Sunday, June 28, 2009

Governor's Counsel

The latest newsletter from the NZ Republican Movement is out, criticising the return of the title Queen's Counsel as a retrograde step. As a Republican and a supporter of the title of QC, how do I reconcile these seemingly contradictory stances? Easy. Not enough mana.

I was fortunate enough to bear witness to the ascension of Mike Bungay to Queen's Counsel in 1986, celebrating at La Normandie restaurant in Cuba Mall with Dad, Rhonda and Bungay QC. It was all my sixteenth birthday wasn't, right down to a howling drunken rendition of Blue Moon in the taxi home with the old man (La Normandie isn't there any more. The Matterhorn exists in the same spot).

The way I understood it, Queen's Counsel was a venerable title indeed. Apropos to nothing, I took Queen's Counsel to mean that the learned member was fit enough to represent the monarch in court, if ever the need arose. The old man, an imperialist right down to his Churchillian roots, sought recognition as QC to his dying breath. Hard earned, the title proved elusive to Trev due to politics. But there was no doubt, if the Queen ever got into mischief with the courts, the old man could have got her off the hook.

So when Helen Clark's Fifth Labour Government ripped its moorings and replaced Queen's Counsel with the new title of Senior Counsel, no wonder the lawyers were upset. It was just the same with the Dames and Knights, reduced to the lame emptiness of Principal and Distinguished Companions in similarly bland fashion.

The titles lacked context and dignity and, in the case of Senior Counsel, sounded more like they were fit only to be hired by old retired wealthy people, hardly an auspicious moniker, regardless of how much truth it belayed.

If only the taxonomy gave similar stature in some form. Hence the title Governor's Counsel. The solution to the QC quagmire also illuminates the answer to the Head of State debate for NZ. We don't seek a president, we seek a Governor, a Kawana.