Friday, 29 April 2011

Unelected Yet Unpolitical

A million people lined the streets to cheer them on. That's according to the police anyway. I've often wondered how they calculate figures like that. Well, not that often.

The royal wedding brought with it the typical twitter polemic. I'm not in the habit of quoting tweets and I'm not going to start now. I will quote a hashtag though. #ashamedtobebritish started trending as a response to the #proudtobebritish trend turning peoples collective stomach.

It was the ideas of deference, class privilege and unelected power that was getting the former's goat and the flag waving romance and fairy tale nature of the thing that was doing whatever the opposite of getting one's goat is for the latter.

Personally I find all the hysteria a little hard to bear and I am incredulous at people lining the streets for hours or days on end. Honestly, what do they do all day?

Although it might not be my cup of tea at least they were getting in to the spirit of things. The #ashamedtobebritish crowd missed the point.

The idea that Britain has something to be ashamed about by having an unelected head of state is way of target. There are lots of reasons why it's so wide of the mark but let's stick with the biggest reason. Royal's don't have any power. I know, weird isn't it? Some part of our consciousness will always struggle with this notion but it doesn't stop it being true.

The role of the monarch is not to wield power of any kind. Should Liz II disagree with anything Parliament wishes to do she can do nothing about it. In fact, she has less power than an ordinary citizen (that's right, not subjects. Another anachronism used by the #ashamed crowd). She can not make her voice heard on any political issue.

The monarch's role is to represent the nation. By this I do not mean represent every individual or group in the country. That should be Parliament's job. Would you feel better represented by a President Blair or Cameron? The royal family represent Britain's historical institutions and what has made Britain the country it is today and what will shape its future.

With a monarch as non-executive head of state politicians are reminded that their glory is transient. Their careers will end but the country will endure. A non-political, unelected head of state reminds the Government that it is the country that they serve not just their political supporters and short term goals. Let the politicians fight for our affections while the country rises above it all.

Once you realise this the other criticisms such as deference and privilege can be seen in a different light. Your are not bowing or curtsying merely to a posh individual. You are showing respect to the nation itself.

So congratulations to the happy couple and may they ensure the continuation of the family. Just don't expect to see me lining the Mall. I wouldn't know what to do with myself.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

An Alternative to Remember

Ever met a friend of yours a couple of days after a party and said to them: "What a great evening so and so's was. I had a lovely time." Only for them to tell you that it was a dreadful evening and recite a list of things you didn't think made any difference but clearly ruined it for them?

It's hard to imagine how you can both remember the same night so differently.

I imagine this must happen to Lib Dem President Tim Farron quite a lot. Not that I've ever been to a party with him or even had the pleasure of speaking to him but going by how he remembers his history I think it's a fair guess.

I had always reckoned that Britain's political system had played a key role in making her the first major nation to permanently abolish slavery. I say permanently because France re-introduced slavery after deciding egalite only goes so far.

Mr Farron remembers things a little differently.

He seems to think that the British electoral system hindered the process of abolition despite being the first to introduce it and then vote through colossal amounts of money to promote the cause throughout the world. I suppose his point is that if other countries had had AV they might have beaten us to it.

Perhaps when people seem to remember things differently they're just being dishonest. You know what I mean. The people who have to dislike everything to appear cool. A good way of spotting this is a general inconsistency in their opinions. Now that band has become popular they no longer like them, that sort of thing.

In the case of the Yes campaign this inconsistency is starting to show. I don't just mean Farron's strange interpretation of history but that now AV is being sold as a way of keeping the Tories out no matter what. So a system that was originally sold as representing all voters is revealed as nothing more than partisan opportunism. One that is now finding all sorts of excuses for why they're so far behind in the polls. Though you can always rely on Polly Toynbee to add to the bitterness of a campaign.

They seem to have given up on debating the issue of voter empowerment and are just hoping that turn out will be low and that enough Labour supporters will follow their party line.

As Robert Colvile points out in the Telegraph the Yes campaign has not been entirely honest in it's campaigning particularly how it tries to make out it has less funding that the No campaign. Colvile has a series of articles explaining why you should vote no. Along with an excellent Evening Standard piece by Matthew d'Ancona the argument against is outlined far better than I could ever hope to.

Byron once said that hope was the paint on the face of existence, the least touch of truth rubs it off. He could have been speaking about the Yes campaign.