On Sunday I went to the Cathedral to join the service that commemorates the 60th Anniversary of the accession of H M Queen Elizabeth II to the throne. I caused some controversy by saying how sad I was that not one member of the Labour Leadership of the City was there and only one of our 5 MPs.
I am truly sad about that because the general feeling of the people of the UK and, indeed, of Liverpool is that whatever your view is of the monarchy per se one cannot help but be impressed by the service and dedication to duty of this lady. I was struck when I have seen her about how she does things that she must find intensely boring. Every year she does 20+ investitures which are very exciting for the participants but cannot be the highlight of her life after, say, the first 1,000! All Prime Ministers talk about her calmness and the fact that she has been able to use her experience with all 13 of her PMs (in the UK alone) to give wise and impartial counsel.
Inevitably, as she gets older the thoughts turn to what or who next. I think we should be very careful about making wholesale changes to the system that has served us so well.
Firstly, we need to accept the premise that a Country needs a Head of State. In my view there has to be a final decider who if in doubt will be a final voice that can pull a nation together. There are basically 5 ways of providing this:
The Strong President. In this system in the US and other parts of the World the President is the supreme political person, usually sharing power in some way, often ill defined, with ‘Houses of Parliament’ This President is directly elected by the people, is the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces and has his/her own mandate.
The Weak President. Common in much of Europe where the President is directly elected by the elected representatives sometimes just of Parliaments but sometimes of electoral colleges containing MPs, Senators and Members of State or regional parliaments. This is usually a ceremonial President but retaining last option powers for appointing and removing democratically elected PMs in line with customs and advice not political advantage.
The Absolute Monarch. I think only two of these are left and one of them is Lesotho where the King is the law maker and decider with weak parliaments if parliaments exist at all.
The UK Model of ‘Impressive’ Royalty. Where the Monarch is constitutionally at the Heart of things and is highly visible. We have ‘Her Majesty’s Government’; and the Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition! This type is expensive and is currently highly thought off but in the past few decades not universally so.
The Scandinavian Model has a monarchy which functions much like our own but not so centrally and with less pomp and circumstance and crucially less cost and less hangers on.
The last is the model that I prefer. I do not like political presidents. This would create the problem for our Country in relationship to the PM that we can see with the President relating to Leaders of two Houses in the US. I clearly could not stomach an absolute monarch. I think we do spend too much on royalty and hangers on although I would be the first to admit that this is not a view point shared by most of my countrymen. We must also admit that the Pomp and Circumstance is a great foreign money earner.
The Scandinavians have it just about right. No politics but instead calmness and detachment and a Royal Family much more rooted in everyday life than our own.
Do you agree with me? Whether you do or not this is a debate we need to have. Nothing will change whilst the Queen lives. Her position is rightly unassailable. But when she goes or even thinks of abdicating this will be something that must be reviewed.
Our Queen came to the Throne when we still had an Empire and were a major World power. Circumstances have changed and our next Monarch and monarchy must reflect the UKs place in the World and must meet the aspirations and needs of the other 15 Countries where she is Head of State as well as the wishes of the Commonwealth who currently see her as the Head of that Organisation.
In the meantime I speak on behalf of many when I say ‘Thank You’ for all she done and her immense sense of duty.