Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Why do we need a Royal Family?

The Royal baby is making news all around the world, and, as we speak, millions are having to trawl through page after pages of newspapers that only seem to talk about someone that they know almost nothing about. Some people are celebrating, and really getting enthusiastic, while others are smiling politely and sending a happy tweet in the direction of the monarchy.

There are some, obviously, who look at all this, and simply ask what the whole point is. Thousands of children were born yesterday, and the only thing that makes this one different is that it might one day sit upon an almost entirely ceremonial throne. This was not the birth of a future leader, but simply a figurehead and part of an obsolete institution.

So, why are we having all this fuss, when the royal family is as relevant as the sports day results from a school that your child does not attend?

The answer is not that easy to find. In fact, most people are completely stumped by that question. Even someone like me, who loves the idea that Britain is continuing the tradition of a royal family, finds it hard to answer the questions about what they are actually still around.

In an age of democracy, where the people are meant to choose our leaders, why do we still have a monarchy, when a monarchy is a relic of an older system, where we did not get to choose? You could say that having a Queen is a bit of an offense against British democracy, since we have built up a system of democratic government, yet still insist on placing a completely un-elected person at the top, even if they are only a figurehead.

Surely, even the position of a figurehead should be one that is earned, so that we have someone who we can actually look up to. If we insist on having a Prime Minister, a system which actually works ok, then the Head of State could, perhaps, be chosen by the people as someone they can trust, to act as a form of guidance for the government. That is what they have done in Germany, and it has certainly worked out ok.

It would also cost less if we were a bit more willing to experiment with who we pick as ceremonial head of the nation, if that position is something that is needed at all.

So, the monarchy is an obsolete relic of a time before democracy, something that could easily be disposed of as part of a symbolic final democratic step for Britain, and is a  possible drain on our money. Things are not looking good for the royals, so I have to ask; why are we bothering to celebrate the birth of yet another one of them?

My gut says I should celebrate because I happen to like that Britain is a bit traditional, and I think it is brilliant we still have a queen, but I have to acknowledge that this is no reason to maintain them as an institution.

There is, however, an argument that I latched onto a long time ago, and it is one that has been the foundation for the defense of the monarchy for quite a while now. It is that they have to stay because they are the cornerstone of British democracy. This may seem like a strange thing to say, considering the monarch is not elected, but it is actually true, and is one of the quirky parts of British politics.

You see, the British system is not built out of revolution, but evolution, of constant improvement and tweaking. In the midst of this constitutional tinkering, the monarchy stands as a resolute tool of continuity, as a figure from where power can be derived and handed out. They are a convenience, and the ceremonial part of British politics requires a ceremonial figurehead to look over it. Having a figurehead from who authority can stem, but who doesn't actually have any authority to use themselves, is a bizarre but essential part of how Britain works.

If you remove the monarchy, you remove that continuity, and then the British system would have to be completely changed, powers re-balanced and huge, daunting new constitutional questions asked. Frankly, it is a bit like a waste of time, and, knowing current politicians, would probably go wrong. We need the royal family.

As to why this particular family is the one that has to be the cornerstone of British politics, we simply have to point out that they won the throne just under a thousand years ago, and we might as well keep them their as a symbol of the history that we are so proud of. They add a uniquely British pomp to politics, and that is the way I like it.

So, we do need the royal family, and have every right to be thankful for this new child. Mind you, it might be better if we gave him at least a little privacy, and stopped saturating every news story with references to him.

1 comment:

  1. Oh, I love your writing and take on things. I could not agree more with your sentiments. Being a staunch Monarchist myself, one of the things you should have mentioned is the shear volume of money that the monarchy brings to these shores. Forget what they appear to cost - what they earn out-paces that significantly - but we never get told the true facts.

    Keep up the great posts.