At last, the royals' verdict on democracy

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The Independent Online
We have had an endless debate among the voters on how well or badly the monarchy is doing, but what about a debate on how well our democracy is doing?

And who better to debate it than the very people who have no vote and no axe to grind - the Royal Family? Yes, the time has surely come for the monarchy to discuss whether our democracy deserves to survive!

And today I am bringing you exclusive extracts from an extraordinary TV debate - not yet broadcast - in which members of the Royal Family discuss openly whether democracy has a future. The chairman is the little-known member of the Dimbleby family, Edwin ...

Edwin: Hello. Welcome to a debate which has no precedent in TV history. A debate in which the Royal Family at last casts aside the cloak of impartiality in which it has been clothed for hundreds of years and ...

Duke of Edinburgh: Oh, get on with it, you wittering windbag!

Edwin: Precisely. Let us go first to a lady who wishes only to be known by her code name, EIIR. What do you think of democracy in Britain today, Ma'am?

EIIR: I think it would be a very good idea. Cheers and laughter.

Edwin: Would you like to enlarge on that?

EIIR: Certainly. The idea of parliamentary democracy is meant to be that everyone in the country is represented in Parliament, that a member of Parliament is looking after his interests. In practice, members of Parliament are elected as obedient slaves of one or other of the main two parties. Nor does either party have as much power as they think, especially since they started handing the power over to unelected quangos. The tendency of the present government has been to create miniature monarchies all over Britain, monarchies which, I may say, have none of the experience nor the grandeur that we have. To say we have democracy in this country is to stretch the meaning of the word beyond the bounds of elasticity.

Duke: I think she's right. At the moment we have an unaccountable, unpopular, inefficient government doing a great many things against the popular will. If that is democracy, then I am a crypto-Stalinist.

Edwin: But surely this is the government that the people voted for?

Duke: More fool them.

Edwin: But isn't democracy all about letting the people choose their own representatives?

Duke: Not at all. Democracy is about giving the people two unacceptable and unlikely alternatives and asking them to choose the least bad. People always criticise the monarchy for the fact that the country has no choice in the monarch, but the choice of Prime Minister is very nearly as limited. At the next election it will be either Blair or Major. Enough said.

Edwin: But it will be the will of the people ...

Duke: Blarney. Most of the people read The Sun, get excited about football and think McDonald's hamburgers are great. Do you think their ideas on politics are any more advanced?

Edwin: Isn't that a bit elitist?

Duke: No. I think it's very elitist. A bit more elitism wouldn't do any harm.

Charles: I think what my father is trying to say ...

Duke: Don't tell me what I'm trying to say!

Edwin: Let's hear from Prince Charles ...

Charles: Thank you.

Duke: And go easy on the Laurens van der Post quotes.

Edwin: No, please let him speak.

Charles: Thank you. Well, all I want to say is that if people think the monarchy is slipping, they should take a look at themselves first. It is not the monarchy that produces violent films, or indulges in road rage, or sells arms to Iraq, or ignores the Scott report. It is not the monarchy that produces trashy tabloid newspapers, or leaves the railways in crisis, or gets the country in debt. It is not the monarchy that - in 1997 - still doesn't know what to do about the millennium. It is not monarchy that is misgoverning this country!

Edwin: These are strong words.

Charles: I feel strongly. And as a farmer, I feel very strongly that the Government is in the dock over BSE. Only this week we have heard that Brussels is thinking of prosecuting Douglas Hogg for negligence and mishandling of the beef crisis. That sound you can hear is the approving roar from thousands of British farmers. If we have come to a state where only Brussels can tell the Tories what they have done wrong, what price democracy?

An intriguing debate, I think you'll agree. More of it some other time, perhaps.