Am I the only one who is already bored with the Diamond Jubilee?
We seem destined for a whole year of events to mark the fact that we have been ruled by the same person for sixty years. But is this really something to be proud of? And can anyone tell me what the monarch actually does that’s so important anyway?
Now I have nothing personal against Elizabeth of the House of Saxe Coburg and Gotha, or Windsor as they now call themselves. And I do think it is wrong that anyone in their eighties should still be working rather than enjoying their retirement. But the basic question is one of why we actually need a queen, or indeed king, at all.
Or to put it another way, if the monarchy had simply stopped back in 1952 would we actually notice any great difference over the past sixty years?
We live in a constitutional monarchy, we are told. Many of the powers of the crown would never actually be used. For example, if the Queen didn’t like a bill passed by Parliament she could technically refuse to give it the Royal Assent and it wouldn’t become law. It’s not likely to happen though. And many other powers, like the creation of peers or the awarding of honours, are really just rubber stamping what the Prime Minister of the day decides anyway. So why do we need a monarch?
The vast majority of the role of the head of state is ceremonial. The key skills required for the job are the ability to wave, to listen to endless speeches without looking bored and to make small talk with a lot of dull people. But the pay is good and there is a lot of foreign travel involved, not to mention a hefty salary plus expenses.
And then there are the fringe benefits. Lots of land, a few palaces and several castles come with the job. All of your family are also automatically employed in similar, but less important, roles that come with their own hefty salaries, etc. And you even get to be the head of your own religion.
All of this costs us, the taxpayers, somewhere around £200M each and every year.
The celebration of the Diamond Jubilee represents sixty years since the death of the current queen’s father. The monarchy is of course a hereditary office. There is never any consideration of who might be the best person for the job or, perish the thought, an election. No, when one monarch goes there will always be another from the same family ready and waiting to take over.
Many supporters of the monarchy hold the views they do out of respect for the current queen, who we are told does a good job. Leaving aside exactly how the performance of a monarch is best judged, shouldn’t we be looking at the principle of the post rather than the current incumbent?
Opinion polls indicate that support for the monarchy will fall dramatically when the next King Charles takes to the throne, and there are those who would like to skip a generation to King William. But that misses the point of a hereditary system. You don’t get a choice, that’s exactly how the whole thing is designed. You get the next in line whatever their perceived strengths and weaknesses might be.
And the media continues to “report” on the royals’ every move in a deferential and fawning style that is far from journalism. ITV News thought the fact that the name of the queen’s grandson’s new dog had been revealed worthy of inclusion in all of its main bulletins earlier this week. And even the supposedly impartial BBC is under fire because of the one sided nature of its documentary ‘Diamond Queen’, which was so biased that it could have been a palace produced propaganda piece.
But isn’t it time that we consigned this whole expensive fancy dress pageant to the past where it belongs? The crowns and the parades, the pomp and the ceremony. Many other countries seem to manage pretty well without a royal family. In fact the vast majority of the world’s independent nations have no royal family.
I’ve written before about the need for a modern written Constitution that would clearly set out how our state should operate. The abolition of an unelected and undemocratic head of state should be a part of that process.
So why doesn’t the country give the queen a real Jubilee present? Bring her current role to an end and let her live out the rest of her life in Buckingham Palace in a long and happy retirement as a former monarch.
Surely that would be a suitable present for a Diamond Jubilee?