True, the Daily Mail is the object of much ridicule. It has a reputation, not entirely deserved, for comically rabid right wing politics. One day I’ll write about its politics, but today I’m banging on about something else.
The Mail has curious obsessions with house prices, quack medicine and the clothes chosen by certain young women. But the reason I read the Mail is its very generous comment policy. I can write comments on most of its stories and other readers can, and do, post their own comments and reply to mine. You can read every comment I’ve ever written on stories in the Mail if you click on my profile there.
So that’s my interest declared.
On 18 March 2017, the Mail On Line ran a story called “London Bridge Is Down” about the unsurprising, if mawkish, fact that rehearsals for the Queen’s funeral have been held. The article took its headline from a claim, which I suspect is unlikely to happen when the need arises, that various officials will refer to Her Majesty's demise by the cryptic phrase “London Bridge is down.”
It is not surprising that rehearsals of grave events of state take place regularly. The point that interests me, which so far as I know neither I nor the Mail nor anybody else has considered, is whether the end of the present reign would be a good moment to reform the British Monarchy.
I am a monarchist. Nevertheless I have the feeling that many British subjects are tired of the antics of certain members of the Royal Family and the enormous amounts of money, property and privilege lavished on people of limited talent and unlimited wealth who are related to the Queen but have not a snowball’s chance in hell of succeeding her.
So here’s why I am in favour of the Monarchy.
The monarchy is the only means I know for the leader of the United Kingdom to be politically neutral. You need an apolitical figure to perform ceremonial duties such as opening Parliament, signing Bills into law, pinning medals onto distinguished soldiers, giving out honours to those whose donations to the political party of government merit them, speaking to assemblages of nonentities in Brussels and generally opening supermarkets and town halls.
The alternative usually canvassed is an elected President. The problem is, unless the elected President can refrain from being a member of any political party, he (she) is a representative of a fraction of the electorate, and can’t possibly represent everybody. If you save your platoon from being incinerated by an enemy daisy-cutter, do you really want to receive your hard earned medal from a member of the political party that sent you into the war in the first place?
The last serious reform of the Monarchy took place in 1649 when Oliver Cromwell ran the country for a while, slaughtering many thousands of civilians and, once established as ‘Lord Protector,’ presiding over a bizarrely intolerant theocratic regime until his death in 1658. After that, much to the relief of your average yeoman, the Monarchy returned and normal service was resumed as soon as possible.
Three and two thirds centuries after the failure of the only revolution that Britain ever had, can we imagine reforms to the monarchy that might keep it going a bit longer? After all, to quote Quentin Hogg, a. k. a. Lord Hailsham, speaking in 1943, ‘If you do not give the people social reform, they will give you social revolution.’
Here are my proposals for reform. I wrote some of these in a comment on the ‘London Bridge is down’ story, which is why I spent so long introducing the story earlier. At the time of writing the comment has 5 votes in favour and 12 against, so I can tell you before you start to read it that you’ll probably think I’m wrong in every point.
Abolish the hereditary principle. Instead, allow any British subject to apply for the job of Monarch by filling in a straightforward form on line or on paper at the local Job Centre. Choose the successful applicant completely at random. The successful applicant shall reign for the rest of his (her) life or until he resigns.
Abolish the Civil List. The incumbent shall receive a salary equivalent to that of an industrial manager and shall have at his disposal a properly audited expense account. Establish conditions of work such that constant drunken skiving will be tolerated, but not paid.
All remaining members of the Royal Family, their husbands, wives, children, girlfriends, boyfriends, friends, relations and hangers-on shall either get a job or be expected to apply for social security, job seekers’ allowance and a Council house.
Palaces to be donated to the National Trust, converted into residential accommodation and used to house purported refugees and recently arrived immigrants. Two exceptions will be granted: one palace in England and one in Scotland shall be rented to the incumbent and will qualify as permitted expenses.
All gifts, favours and trinkets given to the incumbent shall be donated to an appropriate museum or sold at auction and the proceeds given to the poor.
A Royal Train shall be built, maintained and operated by any appropriate train operating company except Branson’s Breakdowns.
A number of Corgis shall be provided by the kennels of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Animals and the incumbent shall provide for their welfare.
The House of Lords shall be replaced by an elected chamber whose members shall not speak for a political party nor for the inhabitants of a particular geographical constituency, but who will state their own opinion, like the people on Question Time who aren’t there to read scripts prepared in advance by their respective Central Offices.
A person shall also become a member of the House of Lords on payment of about £500,000 at 2017 prices to the political party of government, thereby preserving the most remarkable feature of the present system of choosing who governs Britain.
Last and most definitely least, Members of both Houses of Parliament shall wear uniform, just to remind them of the reason we put them there.
That would set us up as a twenty-first century democracy.
25 March 2017. Off topic: Blocked! Today I've been blocked from adding the following comment to a story about Deutsche Bank’s prediction of a further fall in the value of the Pound Sterling, Deutsche Bank predicts the pound will drop by a fifth by the end of the year due to Brexit
Judge for yourself. Here’s the comment.
Germany calling, Germany calling. Achtung! Achtung! All Britisch citizens! Ve know vhy your vainglorious national currency has declined in value to less than two million Reichsmarks to the Pound. Herr Hilter's personal economist calculates that before ze end of zis year, vun egg vill change hands for fifteen schillinks and a loaf of bread for three pounds eighteen and sixpence. The Bank of England is outclassed and outmanoeuvred by the glorious Deutsche Reichsbank viz its vast reserves of looted gold, its well resourced hedge fund managers and its highly trained cashiers, all of whom are dedicated to bringink the financial superiority of the Britisch Empire to an end by nine o'clock on Tuesday. Your rations vill be no more than scraps of meat and crusts of bread, you vill all starve, you will be freezink cold and live in Underground stations etc. etc.