I am a Republican.
Not that kind of Republican, I hasten to add: remember, this is a British blog, and American political distinctions do not apply.
Rather, I'm a republican insofar as I'm in favour of government based on the consent of the people, rather than the divine right of kings (or, in our case, a queen).
I am reminded of this today because on Tuesday this week, William Windsor and Kate Middleton announced they were getting hitched, which — as Bill is second in line to the throne, right behind his dad, Speaker-to-Vegetables — has triggered a locust-like media feeding frenzy as banal as it is ridiculous.
Lest you imagine that I've got a hate on for the Windsors, let me make this clear: I don't.
Insofar as the UK has an unelected ceremonial head-of-state for life, I think Elizabeth Windsor has made an excellent fist out of what must be an increasingly onerous job — she's 84, still manages nearly 500 public engagements a year after nearly seventy years in office, and hasn't once been caught out with a rent boy on Clapham Common or receiving brown paper envelopes stuffed with purple drinking vouchers. Compared to your average politician she's a paragon of incorruptibility — although this shouldn't be too surprising, because she already owns everything. (What are you going to bribe her with: a small middle eastern oil state? Paraguay? What is the acceptable back-hander to offer a woman whose great-granny owned a quarter of the entire planet?)
The royal family may be expensive to run, but they're a net asset to the national bottom line ("because tourists are money", as Johnny Rotten put it). They keep the tabloids distracted by providing useful employment for vapid, snobbish hacks, and they don't do much harm (unless you count fashion crimes).
In case you, gentle reader, are not British but, perhaps, American, I have one big beef with the royal family:
I didn't get to vote for them.
Let me unpack that for you.
There is no democratic accountability in monarchy. As a system of government, in undiluted form it most resembles a hereditary dictatorship — current poster-child: Kim Jong-Il. The form we have in the UK is not undiluted: Parliament asserted its supremacy with extreme prejudice in 1649, and again in 1688, and ever since then the British monarchy has been a constitutional, rather than an absolute one — a situation that leaves odd constitutional echoes, such as the fact that we have a Royal Navy but we a British Army (loyal to Parliament, and not under royal command).
To use a metaphor: let us postulate the existence in the ante-bellum Deep South of benevolent, morally righteous slaveowners who did not flog or rape or oppress their slaves. (I know, I know ... it's a thought experiment, okay?) Would that be enough to exculpate the institution of slavery? I'm pretty sure the answer lies somewhere been "no!" and "hell, no!" Slavery is an inherently oppressive institution because it deprives a class of victims of their most basic right to autonomy, and the failure of a [hypothetical] individual slave-owner to be corrupted does not invalidate this oppressive nature of the system.
Similarly, the existence of benevolent, incorruptible, morally righteous monarchs who do not tyrannise their
subjects citizens does not redeem the institution of monarchy.
Both slavery and monarchy are affronts to the principle that all people are equal in law. They may differ in detail of degree or circumstance — after all, is anyone seriously comparing Elizabeth Windsor to Kim Jong-Il, or Henry VIII? — but the very existence of the institution is, in and of itself, dehumanizing.
And so, when I see the news coverage of Kate and Wills' Big Day Out, while I don't wish them anything but happiness as individuals, I'd be a lot happier if they'd offer us a wedding present — in the shape of a solemn undertaking that, should Parliament and the British people finally drag themselves kicking and screaming out of the middle ages and get around to voting for an Abolition of the Monarchy Act, they will obey the will of the people.