The germ of the answer to Andreas Whittam Smith's problem in finding a credible president is to be found within his own article ("Why I lost the debate over the monarchy", 3 February).
He raised the question as to who best represented the mood of the nation at the time of Princess Diana's death. Answer: not the Queen but the Prime Minister, Tony Blair. Pursue this idea to other great emotional crises. Who best represented the mood of the nation at the time of the Dunblane massacre? All three party leaders. And during the Second World War? The Prime Minister, Winston Churchill.
The reason why there is never a satisfactory answer to the question as to who would make a suitable president for this country is because we are still locked into an infantile, dewy-eyed myth of how the monarch represents the nation. And of course no real person can satisfy that myth.
The question Andreas Whittam Smith should really ask is: can readers name a single event of the last hundred years which, were it to occur today, the absence of the monarch would leave an emotional or symbolic vacuum? If the answer is none, as I believe it is, then we have grown out of the need for the myth. There is simply no need any longer for a head of state of that kind, whether monarch or president. The reality is that all the constitutional, symbolic, and emotional roles of the monarch can be performed by the Speaker and her parliamentarians, supported by a mature and self-confident electorate.
London W2Reuse content