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

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Media Sales Executive - PR and Broadcast - OTE £35,000

£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company has an exciting op...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor - Shifts

£17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This European market leader for security...

Recruitment Genius: Freelance AutoCAD Technician

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Freelance AutoCAD Technician is required to ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Order Processor

£17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This European market leader for security...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

If I were Prime Minister: I'd champion the young and hold a cabinet meeting on top of Ben Nevis

Bear Grylls
 

i Editor's Letter: The five reasons why I vote

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot