Middle East Comment from a Traveling Journo

Why Monarchy is Democratic

Tanya Brown’s article on our ‘puddle of feudal nostalgia’ was a very funny read. The Archbishop’s Easter message on social obligations was among the subjects of her amusing rant, mocking his suggestion that government figures should take some time out and see how ‘real people live’ by doing a bit of volunteer work. I loved for instance her image of Ken Clarke ‘burning turkey twizzlers at some luckless primary school,’ as she put it.

But her misguided ramblings about the ‘ghastly’ royal wedding, and her out-dated moaning about the government being a ‘pile of old Etonians,’ took the shine off somewhat. Yet again, a royal event has brought the class warriors out in full, banging their drums louder and harder than anyone else, seeking to drown out the very reasoned debate they claim they want.

We all know the royal family is slightly strange – a borderline racist grandfather, a tight-lipped frosty granny, a bonkers and estranged daughter in law, a party loving younger brother and an uncle who just won’t admit he’s gay – Why ridicule the ridiculous?

Indeed many of the elements above (if not all?) remind us of our own families in some way. But their importance goes deeper than this. Tanya Brown sees – quite wrongly – our monarchy as feudalistic. Although journalistically  it serves a purpose to blend the two, she has conflated the two rather drastically.

Feudal monarchies of old used systems of patronage and privilege to consolidate power. Those in the Middle East still function as such. But those systems are long gone in Europe, and in fact I would say we are now surrounded by feudal republics and democratic monarchies. Just look around – over the past decade, Democracy Index has consistently placed western European democracies as 7 of the top 10 most democratic nations on earth – three of those with our queen as head of state. And then look to the bottom of the list – all republics. You may say these countries outside Europe have suffered for different reasons, and you may be right. Then look closer to home – at Russia, Italy, France, Greece – corruption levels are far higher in these countries than here in the UK. Talk about a system of feudalistic patronage!

And why is this? Because a family at the top breeds an atmosphere of personal and not just official accountability. Only the most ruthless and calculating individuals will achieve power in a democracy – a monarch however must work constantly to legitimize the position he has inherited. Politicians are self-serving and short-termist, looking for policies that will best serve their interests for the next election. The monarchy seeks to consolidate its position for the long-term, and as such must find ways to make its positive presence in society felt. Monarchy remains steadfast whilst politicians are transient, and the former creates an atmosphere of duty and accountability in public office from which the latter can learn.

I’ll be watching the wedding tomorrow. Not in either a puddle of feudal nostalgia or, like Tanya perhaps, in jealous contempt of privilege. But surrounded by family and friends, thinking about the parties going on around the world, and listening out as royal trumpets drown out the class warrior’s drum, as they salute the arrival of a new princess, and a new stage in British history.


Filed under: British Politics

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Middle East Comment from a Travelling Journo

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