May 22nd, 2014

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Charles Is An Egotistical Fool- At Greater Length, In Finer Detail

How would the Queen vote if she had a vote? God knows. And that's how it's meant to be. In the system we've very cunningly devised over several centuries it's understood that the crown stands above the brou-ha-ha of party politics.

Elizabeth II gets this- and has gone to great lengths to present herself to the world as a blank canvas. It's not so clear that her eldest son does. When I said yesterday that he's not allowed opinions I overstated the case. Opinions- and he has a ton of them- are permissible- but only so long as he keeps them within the private sphere. We all know he's got this thing about neo-classical architecture. Fine;  no harm there. No harm in him building model villages on his own land with his own money. But when he gets embroiled in planning disputes in Central London- off his own turf- as he has done on at least a couple of occasions- he's out of order.  Poundbury is his own business, Trafalgar Square ain't. It's even dodgier when he lobbies government ministers about his favourite causes. If he wants to spend his money on herbal remedies it's up to him, but he really shouldn't be pushing for the NHS to do the same.

As King in waiting he represents the nation- the whole nation- including modernist architects and people who think herbal medicine is rubbish and those misguided folk who don't think the Goon Show is funny. The more he individualizes himself, the more he picks quarrels with his future subjects, the less representative he becomes, the less acceptable to the nation as a whole, the less legitimate.

And just as he shouldn't be getting into quarrels with his future subjects so he shouldn't be getting into quarrels with his peers- the other people- monarchs and presidents- who are called upon to represent their nations in public. In the British system there's this useful division of labour: we have a monarch who meets and greets and is paid not to have an opinion on international affairs and a foreign secretary- currently Mr Hague- who may occasionally have to threaten Johnny Foreigner with gun-boats. This is quite a good arrangement- along the lines of Good Cop/Bad Cop; and diplomatically useful. But Charles has just dismantled it- so far as dealing with Russia is concerned- by taking Mr Hague's mantle upon himself. He was due to meet Mr Putin at the anniversary of the D Day landings in a few weeks time- and now- instead of it being a warm, teary nostalgia bath it's become a diplomatic incident waiting to happen- and the organisers are having to exert themselves to make sure the two men never breath the same air.  Will Charles ever be able to meet Putin again?  Bloody useless king he'll be if he alienates all the foreign heads of state!
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What I'd Like To See

I'm all for having a head of state who doesn't also lead the government of the day. I think it's useful- both for national cohesion and as a tool of diplomacy- to have a national figurehead who is above party politics.

But I'm against hereditary monarchy. Two reasons: 1. it engenders a flunkeyism I find disgusting and demeaning and 2. it's so random in what it throws up. The present Queen lacks charisma but otherwise does her job admirably; her son and heir is (see last post) a self-centred twit- who is still making elementary mistakes in spite of having been in training for over 60 years.

So, we need a president.  An elected president. And I'd write it into the rules that no-one who belongs to a political party need apply. That would scotch the hideous prospect (which people always raise in opposition to the idea) of a President Blair.

Who does that leave? Lots of people. Soldiers, sailors, diplomats, business people, writers, trades unionists, doctors, nurses, pop singers, actors, all sorts.  The qualifications for the job are charisma and people skills and that's about it. All we require is someone who can represent the nation in public- on the national and international stages- and not make an arse of themselves. If Elizabeth Windsor- a very ordinary person when you peel off the glitz- can make a good fist of it then so can my Aunt Dolly (not that I have an Aunt Dolly).

Oh, and I'd run the elections on TV- with regional heats- as if it were Master Chef or the X Factor- with some sort of preliminary screening out of the hopeless cases. It'd be fun and you'd get massive voter participation.

PS: G.K. Chesterton (in the Napoleon of Notting Hill) suggested choosing a king by universal lottery. That's not a bad idea either. It's wonderfully democratic.
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What The Hereditary Principle Did For Us: British Monarchs Since The Tudors

George VI: a weak, silly man with a stammer.
Edward VIII: an irresponsible playboy with fascist sympathies who had to be gotten rid of.
George V: dull, stupid, stiff and arrogant.
Edward VII: a bit of a dark horse. Unpromising material but rather effective in office.
Victoria: suffered from clinical depression for much of her reign. Iconic in old age as the Widow of Windsor (a triumph of the spin doctor's art.)
William IV: who?
George IV: playboy and wastrel- a national embarrassment.
George III: terribly dull, periodically mad.
George II: very German.
George I: completely German. And nasty with it.
Anne: supremely dull figurehead of a golden age. The least inspirational of British Queens.
William and Mary: at least they weren't James II.
James II: stupid, charmless autocrat who had to leave in a hurry.
Charles II: our first constitutional monarch, intelligent, witty and politically able.
Charles I: stupid, charmless autocrat who tore the country apart and lost his head.
James I:  the wisest fool in Christendom. Famous for slobbering and persecuting witches.
Elizabeth I:  Gloriana!
Mary: famous for burning people.
Edward VI: died young.
Henry VIII: authentically monstrous. The British Stalin.
Henry VII: a Machiavel- cold, efficient; brought the middle ages to a juddering halt.