Friday, April 29, 2011

Some unsolicited advice for the Royal Family

I enjoyed watching the spectacle of the Royal Wedding today and wish the couple well. What I found increasingly hard to stomach as the day wore on were the fawning and flanneling broadcasters and some of the people they found to interview among the crowds.

It seems I am in favour of monarchy: it's the monarchists I can't stand.

After today's events the prospects for a Republic in Britain do not seem immediately encouraging, but that is no reason for royalists to ignore problems that arise in the future. So let me offer the Royal Family a little unsolicited advice.

The first piece of advice is to urge them to recognise that apparently partisan moves like failing to invite Tony Blair and Gordon Brown are bound to be profoundly damaging in the long run. If the monarchy is to succeed in its aim to represent the whole nation, then it must embrace all parts of our national life. In particular, it must make efforts to connect with those, like Labour members, who may well not wish it well.

By acting as it did, Buckingham Palace has made itself look petty and left Labour itching to have its revenge when it gets back into power.

Who was behind this blunder? I don't know, but I am a great lover of the phrase "badly advised". It's a formulation I have often used in Liberal Democrat News if I want to oppose something the leadership has said or done. And in the 17th century Parliament never attacked Charles I: they merely blamed his advisers - right until the point when they cut his head off.

So let me just say that the Royal Family was badly advised when it decided to exclude Blair and Brown from the list of guests for today's wedding.

You could say that it was particularly ungracious of them not to invite Tony Blair after he rescued them when they made such an appalling mess of reacting to the death of the Princess of Wales. Except that I suspect that was precisely why he was excluded. Buckingham Palace have not forgiven him for being right when they were wrong.

My second piece of advice is to urge them to change the law of succession so that males and females are treated equally and to do it quickly.

The current position is logically indefensible (though, come to that, so is the institution of monarchy as a whole). And the demand for equal treatment for women is not going to go away.

So the change should be made now when all the immediate heirs are male. That way it will not become a debate about individuals.

Just imagine if William and Catherine have a daughter and then a son. The debate about changing the law of succession would then become intensely personalised. It would not deal with questions of gender equality or constitutional precedent, but with the personal qualities of two children. A public tantrum would lead to solemn articles about whether the thrower was fit to be king or should be passed over in favour of his sister.

We are told that making such a change would be difficult as it would require assent from every Commonwealth country. But that is an argument for urgency, not one for doing nothing.

Lastly, this seems a good place to point out that my great great grandmother's brother refused to shave his beard off for Queen Victoria.

1 comment:

dreamingspire said...

I think it more likely that we will have our own rather slower version of the Arab Spring than that we have Labour crushing the Royals. Our younger generation is going global, just as those in the Arab states have. But the sense of alienation that I find among the thinking younger ones seems to echo the late 1960s.