Wednesday 17 November 2010

Why Liberals might like a good royal wedding

The prospect of another royal wedding makes me feel old. The last big one seems like yesterday – my first few months as a reporter on the Oxford Star – but it is actually, by definition, a generation ago.

Not quite sure what I’ve been doing in the intervening years. Washing up, I think.

There are Liberals among us who believe their political beliefs lead them inexorably into being republicans. So let’s mark the occasion by explaining why Liberals really ought to be constitutional monarchists.

I suppose the reason I would describe myself like that is history. It is the antidote to the kind of utilitarianism imposed on us from New Labour, where their ignorance of history led them to make the most extraordinary mistakes (invading Iraq, for example) - plus an all-pervading dullness and technocracy which is fast becoming the main thing I remember from the Blairbrown years.

Citizenship is a key Liberal concept, and – to be citizens – we need to know who we are, as Simon Schama said in the Guardian last week. The continuity of the institution of head of state provides an absolutely vital factor in this. We don’t have to navigate our self-identity via President Blair.

But the real reason is that the monarchy is the antidote to fascism and extreme nationalism. Monarchies take those emotions and render them harmless in a little bit of ceremony, flag-waving and tradition. Without that lightning rod, the inevitable forces of nationalism - which are powerful in former empires - can become fierce and demanding, because there is no monarchical tradition you can compare them with and trump their patriotism with.

Throughout the twentieth centuries, former monarchies which became republics invariably became fascist states, with disastrous consequences for us all.

It is all very well to somehow tidy away the monarchy, because it somehow seems more equal to do so. But then it won’t be us that will suffer first from fascist violence. It is cheap at the price.

Traditionally, monarchs are supposed to be bastions against the tyranny of the executive. That was why the Peasant’s Revolt appealed to the king. We have the worst of both worlds – the monarchs powers are used by the Prime Minister to bypass Parliament. It isn’t the monarchy we should worry about as Liberals – it’s the powers of the monarchy.

1 comment:

Xcogitation said...

Really well-put thoughts about Monarchy as antidote to fascism....
fascism appeals to emotional side in masses, have strong nationalistic tendencies and are elitist.
Symbols of Monarchy, rituals, collective meaning it gives to us are really important antidote for the fascism's use of symbols, myths emotionally appealing to the irrational mind that is present in all of us.