Letter: The Royal Family is not to blame

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THE heart of the matter in Neal Ascherson's 'Mockery of monarchy tilts the power axis' (17 January) is the observation that the British state is starting to break down. He is right to say that it is not the fault of the Royal Family or the fault of the monarchy as an institution.

It is, as he implies, the 'efficient' part of the constitution that has broken down and its theories and myths can no longer sustain it. Consider the introduction of the poll tax. There is believed to have been no Civil Service advice in favour of it; no local authority was in favour of it; a large minority, if not a majority, of the Cabinet was against it. The majorities in the House of Commons grossly overstated the real support it had among MPs and a majority of working peers were against it. Yet it passed into law, was implemented at great cost, and now has had to be replaced, again at great cost.

The Cabinet is no longer a restraining force on a determined prime minister and the House of Commons has long since ceased being an effective restraint on a government with a working majority. The informal checks and balances on executive power (local government, universities, etc) have also been reduced almost to nothing in the past decade, and the press (even the Independent) is much less critical than it should be. The frivolity of much press comment and language seems to be an acknowledgement of impotence. The Government feels it can attack the press so ferociously because of the absence of serious and sustained criticism of the constitutional abuses of the past decade.

Graham Bindon

Mochdre, Powys

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