Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Queen and Prince Charles: Royally Undemocratic

Two posts about royalty are two too many, but the indignities piled on the British nation by their prehistoric figureheads, who turn out to not be as cuddly and inoffensive as many might have thought, are too great to resist. 

Investigations by the Guardian over the past years have revealed that the Queen and Prince Charles wield a policy veto over matters which affect their personal interests.  This includes anything from property matters to little things like who decides whether the country goes to war.  The argument for retaining a medieval monarchy in an ostensibly modern nation has always been that its members were merely uncontroversial and symbolic figureheads, above the ugliness of politics.

On the one hand, it always struck me as peculiar that a family’s best feature could be its members’ uniform front of cud-chewing intellectual blandness.  Messy affairs, divorces, and feuds are one thing...they keep the country entertained, and prevent people from having to think about serious issues.  But messing about in politics was something else altogether.  Or so we thought.

Wikileaks had already revealed that Prince Andrew had a formal political role in selling British business (including British weapons) to dictators and autocrats.  Recent Guardian investigations have shown that the political meddling of the royal family extends farther up the food chain.

Conservative members of the establishment have been flocking to the Prince’s defence over revelations that he has used his position to secure large numbers of meetings with members of the Government, including the Prime Minister, over policy matters.  One Tory MP defended the Prince on the grounds that he was “well briefed and knowledgeable”.

That’s not the problem.  The problem is that there are probably scores of people across the UK better-briefed and more-knowledgeable about a given issue.  Goodness knows, some of them  may have held down a job and worked for a living in their professional field.  However, because they didn’t win the genetic lottery which counts for so much in their class-ridden country (to be fair, class counts for too much in the U.S. as well, but at least here we have the grace to regard social differentiation as a bad thing instead of society’s mortar), they can’t demand access to the government.  The Prince, whose existence as a member of a titled family is surely only defensible in the twenty-first century provided he keeps his nose out of politics, is abusing his position to gain influence.

And he and his defenders are doing their best to ensure that this influence goes unscrutinised, resisting efforts to clarify the nature of the Prince’s lobbying and influence.  The same MP quoted above said that describing the Prince’s activities as “lobbying” was a “grotesque caricature”, citing the value to ministers of the Prince’s “real life experience”!.  I would suggest that the Prince’s unseemly dabbling in politics is a grotesque caricature of his appointed role, a role which looks increasingly absurd. 

Other Tories have defended the secrecy around the Prince’s efforts, the Attorney General arguing that transparency created the danger that “the heir to the throne would be ‘viewed by others as disagreeing with government policy...Any such perception would be seriously damaging to his role as future monarch because he forfeits his position of political neutrality as heir to the throne, he cannot easily recover it when he is king’”.

That forfeiture has already occurred.  And it’s the Prince’s fault, and that of the government which—packed as it is with inherited privilege and wealth—allowed this unseemly, undemocratic favour-seeking and lobbying to occur.  They shouldn’t be shooting the messengers, whose investigations are a timely reminder that the Queen and her brood could be more productive members of society as Mrs. Windsor and Co., than as representatives of a creaky dynasty which merely helps to shore up other ridiculously privileged elements and institutions in Britain.

No comments:

Post a Comment