Now that the Queen is buried, and the celebratory spectacle is over until the next time, perhaps we will be able to discuss the monarchy without suffering a flood of irrational abuse.
Can there be anything less democratic than a Head of State, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces and Head of the Established Church being selected at his birth 73 years ago, based solely upon the fact that he was the first son of his mother?
Can there be anything more hypocritical than people who support the above telling other countries how they should organise their political administrations and assuming the moral high ground based upon nothing more than their accidental nationality? Moreover, is there anything more counterproductive than trying to impose any form of democracy – whether by force or economic blackmail – on others, while refusing steadfastly to recognise the lacunes in one’s own native system?
People tell us that the existence of the English monarchy is not a problem because it has no power. If that were case, that would be an admission that a problem does exist in terms of the usual constitutional utility of a Head of State. Indeed, it is telling that the main political parties in the UK are totally opposed to changing the system because any change would make them more accountable.
We are also told that the monarchy is good for tourism. Well, the Palais de Versailles attracts more visitors than Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle et al, and the French got rid of the last vestiges of monarchy over a century ago. Walk past Buckingham Palace and you will see crowds of tourists, regardless of whether the King or Queen are there or not. The changing of the guard is remarkable, and the surroundings are a great place to visit and admire, regardless of the occupants of that building.
Another old chestnut is that it’s somehow good to exclude politicians from the role, because we can’t trust elected officials. Most dictators would agree. There can be no greater anti-democratic sentiment!
As far as the Armed Forces are concerned, it is worth noting that, during the so-called “Interregnum”, there was a period when the Armed Forces pledged allegiance to Parliament. Pledging allegiance to an elected Head of State, nominated for a fixed term until replaced by another elected representative of the people seems to be much more democratic.
As far as the Church is concerned, given the diversity of the UK population it seems high time to enact separation of Church and State and abandon all the trappings that go with it.
But let us return to the heart of the matter. We not only have an unelected Head of State but also an unelected House of Lords of which 92 are hereditary peers, 12 are bishops and 12 are Law Lords (happy to be corrected if my figures are wrong). The House of Lords is a bloated, costly and mysterious upper chamber which fails regularly to provide proper oversight. That does not mean it makes no contribution. My view is that it could be more efficient, less costly and more transparent if it were an elected body, and, most importantly, more legitimate.
The above changes would certainly require a written Constitution – something the UK has been quite good at proposing for other nations – to help its own citizens (or should I say subjects) easily understand what their rights are. We are told that there is a Constitution but it’s not “codified”. When confronted with this absurdity I usually ask the person to send me an uncodified version, all expenses paid. Again, a Constitution is a fundamental part of democracy – no ifs no buts – and the hypocrisy manifests itself in our insistence that other nations require that which our leaders believe we do not need!
As if that were not enough, the UK now lives with a Prime Minister – effectively Head of State and Chief Executive in one person – elected by a smaller percentage of the population than elected Xi Jing Ping whom we criticise incessantly for being less than democratic!
Finally, there are many fair minded, intelligent and experienced people who try to defend the indefensible on the basis of “tradition”. A cursory look at a dictionary shows that there is no moral or ethical basis for anything we call by that name. In other words, to try to justify perverse practices which diminish democracy based on “tradition”, as if the fact that a practice may have been in place for a long time confers upon it some legitimacy, opens a can of worms containing all sorts of abusive behaviour from the past. I leave readers to identify for themselves those traditions, extant or otherwise, which they find abhorrent. I can think of many.
There are certainly millions of people who will disagree with this very short summary and hope that some of them will do me the honour of commenting in a constructive, non-abusive and rational manner. Thank you in advance.