Wednesday, November 08, 2006

 

Is it Time for an Elected Head of State?


Recently my son and I debated the utility of the monarchy. Unusually for a radical young man like him, he argued in favour of: the symbolism of the institution; the role it plays in giving us an identity grounded in our history; and the unsuitability of a putative elected retired politician as 'president'. All very Conservative sentiments, as I pointed out to him, but all worthy of debate too.

My feeling is that as long as a majority of us want to retain a monarchy then it should, naturally, continue. But should its usefulness be regularly judged negatively at sometime in the future, then I think it will be time to eschew atavistic sentimentality and embrace a new system unsullied by the associations of our generally undistinguished Royal Family. With the exception of the present Queen, who has fulfilled her duty with a devoted, though sometimes grim, sense of duty, the royals have been a pretty useless lot.

I have already posted recently on how 'Dickie' Mountbatten used his royal connections to command military and political positions damagingly way beyond his ability. My source for that post, Andrew Roberts', exceptional Churchillians, also details the die-hard appeasing sympathies of the royals not to mention their sometimes open flirtations with the enemy itself(see Chapter 1, The House of Windsor and the Politics of Appeasement).

The royals are determined defenders of the snobbish social order which is one of the most resistible things about our society; witness their absurd delight and determination in denying first the Duchess of Windsor and then Diana the initials, 'HRH'. They underpin an invidious social system based on the emblems of birth and privilege. Add to that the absurd insistence of Prince Charles that he be addressed as 'Sir' even by his friends at dinner parties. I would hate to be a 'subject' of a man like that- wouldn't you? I, for one, would be perfectly happy to allow an elected president to invite leader of the largest party after an election to form a government and to preside over sundry national days and events. Why-ever not?

Comments:
Blair 4 president.
 
How about the early 70s when some loony right soldiers, and MI5 officials planned a coup to overthrow the Communist government of Harold Wilson, and had appointed Dickie Mountbatten as putative leader. They specifically sought and got the approval of the Queen Mum (Gawd bless 'Er) for this coup.

If there was a referendum it would at least establish, after a period of focused deabte, what the will of the people is. Downside, a Royalist victory would have to be regarded as legitimising the Royalty and we'd be lumbered with Will of the People's Princess until past my dying day.
 
The idea of hereditary power is the thing I really object to, but on a day-to-day basis that whole fuss about titles is what winds me up the most.

Twice a year I see the honours list and can't believe the sheer number of slightly different honours on offer, with the implication of slightly different levels of honour.

The top half of the civil service know the honour entitlement a particular grade gives them as well as any shop steward knows the exact workplace rules.
 
Why-ever not?! Because we would end up with the likes of Blair. That in itself is reason enough.

I would rather trust the luck of the draw(within what has been a fairly good gene pool), than the judgement of an increasing stupidified people, masquerading as an electorate but in fact showing all the characteristics of the proles they are.

Long live the Royals.
 
The only serious argument against an elected President is that it would mean a "recycled politician" would be chosen, and that such a person would be divisive. It is however unpersuasive. A President could be elected by the House of Commons. A "super-majority" could be required. And, as Tony Benn has often argued, a convention could emerge whereby the person chosen is a figure "respected on both sides of the House". This would mean we would not end up with "President Thatcher" or "President Blair". We might get "President Boothroyd" or "President Martin", who could carry out the required ceremonial functions perfectly adequately.

As for the Windsor family. A "fairly good gene pool"!! Dear God the whole family between them have a collective IQ lower than that of a wombat.
 
President Gorbals Mick? The thought just makes you proud to be British(!).

I imagine that could be one of the greatest Royalist arguments in the unlikely event that this proposal was ever considered seriously.
 
Can only agree with Politaholic re the genes and other commenters re suitable candidates. Blair would be too divisive and if elected would it would be on partisan grounds. Betty B. or Michael Martin as president would be a bit grim; I would prefer someone like Martin Bell or even David Attenborough: a broadcaster, journalist, or pressure group leader. Maybe even a sportsman- Mike Brearley perhaps...? He'd be good I reckon. If Freddie retains the Ashes I'd give him the job like a shot.
 
I think we approach the President debate from slightly the wrong angle. I'm all for someone like Cliff Richard or Esther Rantzen being head of State. They both do wonderful work for charity, are largely respected by the proles, both fought with honour in the war and both are heterosexualits: (well, we're certain about one of them, at least.) The main advantage is that neither of them have any real kind of time-served political connections, no chance of hostages to fortune or political favouritism here.
 
This is the Cliff Richard who lends Tony his apartment for his summer hols? Yeh great idea(!).
 
Actually my vote would be for Jonathan Miller. But my mate at work thinks Jimmy Saville.
 
I'd go with Miller; but Saville...? No thanks- he's too weird for me. I remember that programme he did with Louis Feroux- a bit too revealing....
 
Michael Oakeshott - Don't really know if the royal gene pool is good or not. It is pretty diverse though, with a certain red haired former army major being the latest contributor.
 
As someone said on my blog the other day in relation to Bonfire Night, this is not the moment in our history to start dispensing with British traditions.
 
Paul, when exactly was/is the best moment to start dispensing with British decisions.

PS - hard luck Skipper, it would appear to be your tutn to babysit Micky Oakeshott.
 
Barely coherent. Who mentioned anything about "dispensing with British decisions"? A reference to the Ruskies perhaps. Note to Bob: you lost that one.

Your tutn.
 
Clearly he's too busy planning a presidential campaign.
 
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