I often find myself explaining to friends why I think the Monarchy is a good thing, especially to foreigners who think it’s all a bit mad.
My answer is simple: Vladimir Putin. Imagine if Russia had converted into a constitutional monarchy, rather than overthrowing and killing its royal family. The very top spot in the country would now be occupied by some nondescript Russian monarch with no power, rather than by Vladimir Putin. He would be stuck as number two, with all the power, but always subordinate to the Czar. It wouldn’t solve all the problems, but it would slow things down a bit.
In the UK, the top of our social pyramid is occupied by an elderly woman with no power, no political ambition, and no agenda. She was put there at the age of 25, and has blocked the top spot ever since. Even when Margaret Thatcher got a bit carried away, she had to report in to the Queen on a weekly basis, and served in her name. Rumour has it that when Thatcher got too big for her boots, at her weekly audience the Queen would not ask her to sit down, so she had to remain standing. Little acts just to remind her of her place. Subtlety speaks loud when you are the Queen of England.
My point is that it’s worked quite well having an appointee obstruct the top position in the country from anyone who might actually want to occupy it. However power crazed or corrupt a politician might be, they cannot actually take over the military, or the country, without removing the monarch. And as England already learned once, removing the monarch doesn’t end well and would be very unpopular. (Clue: 1649)
So in the UK we basically do a deal with the monarch. The Queen, and like her Princes Charles and William, sacrifice any freedom or choice about their future, and instead spend their whole life occupying the top of the pyramid, blocking it from anyone with political ambition or an unhealthy lust for power. In return, we pay them a lot of money and let them live in palaces.
If you think about it, that’s quite reasonable. It’s not really a life of privilege, but one of sacrifice. They do it out of duty, not for the pretty outfits. Yes, it’s fun with the cars, planes, horses, and big houses, but it’s also a grim idea that from the day you were born your entire future was pre-ordained. You never get to dream about being a train driver, or to try things and fail, then try something else. It’s a sacrifice they make on behalf of their country in order to maintain a political balancing act that’s worked pretty well.
Right now, for example, America could do with a Queen. Imagine if Trump had to bow to an elderly woman who was always, no matter what, more important than him? Imagine if he had to report in private to her once a week. Imagine if she could decide to keep him standing through the whole meeting. Imagine if she was Commander in Chief of the military, not him. Imagine if he only ruled in her name, and at her pleasure. He only just handled a weekend with the Queen; a whole political term would be torture.
In the UK right now we are in a rare crisis in which both political parties are equally useless. Normally one is in disarray whilst the other is doing quite well. Our governing politicians are rubbish, many are serious liars and cheats, and few seem to have the country’s interests at heart, rather than their own. The Opposition front bench is no better.
So right now I’d say it’s time to activate Her Majesty. My idea is that Parliament dissolves itself and hands all power to the monarch for the rest of her life. She would appoint a government of her choosing, no doubt consisting of actually talented, clever, people who have no real interest in politics (because nobody who wants to be in politics should really be allowed into government). The government of the technocratic monarchy would set about getting the country back in shape, whilst the politicians got to spend some time on the naughty step, considering their behaviour.
This plan works because the Queen is in her nineties. Sad to say, but most likely the arrangement would only last a few years or so, at which point, on her death, power would return to Parliament, with a General Election deciding who takes over from her. A new generation of suitably chastised politicians would return, and hopefully take over a better country and make less of a mess of it all this time around.
I think the Queen would actually do a very good job of running things. She has decades more experience than most politicians, and actually cares about the country. She has nothing to prove and nothing to lose, so could just do whatever is sensible. She also commands far more respect than anyone in mainstream politics, and I have no doubt could form a government that would be the envy of the world.
This is entirely tongue in cheek, of course…
…except that on reflection it seems a whole lot better than what we have now.
God Save The Queen, etc.