Yasmin Alibhai-Brown: Let the royals compete, like Harry, if they are so special

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The Independent Online

Just for a lark a young white man visiting Jamaica ran against Usain Bolt. The picture appeared everywhere including on two whole pages of a leftie broadsheet. For it is Prince Harry, out and about selling The Firm. British colonialism and monarchism never pass on.

Meanwhile in a BBC TV studio, Benjamin Zephaniah, British-born Jamaican and acclaimed poet, is a vocal republican. The dreadlocked luminary made his case and faced gross invective from a white punter for whom his views were un-British: "It's our country, our Queen, sunshine."

Britain feels like North Korea-lite in this period of national sycophancy over the Queen's Diamond Jubilee; adulation is mandatory. Labour MP Paul Flynn told BBC listeners on Saturday that if MPs want to criticise the Queen or her relatives, they are "not allowed to". The royals have extracted the right to absolute secrecy and expect not to be publicly answerable.

True, the Queen embodies extraordinary historical changes, has a sense of duty and is ageing gracefully. That's all folks. Kate left her bourgeois life and nabbed a prince. Now and forever, grown citizens will bow before her. But hey, she still buys clothes in high street shops. And Camilla, I hear, has a great sense of humour. Well she's certainly had the last laugh.

It was not ever thus. Listen to a 1970 Radio 4 recording of Malcolm Muggeridge and the MP Willie Hamilton discussing their objections to our absurd, snobbish, revolting and vulgar monarchical system. The royals now dominate celeb culture, and are riding high – even the smartest of Britons find them irresistible. But their arguments are bizarre and contradictory. Why worry about this sweet fantasy that brings in gobsmacked, loaded tourists? Or they're just like us, or they're the soul of the nation. The worst is that an alternative would be a disaster.

Instead of challenging this consensus or debating constitutional reformation, pathetic joke-republicans like Morrissey think "We hate William and Kate" T-shirts will do the trick. If we elected our head of state, candidates might include Joanna Lumley, Richard Attenborough, Trevor McDonald, Jenni Murray, Shirley Williams – or even Prince Charles. If royals are really born special, they would trounce all competition and prove themselves every five years. Then even I would submit to them.