Personally I’ve never seen much need for the monarchy. Vast wealth and landholdings, tax breaks, civil lists, free castles, and all the RAF helicopters you can commandeer seems a bit pricy for a head of state in waiting. For that sort of expenditure you expect a George Clooney lookalike with the intelligence of Einstein, the wit of Bill Hicks, and the humility of Gandhi. Instead we’ve got Cherlie Boay. We’re being seriously shortchanged.
Windsor Junior is a veritable Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells when it comes to writing to politicians. But unlike the average punter who writes letters of complaint to their MP, Cherlie Boay and his maw have a legal right to be consulted in any matter which affects the interests of the Royles. They can, and apparently regularly do, “request” changes to be made to forthcoming legislation, which is one reason why the family remains the UK’s biggest benefits scroungers.
The average claimant of Housing Benefit doesn’t have the legal right to be consulted on forthcoming legislation and to make requests to change it which cannot be ignored. Otherwise Jim Royle could have sent a wee letter to Iain Duncan Smith saying “Are you fucking mad?” and he’d have been forced by Royal Protocol to agree. So much for British Fair Play.
By the way, it’s important that we all cram in as many British cultural references as we can just now, as after a yes vote we’ll all turn into foreigners and won’t understand that Breetish sense of humour any more. Even worse, Spain’s going to veto our use of Central European fart jokes and George Osborne is demanding sole custody of the deep fried mars bar stereotype. Mind you, Westminster is a joke we’re better off without – bit of politics there, as Ben Elton used to say when he could say a bit of politics there without people screaming back at him “piss off you hypocritical sell out”. There’s another British cultural reference right there, and so it’s quite appropriate that Better Together provokes a very similar audience response.
But back to the politics of princes, which are still smelling suspiciously machiavellian. The Guardian, with its liberal and progressive face on because it thinks it’s not something related to the Scottish referendum, has been campaigning to get Cherlie’s letters released to the public, so we can see exactly what changes he has ‘requested’ to legislation so that his interests are not damaged. But the Attorney General for England and Wales, Dominic Grieve, doesn’t want us to know. And if he doesn’t want England and Wales to know, Scotland doesn’t get to know either, even though Dominic’s writ does not, in theory at least, extend north of the border.
According to the Guardian, “They were letters of advocacy so blunt that Mr Grieve has argued they have to be repressed in order to avoid compromising the public perception of the prince’s political neutrality.”
It’s more important that it continues to look like Charles is politically neutral, than to ensure that the supposedly politically neutral royal family is in fact politically neutral. Even when they know, Charles knows, and we all know, that he’s anything but the sort. He is, whisper it, an upper class self regarding Tory who’s spent his entire life being protected from the consequences of his lack of intelligence and imagination and believes his privilege is a right. Like that comes as a shock to anyone.
Conscious of the fact that one day he hopes to get a lordy title, and you cannae be a lordy without a king or queen to be lordy to, Dominic Grieve refused to accede to the original Freedom of Information demand for the letters, and overruled the information tribunal which had agreed to the release of the documents. He didn’t go through the appeal procedures, he just vetoed the release, citing reasons which had already been considered and rejected by the information tribunal in its ruling.
Dominic just didn’t want to spoil the magic of the monarchy for us. Isn’t that nice. Now we can all be patronised by chinless wonders and feel warm and cosy inside. It almost makes me stop having those recurring visions of drowning Nicolas Witchell in a vat of Duchy Original treacle.
The Appeals Court has now ruled that ministers do not have the right to veto legal decisions in the way Grieve did. The UK Government has appealed against the appeal, and the matter will go to the UK Supreme Court. The ban on the release of the letters remains in force.
But like so much of what goes on in the rest of the UK, this incident does have a bearing on the Scottish independence debate. We have no written constitution, and the status and role of the royal family is defined by precedence and practice as much, if not more, than written and explicit law. Charles has as much power as he chooses to exercise and immense patronage to wield, within certain common sense British limits of course. The limits are marked by a sign saying “Caution, one is now entering things which the commoners might find out about”. At least that’s what it says on the side Cherlie sees. The side facing us says “Crown Property Keep Out”. When we are not allowed to see what goes on behind the keep out sign, precedence and practice is what they choose to make it.
Lack of transparency doesn’t just permeate the British system of government, it is the very core of its being. There is little prospect this will ever change. The privileged will continue to exercise their privilege hidden away behind glossy media events presented by obsequious reporters. The magic of the monarchy will keep weaving its spell. Only it’s not a magic spell, it’s just a cheap and tawdry trick and Dominic Grieve is Debbie McGhee.
Paul Daniels finally saw sense and took that stupid wig off. We can vote to end the charade too. We can vote yes for independence and a written constitution, for explicit rules regarding the conduct of future heads of state in a constitutional monarchy where the people are sovereign not the crown. We can vote for a country whose future supposedly politically neutral head of state can’t try to influence government policy behind the backs of the true holders of sovereignty.
And if our future head of state is unhappy about that, then Scotland can always cite centuries old Gaelic traditions regarding kingship. Monarchists like that sort of stuff don’t they, and it is after all the very foundation stone of the Royal House of Alba, apart from that other stone that keeps getting stolen. It’s the Celtic institution of the tànaiste rìgh, which loosely translates from the ancient tongue as “Suck it up. Because we can easily find another chinless wonder to do your non-job. Or we can choose a republic.”