The resurgence in popularity of the royal family coincides with the rise in celebrity culture, and several myths continue unchallenged
It’s been a long couple of weeks for British republicans as the brouhaha continues unabated. The sycophantic, self-serving idol-worship created by #RoyalBaby would put even the 3am girls to shame, and is more reminiscent of the kind of inculcated demagogue adoration that is expected of North Koreans. I prefer Private Eye’s front page: “Woman has baby”. What is even stranger is that 200 years after rebelling against the institutionalised class system of unearned hereditary privilege, even broadcasters in the USA got caught up in the relentlessly mundane “she’s arrived at hospital” and “the hospital is air conditioned” that only 24-hour news can provide. Somebody pass me a royal sick bag quick.
Fortunately, the insidiously monotonous minutia of #RoyalBaby was enough for BBC to issue a complaint report about their coverage (although it seemed to read more like a “we’re sorry you’re offended stupid republicans” than an actual apology). The only solace offered by the nauseating wall-to-wall TV coverage was the appearance of some great tweets, my favourite being “Prince William’s heir is falling out”, or the one which appeared in various different guises describing Kate Middleton joining the labour party.
The tabloid press, however, failed to see the irony in an unemployed couple in their 30s – the mother never having worked a full-time job in her life – having the audacity to pop out a sprog at great taxpayer expense to fund their lavish lifestyle. All this press notwithstanding, it seems to me that there is a criminal lack of debate about the merits of monarchical rule in this country. Those who actively want to replace this system of unearned privilege are labelled as outcasts – weird out-of-touch academic hacks could spend hours debating whether a reformed political system and written constitution would require wholesale democratic change, and if so, whether that would include AV, STV or FPTP voting systems. The fact that the mass media only seems to register an interest in anti-monarchists through its flag-bearing organisation, Republic, during large-scale royal events means that all anti-monarchists appear opportunistic and sullen. Conversely, the royal PR machine is a formidable behemoth, adept at coming to Prince Philip’s rescue to interpret what he really meant when making any number of his infamous racist/misogynistic gaffes. It would make even “King of Spin” Nick Naylor proud. Try googling “off the cuff racism” and see who comes top.
The recent resurgence in popularity of the royal family has been cleverly orchestrated to coincide with the rise in celebrity culture. Out with the old-fashioned fuddy-duddies and in with the younger, more aesthetically pleasing ones. At a time when faith in politicians, clergy and bankers is at an all-time low, the royal family seem to offer a route of escapism. Cue royal wedding, self-adulation, extravagant jubilee ceremonies at taxpayer expense, then add in a meticulously planned birth involving old-world easels with new-world emails and you have one great recipe for PR success. Brand Windsor has never had it so good.
But let us examine brand Windsor’s myths which are frequently peddled by Clarence House and its avid consumers in its defence:
Myth 1 – The monarchy has no power
The royal family is not only a successful brand, but a successful political institution which has vetoed or consented to 39 different bills in parliament. Merely a ceremonial role? Then there is the fact that the high court rejected the publication of Charles’ “particularly frank” letters to ministers which they feared would “forfeit his position of political neutrality”. The Freedom of Information Act does not apply to our betters it seems.
And what about influence? The Queen meets privately with the prime minister every week. Are we to assume to this well-educated woman never offers her opinion? Not only does the monarch have the right to dissolve parliament, but also judges, police and the armed forces have to pledge their allegiance, not to parliament or anyone democratically elected, but to the crown.
Myth 2 – The monarchy unites the country
Millions of British subjects disagree. In recent years support for a republic has fluctuated between 20-40 per cent although it now sits at an all-time low after brand Windsor scored its royal wedding/birth/jubilee hat trick. Millions of British subjects believe in egalitarianism and want an end to this undemocratic dynastic system. Not easy against one of the world’s most successful and well-funded PR machines, especially when the government shields them from genuine scrutiny and oversight. Witnessing the Queen “earning” a 5 per cent pay rise at the same time as £11.5 billion worth of government cuts is disuniting in the extreme.
Myth 3 – The monarchy is good for tourism
This is the most ludicrous of all arguments when debating the inherent unfairness in a constitutional system. There is no data to support the hypothesis that the royal family consistently brings huge amounts of money to the country. Tourism directly accounts for 2.4 per cent GDP in UK, compared to 2.8 per cent in monarchless USA and 3.8 per cent in similarly royal-free France. Royal residences account for less than 1 per cent of total UK tourist revenue. Out of the 20 most visited tourist attractions in UK only one is a royal residence, Windsor Castle in 17thplace, embarrassingly ten places behind Legoland, Windsor.
France receives significantly more visitors to royal residences than the UK does. Far from stopping people visiting, take brand Windsor out of Buckingham Palace and visitors could enjoy the opulent grandeur of all the rooms and courtyards all year round. Are any tourists actually sitting down and having tea with the Queen? Now if she were to make pancakes at home for tourists, like the Icelandic president, then we might be on to something.
But let’s get right to the crux of it here: the monarchy is nothing more than a deeply discriminatory caste system of unearned hereditary privilege. If we accept the monarchy, we are rejecting meritocracy in favour of nepotism. Shouldn’t all children be able to dream about being head of state? Shouldn’t all children be born equal? I wish baby George and family well but I object to the institutionally-racist class system they are a part of. How can we still accept being subjects and not citizens in the 21st century? Why should one child alone be destined to rule due to the lottery of hereditary privilege as opposed to his own merits and capabilities? Isn’t an acceptance of monarchy a tacit approval of an unjust class-based society and a rejection of egalitarian principles altogether? Surely, every child should be born equal.
Image from: http://blogs.etcanada.com/sun-newspaper-criticized-over-royal-baby-prank/
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