As part of the Commonwealth diaspora, I'm offended that Prince Charles will be the former colonies' head of state

A rich white man automatically assuming a leadership role isn’t particularly novel, but Britain’s assumed position as head of the Commonwealth is not only a hideous reminder of the Empire, it is increasingly becoming laughable

Ruchira Sharma
Friday 20 April 2018 16:48
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Queen gives public backing for Charles to become Commonwealth head

Forget sending a CV in, it turns out we’ve been applying for jobs all wrong. What we should be doing is getting our mums to write in for us.

Speaking at the formal opening of the Commonwealth Heads Of Government Meeting (CHOGM) at Buckingham Palace yesterday, the Queen shared her “hopes” that Prince Charles would succeed her as head of the Commonwealth – a role she’s filled since 1952.

In a speech to the 53 leaders of each Commonwealth nation, she said: "It is my sincere wish that the Commonwealth will continue to offer stability and continuity for future generations – and will decide that one day the Prince of Wales will carry on the important work started by my father in 1949.”

The leaders met today to discuss who will succeed her after death and it was announced that Prince Charles would take over. It turns out a “sincere wish” here has greater weight than one from anyone else’s mum. In fact, in real terms it translated into Prince Charles’s CV shooting to the front of the pile and within hours he was hired. A rich white man automatically assuming a leadership role isn’t particularly novel but since unlike many royal roles the position wasn’t actually hereditary, this was nothing but pure blatant nepotism.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau weighed in on the subject but only to lend his support; it was in essence a deeply disappointing reaction from a leader we've come to view as the bastion of modern day liberalism. Perhaps straight, white, middle-aged men find it harder to see why this may be problematic, or perhaps the fact that he is the eldest son of Canada's most recognisable prime minister Pierre Trudeau, and effectively created Canada’s first political dynasty, goes some way to explain it.

Considering the number of options available for head of state, including individuals far more representative and diverse from any of the Commonwealth countries, it was at the very least tone deaf and at at worst downright offensive for the Royal Family to suggest Britain still has such a level of control over its former colonies.

And that is what the Commonwealth is: a collection of Britain’s former colonies with their historic oppressor sort of leading them. It includes 2.4billion people spreading from Africa to the Caribbean and Pacific. It was created after previously colonised countries were increasingly gaining independence, in an attempt to unify member states through a series of shared values including liberty, human rights, trade and good governance. You could call it the ghost of colonial rule, or essentially an attempt to maintain control over the former so-called “Empire” Britain is oh so proud of.

To recognise of the level of hypocrisy at play here, look no further than the Windrush scandal which emerged this week – a clear example of how all Commonwealth citizens are far from equal when it comes to applying the law.

Britain’s presumed position as head is not only a hideous reminder of the Empire, it is increasingly becoming laughable. The Queen inherited her role while the Empire still existed, but in 2018 India is close to surpassing the UK as the Commonwealth’s greatest economy – a monumental feat considering the disastrous aftermath of British imperialism on the Indian economy and history.

As a dominant country in the Commonwealth and across the globe, India’s CV seems to have been trumped by a man whose best credentials are that he’s son of the current head and has travelled to all of its countries.

Moreover, these nations will be expected to help post-Brexit Britain sort out its trade disaster. The same UK which cut imports from Commonwealth countries when it joined what was then the common market is now expecting its former colonies to lend a helping hand and get us out of the mess we willingly created. The brazenness to present itself as a leader when it actual fact it is at best a desperate ally is almost unbelievable – almost.

For many, the decision for Prince Charles to succeed the Queen will seem unsurprising, but this doesn’t change its impact. As part of the Commonwealth diaspora living in Britain, to me it represents how equality and democracy can only exist once Britain stops enforcing its position as unelected leader.

A partnership of equals is never what the Commonwealth was, and this is the final nail in our hope of achieving change any time soon.

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