Yesterday, the Queen attended a meeting of the Cabinet. “Her cabinet”, as fawning royal reporters described it repeatedly. “It’s her cabinet, so she can attend when she wants” said Eric Pickles, a frequently outspoken cabinet minister. What he lacks in hair he certainly makes up for in quotability.
There was a lively discussion on yesterday’s Today Programme about how the Queen, in her diamond jubilee year, is considerably more popular than a Government (“her Government”, fawn fawn, grovel, grovel) that, for once, a majority of the population actually voted for.
Why is this? Because she doesn’t actually participate in any of the political action was the suggestion. Not something one could say of the last monarch to attend a cabinet meeting, George III. He attended in 1781 (although there is some debate around whether Victoria did likewise) during the American Revolution. An interesting comparison, since George was known for his meddling in the running of the country. Sorry, “his country”. And provoking the colonials into revolution was one of his less celebrated achievements. All part of his attempt to turn the clock back to a past era of despotism unbounded.
George III was not one of England’s more popular monarchs. He ended his days talking to trees in Windsor Great Park, supposedly. Perhaps they were better conversationalists than some of his cabinet.
So an 18th century figurehead who likes to interfere with the government of the country and is resented for it. A 21st century figurehead who is welcomed to attend cabinet as part of the celebration of her ability to retain a pulse since 1952 – invited precisely because she does not interfere. Am I the only one to see the irony here.
It won’t have escaped those that know me that I am not a supporter of the Royals, nor have I been for my entire adult life. I am that rare thing, a true English republican. Not a communist nor a socialist nor a nationalist. Just someone who believes that life in the 21st century doesn’t sit well with the imposition of a birthright hegemony. And yes, the recent decision to give the unborn child of William and Kate an equal right to accede to the throne, boy or girl, or even (shock horror) should she marry a Catholic (what would happen if she chose to be a Catholic, I wonder?) makes no difference whatsoever. (It’s something you might like to bear in mind when you read the post I’ll write at some point in 2013 in support of Scottish independence.)
If the Queen doesn’t take an active role in the constitution, what exactly is she for? And at this point in our lives, do we really need someone to sit at the top of the Government just because she was born to do the job? It just makes me think, how can we sit here in our advanced western liberal democracy and deride African dictatorships, middle eastern juntas and the like whilst turning out in our thousands to wave our flags in celebration of a woman whose entitlement to her job is that she is the great great granddaughter of someone who was a cousin to someone who had been dispatched some time before. Or something. Surely it’s time that this job was also appointed on merits basis, subject to our equality legislation, just like every other job in the country? Pretty much every other job in the country, at least.
But in case, dear readers, you’re concerned that *particular is a nest of vipers waiting to strike down your comfortable bourgeois life, calm your gentle British hearts. Everything here is in balance. Much as I would favour the idea of a Boris presidency over the status quo, @particular_deb (my business partner) is as fervently royalist as am I republican. Indeed, not only does she lead the street party committee and keep the bunting suppliers of northern England in business, would her ultimate ambitions be realised we would all one day be subjects of Queen Deborah.
Now there’s a thought.