Monday, 29 July 2013

Royal babies and the 'democratic' case for monarchy

There has been the predictable reaction from the currently small republican minority in Britain (as usual, vastly over-represented in the voices we hear on our broadcasting channels) against the supposedly excessive coverage in the rest of the  press, radio and television given to the recent birth of Prince George Alexander Louis.
I suppose I'm a monarchist by conviction rather than by emotion (although if others want to immerse themselves in the minutiae of royal events and collect commemorative memorabilia, then good luck to them - it's a harmless enough pastime) but there is a sound 'democratic' case to be made for a monarchist constitution.
Constitutional monarchy clearly places the head of state above the inevitably murky and divisive business of party politics - it is hard to think of another way of achieving this without the party machines, established cultural elites  and celebrity candidacies  in some way muscling in - and provides a symbolic link to and a continuity with a past that is all too easily disregarded in our insular, historically amnesiac, contemporary society. 
It enables our focus of loyalty to the country itself to remain unified and separate from the world of politics which, to take the predictable examples from our recent past, a President Thatcher or Blair (or Obama?) could never hope to do. Her Majesty the Queen is now rightly held up as the very embodiment of faithful public service, and she has never been more popular, but the position she holds should be the opposite of charismatic:  personal popularity (as opposed to the assumption of popular consent) is neither here nor there in terms of its raison d'etre.
And if that means there is one office to which everyone in the country cannot aspire, then these reasons alone make it a price worth paying. What the advocates of a shallow, exclusively democratic 'modernity' cannot see is that anomalies are not necessarily flaws in a system, but can be necessary protections for our personal freedom against over-mighty and potentially oppressive  ideologies, even that of democracy itself.  
Our 'liberal' and supposedly egalitarian consensus has not prevented our society over the last couple of decades years becoming far less meritocratic than it has been in perhaps a hundred years: the contemporary rise from the ashes of the Old Etonian politician can be linked directly to the 'reform' of selective state education in the 1960s and '70s by those who ostensibly believed in social equality.

But, without trying to be snide, the very opponents of monarchy make the argument for an hereditary Head of State even more persuasive, represented as they so often are by the children of the nepotistic literary and media elites, themselves the living embodiment of the hereditary principle, only heavily disguised in hypocritical leftist clothing. I can see nothing particularly progressive in a politically powerless Windsor being replaced by even a term-limited Attenborough, Toynbee or Dimbleby ....  to pluck a few surnames out of a hat.
If there can be one institution which remains constitutionally and immovably ever beyond the reach of the hustling, 'exclusively inclusive' modern celebrity establishment, may the British monarchy last another thousand years ...

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