might wonder what the pollster had been taking.
Suspecting that if a referendum were held now they would go down with a defeat even greater than the landslide in 1999, and unable or unwilling to tell us what they precisely they have in mind, republicans are banking on a referendum being held at the end of the reign and on how people will vote then.
They now admit that The Queen, whose 83rd birthday constitutional monarchists have just celebrated, is probably more respected and trusted than anyone else in public life. This fact eluded republicans in the nineties when Her Majesty was disparaged by some but not all of them. Apparently this fact was not so obvious in their inner city salons.
We predicted at that time that once the sort of matrimonial problems that affect many families today had passed, Her Majesty and the Royal Family would grow in stature and prestige. That has happened.
When republicans put all their hopes in Prince Charles’ marriage being unpopular we predicted that once Camilla had emerged from the shadows, her qualities would be seen, the support of Prince William and Prince Harry duly noted, Prince Charles’ considerable and untiring contributions to the environment and the disadvantaged observed , support would return . Having seen the enormous respect that Prince Charles is now held around the world, it can be said that this prediction has also come to pass.
So let us now make a prediction as to the future. When that sad day comes and this reign ends, the Commonwealth and the world will pass through a period of mourning during which the great virtues and the work of our Sovereign will be recorded with great respect. The curtain will have come down on an age which will be seen as remarkable, and one personified by our Queen – truly a second Elizabethan age.
The Prince of Wales will immediately ascend, and there will be no question that he will also become Head of the Commonwealth, notwithstanding idle speculation to the contrary. Within the twinkling of an eye he will be King of Australia, New Zealand, and Canada, the United Kingdom and his other Realms and territories. (In the United Kingdom he will also be “Defender of the Faith” and not “of Faiths”.)
There will be worldwide interest and fascination in the new Prince of Wales, presumably William, who by that time will be married and have children.
The monarchy will be once again at the height of its popularity. The Australian Republican Movement, run from the inner city house of a retired academic, will immediately call for a vote on some unspecified republic. Even The Age, still published under the Royal Coat of Arms, will only pay luke warm interest to that.
The idea that a goverment would hold a referendum in the period of mourning or as the Coronation approached is not realistic. This is particularly so when it is likely that even two decades hence, the republicans will still not know what they want.
…the republicans will still not know what they want two decades away…
These thoughts came to me when I read that the Republican Movement of New Zeeland has just announced the results of an opinion poll they had commissioned about voting intentions in an unscheduled referendum at some indeterminate time in the future.
This is the sort of thing republicans do when they are unwilling to tell people what exactly they are proposing. Or they engage in embarrassing stunts, such as the Australian Mate for a Head of State campaign.
At some no doubt inconvenient time, one thousand and eighteen unfortunate New Zealanders were telephoned by a pollster with the question as to whether at some indeterminate time in the distant future they would prefer “Prince Charles becoming King of New Zealand or New Zealand to becoming a republic?”
Some would have said anything to end the call, but were too polite to hang up. Many of course would have not answered or had their answering machines on.
Thirteen per cent wouldn’t say or didn’t know. Our experience is that they overwhelmingly vote No. Forty five per cent said Prince Charles. Forty three per cent said “a republic” without asking what sort of republic. When they actually see the model, a good proportion would vote No.
Australian experience also indicates that if there is not overwhelming support early in the piece, a referendum is doomed. Even with strong early support, this falls away after people have heard the arguments. But this poll did not have strong support. The level of support was increased artificially by the vagueness of the question which offered " a republic".
Having so significantly lost this poll, the wonder is that the republicans published it. The All Blacks will still be performing the Haka for their Sovereign in the reigns to come.