Those nasty monarchists are being spiteful to the Queen

'At least royals used to have to put in a bit of effort, and massacre some Scots or something'
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The Independent Online

Why does the Queen read out her speech off a scroll like that? She's been doing it long enough, you'd have thought by now she'd have learned to use the autocue. All sorts of arguments are put forward for getting rid of the pageantry that accompanies this ritual, but the most convincing one, I feel, is that it's bloody mental. Very few people are impressed any more by the nonsense of 40ft high thrones and Black Rod's macabre parade.

Why does the Queen read out her speech off a scroll like that? She's been doing it long enough, you'd have thought by now she'd have learned to use the autocue. All sorts of arguments are put forward for getting rid of the pageantry that accompanies this ritual, but the most convincing one, I feel, is that it's bloody mental. Very few people are impressed any more by the nonsense of 40ft high thrones and Black Rod's macabre parade.

Last week, I was on the radio with a bloke who edited a magazine called Royalty Monthly, and he seemed quite excited when a reporter announced from Cambridge that the Queen had arrived for a walkabout and "a crowd of 200 has come to greet her". 200? Roger Whittaker would get more than that. And he'd be eight quid a ticket.

The editor's main argument for maintaining the monarchy and its pageantry was that no constitutional harm was done as the Queen has no part in writing the speech. In other words, it's all right to spend billions of pounds on her because she does nothing. At least they used to have to put in a bit of effort, and marry off their daughter to a Spaniard or massacre some Scots or something. Maybe the miners should have tried this. Instead of arguing that there were millions of tons of untapped coal, they should have said "That's right. We no longer have any power to actually dig anything, but we're a great British tradition so give us a billion quid anyway."

In any case, I'm not so sure the Queen is as neutral as she makes out during her speech. She only appears neutral because none of it affects her. If there was a genuinely radical regime, I doubt whether she'd sit there meekly reciting "My government will introduce a bill to abolish my husband and me."

The only other defence of her status you hear now is that she "brings in lots of tourists". Because, as everyone knows, in New York, Paris and Dublin there isn't a tourist to be found. Millions of people think "I know you get a marvellous view from the top of the Empire State Building, but somehow the lack of a Queen seems to spoil the whole thing". Or there's the even more absurd, "I wouldn't do their job for all the world".

In which case, Republicans like me are trying to do them a favour, by ridding them of this awful job. It's monarchists who are spiteful, insisting that the Royals carry on doing something they wouldn't be prepared to do themselves.

The baffling thing is how this institution carries on untouched, under a government that prides itself on being constitutionally radical. Yet Labour has always been craven to these people. There's a marvellous section in Tony Benn's diaries, in which he describes how an entire Cabinet meeting is totally dominated by a discussion on what to buy for the Queen as a Silver Jubilee present.

I can see why this is tricky, when she already owns most of the universe. I suppose you'd have to come up with suggestions like, "Maybe we could get her Wiltshire as she likes counties?". In the end, they get her a coffee pot, and at the presentation Shirley Williams blusters, "Ma'am, I have often thought that you might occasionally have audiences with Ministers as you are so much closer to the people than we are".

The Labour attitude persists, which is why the latest attempt, supported by The Guardian, to take the Royal Family to the European court, for refusing to allow Catholics into its ranks, can appear radical. The bar on Catholics is another strange hangover from the past, and does make you wonder what the Royals are worried about. Do they think that if the ruling was lifted, the Queen Mother might run off with Martin McGuinness? But the ban does Catholics a favour, sparing them the possibility of being dragged into the wasps' nest of intrigue that is the Windsor family. Besides, we don't want a royal family that's likely to breed more and cost even more.

Mostly though, what a typical Guardian gesture. You do get the impression that they think to themselves, "If only we'd had EU regulations in 1938 - that would have put a stop to Hitler. He wouldn't have gone marching into Poland if he had the European Court of Human Rights to answer to."

Three hundred and fifty years ago, the Levellers, who formed the backbone of Cromwell's army, produced a pamphlet called "The Agreement with the People", which they wore in their hats as they marched. It argued for elections every two years, every citizen having equal rights, a written constitution and for the House of Lords and monarchy to be scrapped. If Blair saw it, he would say, "I think it works well as a mission statement. And I agree with the clause on the Lords, though I prefer a phased withdrawal over a period of 250,000 years. But our approach on tithes is far more radical than simply getting rid of them, which is to keep them - but assure everyone that we're operating an ethical tithes policy".

So the Levellers prove it; for the most heartening response to royalty, you need to turn to tradition.

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