Yasmin Alibhai-Brown: The case for a republic is as strong now as it has always been

A head of state who merits the position should be chosen by the people

Share

I admire and hugely like the singer Billy Bragg, that proud working-class (English) hero. The last time we met, the Queen's Jubilee came up and also my fierce republicanism. Don't fret, said Billy, understand. Royalty is an integral part of British culture. Respect it, as you ask for your culture to be respected. I have never believed any tradition should be above criticism, just because it goes back a long way. But still, Billy, this time I tried, really tried. And then this week the excessive indulgence of spoilt royals, the oleaginousness and uninhibited ostentation got to me. Objections broke out, like hives. And quite honestly it is a relief after the suffocating restraint of the past months.

I concede without caveat that Elizabeth II is a living chronicle of defining epochs of modern British history. She is skilful, diplomatic, dutiful and has grace and remarkable energy. I have met her twice and witnessed her inborn authority. None of that weakens the republican case. We should question the place of a monarchy in a modern state and start imagining a future free of the shackles of class and sycophancy. This society is said to have lost its deference. Like hell it has. Just look at the queue of bowers and curtsiers, fawners and flatterers. The laughable royalist sentimentality of Norman St John-Stevas and Nicholas Soames is now channelled through former modernisers – Vivienne Westwood, Rosie Boycott, the once republican Guardian which ran a picture of Kate Middleton drinking milkshake on its front page. Wow!

The main argument against the monarchical edifice is one of principle. Even if this family were saintly and super-talented (and it patently is neither) the system validates the revolting dogma of inherited privilege – that some are born to greatness. It is the antithesis of equality, social mobility and progress.

A head of state should be chosen by the people, someone who merits the position. Candidates? Britain is full of gifted people – for a titular head, think Joanna Lumley, Colin Firth, Jenni Murray, Trevor McDonald, Carol Ann Duffy, David Attenborough, David Starkey, David Beckham, Jamie Oliver, Robert Winston, Cliff Richard, Ken Loach, best of all Helen Mirren who acts queenly so perfectly. They would be independents without party allegiances. Our Royal Family's affinities have always been with the Tories.

Then the question of money. The royal finances and costs of these celebrations are kept from our common eyes. In an age of transparency, no other business or political organisation has that privilege. Britons just accept the exceptionalism and favouritism, even the poor. They are happily buying Union Jack plastic cups and bunting, getting ready for the biggest party ever.

The political strategy of no bread but great royal circuses is working. And those hives of mine are now burning and bleeding.

y.alibhai-brown@independent.co.uk

React Now

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

March On Cancer™ - Local Marketing and Promotions Volunteer

This is an unpaid voluntary role.: Cancer Research UK: We need motivational vo...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Maths Teacher - Evening session

Negotiable: Randstad Education Birmingham: I am looking for a qualified experi...

Teaching Assistants

£50 - £85 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Rapidly developing and growing ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Daily catch-up: odd pub names, final polls in Scotland and war historians

John Rentoul
 

i Editor's Letter: We are winning the fight against extreme poverty and hunger. It's time to up the ante

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week