This has been a good week to be a republican

You wouldn't know it from the deference of the royal baby coverage, but a poll this month showed more than half of us weren't bothered

Share

The expectation of deference has largely disappeared: politicians, business leaders, even archbishops, now expect to be questioned robustly by journalists. There's only one institution left which doesn't get this degree of critical scrutiny and the results range from banal to hilarious; I couldn't help feeling sorry last week for the reporters camped outside Buckingham Palace and St Mary's Hospital, Paddington, waiting for a royal birth in the hottest weather for years. As time passed, they fell back on the old standby of interviewing each other, but there were surreal moments as well. One of the most choice was hearing the Queen's former press secretary talking with a straight face about the "people's pregnancy".

I'd like to put on record that I had no part in it, although I can't speak for the millions of men inadvertently implicated in the conception. A more imaginative species of paternity was implied by a man who turned up in Paddington with a painting showing the Duchess of Cambridge as the Virgin Mary; his insistence that her child would turn out to be the baby Jesus was cut short by an astonished interviewer, though not quickly enough to avoid comparison with some of the more extravagant claims made after the death of Princess Diana. These events illustrate two iron rules of royal "stories": nothing much happens most of the time, and reporters end up trying to extract sound bites from people they'd normally run a mile to avoid.

This has been a good week to be a republican. Strike that: it's been a fantastic week, as news organisations wake up to the fact that sentimental attitudes to the Royal Family are not universally shared. I've lost count of the times I've been asked to provide "a republican voice" by broadcasters, which is a very welcome change. But editors should have been warned by a YouGov poll earlier this month, which showed that more people in India than the UK were interested in the royal birth. Far from a nation panting for news, just over half of British adults (53 per cent) were uninterested, compared to 46 per cent who were "very" or "fairly" interested. In this context, any headline beginning "the country" or "the world" is bound to be wrong; I'm sure there were swathes of the Democratic Republic of Congo where the arrival of Prince George went entirely unremarked, but degrees of indifference were visible in London as well. When I arrived on Monday evening to do a TV interview outside Buckingham Palace, where an eager crowd had supposedly gathered to wait for news, I found what looked like the usual complement of tourists. There were dozens of film crews, but that's a different matter.

To return to that YouGov poll, I'm not surprised that Tory supporters were more interested in the birth than Labour voters. More significant for monarchists was the gender breakdown, which showed that more women than men were following the event. The scenes following Diana's death in 1997 revealed a previously unremarked tendency among women to identify with female members of the Royal Family, and there seems to have been a marked preference among women last week for a female baby. That's why the birth of a male heir is not great news for the monarchy, which now offers an unbroken line of three kings when the present Queen's reign ends. Whether the institution can survive a couple of decades with the meddling Prince Charles at its head is another question, but we have the prospect of a male head of state for the rest of this century.

Not just that but a head of state who, by virtue of the way hereditary monarchy works, may not be crowned until he is in his sixties or seventies. Age isn't a reason for ruling someone out of a job, but this is a system which fails every single test of diversity and equality. Once the Queen dies, the de facto list of exclusions from the throne will go like this: no women, no black people, no Asians, no Jews, no Catholics (still barred by law) and probably no one under the age of 50. I also doubt whether we'll see an openly gay king, unless the Royal Family changes radically. The good news as far as I'm concerned is that the number of people who are unhappy with this situation is growing, judging by the hostile reaction to uncritical reporting of the royal birth. The monarchy got its most recent crisis in early, before bankers and MPs, and it's had longer to recover. But the Royal Family's popularity is shallow, and its entanglement with celebrity involves considerable risk.

I know nothing about Prince George, other than the fact that he's six days old. But the notion that this tiny baby automatically has the qualities to do anything, whether it's becoming a plumber or a monarch, belongs in the Middle Ages. I live in a modern democracy and I want every child, regardless of background, to grow up knowing he or she could become head of state.

www.politicalblonde.com; twitter.com/@polblonde

React Now

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

E-Commerce Developer

£45000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Exciting opp...

Technical Support Analyst (C++, Windows, Linux, Perl, Graduate)

£30000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A global leader in trading platforms and e...

Junior IT Consultant (SQL, Java, C++, Oracle, Graduate)

£28000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A fast growing consultancy to the financia...

Technical Support Analyst (Windows, Linux, Unix, Graduate)

£30000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Technical Support Analyst - Liverpool Stre...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Forty per cent of global trades in euros are cleared through London  

The success enjoyed by the City of London owes nothing to the EU

Nigel Farage
Sami Khedira of Germany runs past Oscar of Brazil with the ball during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Semi Final match between Brazil and Germany  

If they weren't obsessed with instant profits, England could have a team as good as Germany’s

Mark Steel
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

Hollywood targets Asian audiences

The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial
Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app - and my mum keeps trying to hook me up!'

Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app'

Five years on from its launch and Grindr is the world's most popular dating app for gay men. Its founder Joel Simkhai answers his critics, describes his isolation as a child
Autocorrect has its uses but it can go rogue with embarrassing results - so is it time to ditch it?

Is it time to ditch autocorrect?

Matthew J X Malady persuaded friends to message manually instead, but failed to factor in fat fingers and drunk texting
10 best girls' summer dresses

Frock chick: 10 best girls' summer dresses

Get them ready for the holidays with these cool and pretty options 
Westminster’s dark secret: Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together

Westminster’s dark secret

Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Dulce et decorum est - a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Dulce et decorum est: a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality
Google tells popular music website to censor album cover art in 'sexually explicit content' ban

Naked censorship?

The strange case of Google, the music website and the nudity take-down requests
Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

As England take on India at Trent Bridge, here is our pick of the high-performing bats to help you up your run-count this summer 
Brazil vs Germany World Cup 2014 comment: David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

Captain appears to give up as shocking 7-1 World Cup semi-final defeat threatens ramifications in Brazil