The other day I was surfing Twitter and came across an extraordinary photo. It was a young Labour Councillor, who had taken the Red Rosette they had (presumably) worn at election and stuck a big picture of the Queen on it. The picture was titled “celebrating the Jubilee in style”.
It takes a certain amount of cognitive dissonance to spend huge amounts of your free time working to fight for equality (either of opportunity or outcome) and also be an ardent Royalist. To believe everyone should have the same opportunities and also that our country’s Head of State should be chosen by birth not ability.
But if you go looking for Labour Royalists you’ll find plenty of them. Not just those who don’t really care, but those who care deeply and passionately about the place of the Monarch in our public life. They aren’t just on Twitter, they’re all over the ostensibly left wing press and Labour blogs.
Now I’m not saying that Labour activists should sit inside this weekend huffing and puffing at the pageantry and generally behaving like a Jehovah’s Witness at a birthday party. If people want to go out and join in the street parties of their neighbours, look at the boats on the Thames, sing along to Robbie Williams and generally revel in the occasion, I see no problem with that. It’s not for me, but nor is it for me to want to stop anyone doing the same.
Every Christmas, thousands of us, of all religions and none, enjoy the occasion of Christmas (despite the annual rumours of the PC War on Christmas no such thing exists). That doesn’t mean we are all Christians. Just as Labour members who don’t want to miss out on the spectacle aren’t the same as those who genuinely and actively promote the monarchy as an acceptable way of deciding who the head of the British State should be.
I completely understand that Labour is not going to agitate for a Republic. Despite this being a move to improve our democracy, this would, in fact be undemocratic, as the Queen currently has a great deal of support; Support that elected politicians would kill for, in fact.
There is no electoral mileage in seeking to depose the Queen, and there are far too many other important things for Labour to campaign on that will get electoral traction. So while I am a fully paid up member of Republic I won’t be advising Ed Miliband to make Republicanism a central platform for the Labour Party any time soon.
The Queen enjoys enormous support; Prince Charles less so. It may be that there is a potential republican moment on the horizon as we inherit a Head of State who doesn’t know not to meddle. There’s a reason Liz has been hanging on this long, after all. Perhaps there will be a time when the republicans in Labour can restate our case with more hope of a hearing.
But until then, Labour’s republicans should be very clear that our pride in being British is not the same as a pride in being citizens of a Monarchy. That celebrating the British love for pageantry and our flag and not believing Republicanism to be either a priority or an electorally attractive prospect is not the same as believing the hereditary principle is the right way of selecting our Head of State.
We are a Party who are dedicated to putting power, wealth and opportunity in the hands of the many not the few. It says so in the Clause IV quote (New Labour variety) on my Party membership card. You can’t do that as long as long as every little girl in this country knows she will never be Queen, however much she enjoys dressing up as a princess. You can’t do that while a job none of us commoners can apply for comes with the one of the biggest property portfolios in the country and a line in state sponsored benefits that would house most of Hackney.
The Monarchy is an anachronistic emblem of class inequality. Labour activists who want to should feel free to gorge themselves on strawberries, wave flags till their arms drops off and drink champagne for four days straight. But they shouldn’t forget that.
Oh and we should change the national anthem. Not just because of its sentiments but because it’s a bloody awful dirge!