Thursday, 28 April 2011

My thanks to the royal couple for annoying the hell out of liberals

I was just thinking that what world really needs right now is another blog about the Royal Wedding – there just hasn’t been enough written about it this week. So here goes.

An American liberal once accused me of being “nothing but a monarchist” in much the same tone as you’d use when denouncing a paedophile. This took me aback, because I’d never thought much about it until then. But, after a few moments of reflection, I concluded that he was right. I’ve never been much of a leveller – we are naturally hierarchical beings. But I am absolutely, totally and completely against placing too much power in the hands of one person, especially if that person happens to be  a politician. 

After all, modern royals didn’t ask for power - modern politicians want nothing else. 

As the monarchies of Norway and Britain aren’t absolute, they can’t do that much harm, and they automatically perform a useful service by reminding the likes of Blair and Cameron that they’re nothing more than “here today, gone tomorrow politicians” (to quote Sir Robin Day). And, because we automatically accord our Royal Family a certain measure of respect, it means we don’t have to accord a creep like Gordon Brown any at all. Imagine having to fawn over our Prime Ministers the way Americans do over their Presidents - not to mention their wives. (Just imagine having to treat someone as rebarbative as Cherie Blair with anything but utter contempt.)

Let’s face it, the royals are like members of our own (albeit extremely) extended family: it’s like having incredibly rich, unfeasibly posh (albeit distant) relatives. Hiram J. Brunchburger III can only point to Hiram J. Brunchburgers 1 & 2 (plus some hillbilly inbreds, the cousin who’s doing well in Idaho real estate, and the black sheep uncle doing time in San Quentin). We get to point to the Windsors  - and I also get to brag about King Harald V of Norway and his side of the family. And if we all have to pitch in a few bob now and then in order to feel a bit special, so what? It would only be squandered on politicians’ pet mascot groups otherwise.

Like all extended families, there’s a few wrong ‘uns in there – the rackety alcoholic, the serial adultress, the weakling who can’t hack military training, the old chap who speaks about foreigners in a way you just can’t get away with any more, and the slightly whacky obsessive who keeps leaping from one slightly eccentric enthusiasm to another and writing letters in green ink to all and sundry about them. 

But remember that the alcoholic provided a great deal of louche entertainment, the adultress practically kept the print media in business for more than a decade, the old chap cracks us up practically every time he opens his mouth, and the obsessive has stopped modern architects from unleashing yet more arrogant  monstrosities on modern London: I still haven’t figured out exactly what the weakling’s purpose is – perhaps he allows us to feel that, no matter what our failings, there’s always someone even more useless than us.

Tomorrow sees the marriage of two effortlessly charming, good-looking, worthwhile, sensible, very well-spoken young people. And because the monarchy has nothing whatsoever to do with rationality (it appeals to the archetypes which form the structure of our subconscious), we can all feel vaguely proud of them. Unless, of course, you’re a liberal, because what tomorrow represents is history, tradition, continuity, privilege, hierarchy, religion and family – in fact, just about everything that makes a natural Tory purr with contentment (I bet 90% of the cheerful Britons already gathering in central London to see their distant relatives get hitched vote Conservative – the rest of the happy throng will be UKIP supporters).

Even if the wedding means little to you, just think how thoroughly miserable it’ll be making Polly Toynbee and her ilk feel – and raise a glass to the happy couple. Gawd bless ‘em! 

(And if any “protesters” infiltrate the gathering, feed them to the mob -  or shoot them on sight.)


  1. Well that was deeply wonderful, I must say. In case anyone hasn't caught the brilloiant T-Mobile version of the Royal Wedding, watch it here:
    Friday, April 29, 2011 - 04:37 PM

  2. I know some of my regular readers can'y stand Toby Young, but I'm a fan, especially when he says exactly what I was trying to say, only better. This from today's Telegraph blogs -

    "It’s taboo to try and score political points on public occasions such as these. Or, rather, the way in which Cameron and Miliband will attempt to score points is by out-classing one another – they’ll each try to appear more statesmanlike and above the fray than the other. But here’s a line the Prime Minister might want to whisper to the Leader of the Opposition as they’re queueing up to pay their respects to the bride and groom : “This is middle England’s answer to the anti-cuts march.”
    As a conservative, it’s hard not to take some comfort from today’s spectacle. I’m not just talking about the boost Cameron will get in the polls, a natural consequence of the “feel good” factor. In 1953, Winston Churchill seriously considered calling a snap election in the wake of the Coronation, so popular was the government. I’m thinking of the broader significance of the event, its meaning. The street parties, the affection for the Royals, the celebratory mood, the love of pageantry and tradition – it all seems to speak of the deeply conservative nature of the British people.
    Above everything, it underlines the value we attach to the institution of the family – not just the Royal family, but the family as a unit of social cohesion. In the 19th Century, the institution of monarchy redefined itself as a family rather than a single individual and this helped account for its soaring popularity under Queen Victoria. “A family on the throne is an interesting idea, also,” wrote Walter Bagehot in The English Constitution (1867). “It brings down the pride of sovereignty to the level of petty life.”
    The most striking thing about the crowds on occasions like this is the extraordinary bonhomie, the good will – the kind of mood you’d expect to encounter at a family gathering. It’s as if people are celebrating the wedding of one of their own, rather than some distant, aloof figure. My late father, Michael Young, co-authored an essay about the Coronation for Sociology Review with Edward Shils and they were both struck by the intimacy and affection that seemed to begin with the Royal family and then spread from them to encompass the whole nation. “On this occasion one family was knit together with another in one great national family through identification with the monarchy,” they wrote. “A general warmth and congeniality permeated relations even with strangers.”
    As I say, it’s taboo to make political capital out of these state occasions (even if it isn’t, officially, a state occasion). Yet watching the crowds on the Mall, seeing the bunting on my street, it’s hard not to conclude that this is the real Britain. Last week, Vince Cable referred to the “progressive majority” in Britain and urged people to vote Yes to AV to prevent the conservative minority dominating this century as they had the last.
    Progressive majority? Not today, Vince. Today we’re witnessing the silent majority giving voice to their true feelings. Last month’s March for the Alternative saw the supporters of the Big State take to the streets of London. Today, it’s the turn of those of us who prefer the Big Society."
    Friday, April 29, 2011 - 05:45 PM

  3. think she’s right – a two billion worldwide TV audience, obsessive coverage on American TV (and in every other country where the public is allowed to watch what it wants to watch, apparently) and a miserable 24.8 million audience in this country (on BBC and ITV alone) really suggests everyone’s appalled at Britain’s backward-looking obsession with this ludicrous, outmoded institution. Personally I think the marked lack of interest in the event and the widespread riots that accompanied it represents a possibly fatal blow to the House of Windsor in particular, and to the concept of monarchy in general. Anyway, we all really need to get together to discuss how the Royal Family needs to change to remain relevant to Guardian columnists and BBC comedians, and to avoid a revolution (after all, one would hate to see a toff like our Poilly swinging from a lamppost outside her £1.5m villa).

    I just don’t know how Ms Toynbee keeps her finger so unerringly on the nation’s pulse (perhaps by chatting in a winningly democratic way to the servants at her Tuscan villa) – but it’s an amazing gift, as is her generosity of spirit. (Only rivalled by that rib-ticklingly hilarious comic, Jeremy Hardy, who this week told listeners that no one was really interested in the wedding and that we should be concentrating on important events, such as those unfolding in Syria, where, no doubt, he’s worried that a decent, principled left-wing Fascist dictatorship is being undermined by right wing rebels led by Baroness Thatcher – which explains her absence from the wedding.)
    Sunday, May 1, 2011 - 05:24 PM

  4. She and John Rentoul in the Independent have also captured most astutely the public sense of outrage at the shameful snub to our two great ex-PMs. Where I was watching, the service was regularly interrupted by cries from the room of "Where's our Gordon? and "I can't see Cherie." When it became obvious that they had not been invited, there was an immediate move to march on the Palace and let the forces of conservatism feel the strength of our anger that the values of our Great Movement had been thus violated.

    Only the arrival of the sausage rolls made us think again about the sort of rebellion that, as Polly says, will define what kind of nation we are.
    Sunday, May 1, 2011 - 06:17 PM

  5. There’s little doubt you’d class me as a liberal but there was nothing the least bit annoying about the wedding. I enjoyed every minute of it and I agree with you that a constitutional monarchy can be a force for good especially when it’s as widely supported as ours. Scott, we are not all Toynbee clones here on the left.
    Tuesday, May 10, 2011 - 05:42 PM