The strange obsession with the Magna Carta

THE STRANGE OBSESSION WITH THE MAGNA CARTA – Discussion of a future NZ born head of state.

We get a lot of feedback in this debate. As you’d expect, a lot of this feedback is negative, and as you’d expect, it can get very strident. One particularly odd theme is the number of times the Magna Carta is raised, often in fairly dark terms, that somehow our campaign for a New Zealand head of state is a campaign against the rights and freedoms spelled out by the Magna Carta.

This appears to be simply a binding together of the Magna Carta as part of British identity with the monarchy and therefore New Zealand’s national identity. Like most issues in this debate, it all seems to come back to a question of identity, and insecurity about New Zealand’s place in the world.

There appears to be a view that as an independent state, New Zealand would “reject” the Magna Carta. This is an odd position to take since the Magna Carta itself is part of New Zealand law through the Imperial Laws Application Act 1988, and nothing about our own head of state would change this. The principles of the Magna Carta (which themselves go back to the Laws of the Twelve Tables, the ancient legal basis for rights in the Roman Republic) were incorporated into the US Constitution following the United States’ War of Independence.

Not only is the Magna Carta very much a part of our constitutional law, and would remain so, it’s also a part of republican constitutions worldwide. So, like many issues raised in this debate, the status of the Magna Carta really isn’t an issue at all.

Published by peter petterson

Father of four, grandfather of thirteen, and great-grandfather of eight. Resides in Taita, Lower Hutt, Wellington, New Zealand. Living happily in retirement and enjoying the company of my many young descendants.


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