Posted By: July 27, 2013

Patrick Murphy. Irish News ( Belfast). Saturday, July 27, 2013
THE birth of a baby is usually an occasion of joy. The birth of an English royal
baby is an excuse for a political circus. While everyone will wish good luck to the
new baby and his family on a personal level, anyone with a sense of social justice
might reasonably despair at this week’s celebrations of an event which symbolises
economic inequality, social privilege and religious bigotry. The concept of a
monarchy is based on the principle that not everyone is equal. Royals, by virtue of
birth, are entitled to excessive economic and social privilege through historical
inheritance. The rest of us are required to financially support their lavish
lifestyles, bow and curtsy in their presence, feel honoured to have them build up
private fortunes and listen to incessant gibberish when one of them dies, marries or
is born.

Yes, the queen’s English was replaced by royal gibberish this week when the British
media lost the run of itself again.

ITV, for example, reported that the day-old infant “stretched his fingers in what
looked like the baby’s first royal wave”. Royal watchers strutted about (they
probably receive special training in strutting) explaining the intricacies of
monarchical existence for the benefit of mere commoners. (What do royal watchers do
between royal occasions? Maybe, like bird watchers, they observe the lesser-spotted
Duke of York on his winter migration from Britain to the Bahamas?)

Ah, you say, isn’t it all harmless? Not really. For a start, the monarch’s powers
are undemocratic – and the present queen has exercised them. It is reported that in
1957 she chose Macmillan as British prime minister over Butler. When Macmillan was
too ill to continue in 1963, he “duped” her into inviting Alec Douglas Home to take
over, a decision described by her biographer as “the biggest political misjudgment
of her reign”.

In 1975, Sir John Kerr, the queen’s representative in Australia, dismissed (yes,
dismissed) the country’s prime minister, replaced him with the leader of the
opposition and dissolved parliament. In 2008, Her Majesty’s Governor General in
Canada prorogued parliament for six weeks so that the minority government could
avoid a vote of no confidence. These royal decisions were not just undemocratic,
they were anti-democratic. But, you protest, the monarchy is politically neutral.
Wrong again. Britain’s attorney general (backed by the cabinet) recently applied a
rarely used veto to prevent The Guardiannewspaper from obtaining publication of 27
“particularly frank” letters from Prince Charles lobbying several government
ministers. (Queen Victoria also favoured political lobbying. In 1868 she wrote to
the home secretary: “One begins to wish that these Fenians should be lynch-lawed and
on the spot.” Wasn’t she a sweet old lady?) Some (but not all) of the prince’s views
on agriculture, the environment and architecture are quite sensible but that does
not give him the right to use his unelected position in a political manner. (The
prince describes himself as a “dissident”. If he lived here, he would be writing
letters from Maghaberry.) The tax affairs of the Duchy of Cornwall (sole proprietor
Prince Charles) were recently described in Westminster’s public accounts committee
as “shocking”. The Duchy’s land, commercial property and housing are worth about
£800 million. Its £19m annual income is not subject to corporation tax or capital
gains tax. One MP observed that the prince was “dodging around for tax purposes”. At
the same time, about 17 per cent of children in Britain (almost three million) are
in poverty including 43 per cent of children in west Belfast. On Monday the Ulster
Unionist Party said: “The UK can enjoy the next few days.” (Hurrah for child
poverty.) Sole residents in public sector housing in Britain who have a second
bedroom now have to pay a £20 tax or move out. Buckingham Palace, one of 20 official
and private royal residences, has 775 rooms including 78 bathrooms. (Hurrah for
punishing the poor.) The monarchy also offers constitutional legitimacy for the
triumphant sectarianism of the Orange Order. If the queen holds her position by
virtue of her Protestantism, it is understandable that Orangemen should perceive
that they have a greater right to march on the queen’s highway than the rest of us.
Criticising them without questioning the monarchy’s sectarian foundation would
appear to be inconsistent. (Hurrah for bigotry.) So this week’s celebrations claimed
that a rather naked monarchy is wearing a new suit. Surprisingly, despite our
preoccupation with equality, there was more anti-royal sentiment in Britain than
here – which raises the possibility that there are now more English republicans than
Irish ones. Queen Victoria would be pleased.