Thursday, June 23, 2005

The Dark Forces of Reaction

I notice that that old bastion of reaction, Richard, is off with his pompous unthinking claptrap about saving the Queen and all that. It's touching to think that this country still has a place for such quaint fools who pay unthinking deference to an unelected head of state who is given enormous privilege and wealth purely by the good fortune of a birth. But if he thinks my quibble is about 61p a year, then he's sadly mistaken. It's more a question of what I want Britain to be, and what I want our political system to represent.

A political system where a person rises to Head of State purely by the death of the closest living relative is wrong. There is no intrinsic merit in any single member of the Royal Family. Yes, some of them may do a good job - but there is no guarantee. Certainly there is no application process, or electoral system that the Head of State has to go through. Would we say that a persistent purse from the taxpayer should go to any random family in perpetuity for services to the public? Of course not. Civil servants have to apply for their job and earn their position. The Head of State should have to do likewise. Should I be paying a gardener whatever he sees fit to charge me, just because his family have been cutting my patch of grass for years?

The Britain I want to live in is a democratic and meritocratic society. The symbolism of a monarchy is all wrong. It's the difference between a culture of deference and a culture of respect - the latter is earned; the former is demanded. The trappings and styles of a monarchy demand deference, rather than earning respect. That's wrong, and it isn't something that should be enshrined in the workings of our constitution. As I say, let the Queen and family stand for election on a Windsor family ticket, if they are so confident they provide the best possible service for the least possible price. But let there be some debate and choice in the matter. The role of Head of State is one of public service - and it is a role that should go to the person most equipped to fill it, even if any choosing mechanism is imperfect. There is one thing for sure, however. No matter what the forces of reaction might think, there is no divine right to be Head of State. There is no innate hereditary skill that qualifies one for the role. When we think who we will pay for the job of being Head of State, giving it to one family in perpetuity is the most ridiculous system imaginable.