Tuesday 29 May 2007

The Queen goes green

So the Queen has allegedly been left “exasperated and frustrated” by ten years of Tony Blair. Never let it be said that our 81-year-old monarch is out of touch with her subjects. There must be around 50 million of us who feel precisely the same. Some, like me, because we resent his ignorant and destructive constitutional tinkering, penchant for waging illegal and counterproductive wars, inflated and ill-thought-through public spending, assaults on personal freedom and evident distaste for the countryside. Others, no doubt, because they regret his failure to use three successive, overwhelming Parliamentary majorities to move the country decisively in an egalitarian direction, perhaps even consigning the House of Windsor to the dustbin of history.

On the monarchy, as with most things, Mr Blair has stood ineptly in the middle ground: professing support for the institution in public, while apparently treating the venerable wearer of the Crown with a casual lack of respect.

Luckily Her Majesty has one great advantage over the rest of us: she can sack him, and I would humbly urge her to do so without delay. In this country, the Prime Minister is appointed by the Queen. Central to the job specification is the ability to command a majority in the House of Commons, and in Gordon Brown she has a candidate with the almost unprecedented advantage of virtually unanimous, public support by MPs of the largest party. He should be installed in 10 Downing Street today, not left to kick his heels until 27 June while Mr Blair undertakes his ludicrous and unnecessary farewell tour. Her Majesty is said to be modishly keen to “go green”. There could be no better way than kicking Tony off his carbon-emitting jet and setting him on his bike.

She should also elevate Mr Blair to the real, hereditary peerage as Viscount Sedgefield. Don’t take no for an answer, Ma’am. Awarding this rank would be a delightfully subtle snub, since attaining the Prime Ministership has traditionally merited an earldom. It would go nicely with the rumoured plan to offer him a knighthood of the Thistle, rather than the more prestigious Garter.

I would personally welcome it if the Queen also took it into her head to dissolve Parliament, giving us a chance to vote on whether we actually want up to three years of Grimly Grinning Gordon in charge, rather than Snooty Dave or Ming the Mekon.

True, doing so would move her onto altogether shakier constitutional ground. But if the Queen never exercises her remaining powers, what useful purpose does the Crown actually serve?

We do not have a monarchy in order to provide us with a tawdry daily soap opera, or to help sell newspapers for republican press barons. The central defence of the institution is that it stops some dictatorial megalomaniac taking over, because of the reserve powers that are vested in the Queen. The Armed Forces, crucially, owe their loyalty to her, not to the Prime Minister of the day. As a child, I was proudly told that a home-grown Hitler could never have seized power here, because we had a King. I wonder. Italy and Greece had monarchs when Mussolini and the Colonels took control, and they didn’t seem to prove a lot of use.

Nor did those crowns long survive the downfall of the dictators concerned. At least there is no danger of Mr Blair dragging the Queen down with him, as we all know it’s not her fault. I’m just sorry that I shan’t live to read the State papers showing what advice she actually gave her Prime Minister on issues such as Iraq, devolution, the House of Lords and foxhunting. I can only hope that they will feature frequent use of the phrases, “I really wouldn’t do that if I were you” and “I told you so.” They will make splendid quotations in future student essays on “Was Tony Blair a dictatorial megalomaniac? Discuss.”

Originally published in The Journal, Newcastle upon Tyne.

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