head of state

Why I’m a (Reluctant) Monarchist

God has been saving the Queen for over 60 years now- and she’s done a pretty good job.

Well, sort of. A reluctant monarchist, maybe.

Despite appearances, republicanism really does seem to be the dominant flavour on this issue with the British left. But, of course, being British it tends to manifest mostly through the quiet tutting, as well as not hanging bunting out come the Jubilee and royal wedding malarkeys. And, if Republic are anything to go by, really boring press releases.

But sadly, I cannot find myself supporting calls for an elected head of state. I find the idea of a President of Britain slightly unsavoury, and not simply for sentimental reasons. Having viewed the cavalcade of egotists, narcissists and idiots that other countries have managed to elect as heads of state (not to mention the motley crew who staff our own political ranks) it’s hard to see the advantage a president would have over, say, a Queen.

I know all the arguments. Why should someone hold overwhelming (even if it is largely theoretical) power simply by dint of birth? As much of a problem as this is (and, honestly, is the reason for the titular reluctance), I struggle to get nearly as incensed about it as I do over cabinet ministers with actual power and less regard for the common good.

The complaints about the costs of the monarchy (around 51p per person per year) seem equally fanciful from where I’m sat. It’s not so much that it’s peanuts, or that the money couldn’t be used elsewhere, but the idea that a president would be cheaper. Now, others may disagree, but I would have said the presidents of the US or France, for example, were exactly retrained and austere in their public lives. And how much would it cost rebrand the entire country- or would re remain the United Kingdom?

I’m not anti-democracy, but I do think that it has its time and place. Democracy hasn’t always stopped tyrants in the past, and in modern times it is more the media and personal freedom of individuals which has felled them (often, I’d point out, masquerading as presidents rather than monarchs). I hold similar opinions, too, about the prospect of an elected House of Lords,  which puts me somewhat out of step with a great chunk of my political fellows. I won’t go into detail on that here, but it basically boils down to the fact that although democracy is incredibly important, it need not and should not be extended to every part of life and governance.

So this weekend I have enjoyed the jubilee. Specifically, I’ve helped the 1st Twyford Scouts BBQ at Jubilee events, and gotten variously soaked and scorched in the process. I haven’t painted myself red, white and blue, I haven’t gotten “God save the Queen” tattooed across my forehead, and I will never agree that Cliff Richards is anything other than a pestilence- or that Fearne Cotton’s involvement with the BBC’s Jubilee coverage was a good idea.

But the Queen has done a good job for the last 60 years, and if only he can keep his opinions about architecture to himself it looks like Charles might not utter mess it up either. Yes, the Duke of Edinburgh’s comments are often inappropriate. Yes, the Royals’ personal are often just as much of a car crash as everyone else’s. And yes, one thousand times yes, everyone needed to get some bloody perspective last year about the Royal Wedding.

But on the whole, I think we’re doing pretty well. And so is the Queen- long may she reign.