Now we begin to get to the nub of the matter. The presence of a little old lady on the throne anchors the present very visibly in the past. In an age of astonishing technological change and dissolving national borders, she offers up to us a sense of who we are.The problem is that I don't want to be anchored to the past. That's no way to compete in the world. We'll end up being a country full of people living on house prices, antique shops and monarchist tat rather while the rest of the world goes forward.
But why bother? Why take the risk of a worthy bore or some vainglorious politician getting the job? The Queen is there by a process which, while we certainly wouldn’t invent it, we can at least understand.
Which no fucking argument whatsoever. It's possible to understand absolute monarchs executing their subjects, too. Should we not have got rid of that?
So, if you want a thundering speech about national destiny, full of rolling phrases and blustering promises, send for one of our politicians. Want a bypass or hospital opened? Invite Her Majesty.Can anyone even explain why we need a national figurehead living in a palace with land worth a billion pounds at many millions of pounds per year for this job? What is even the purpose of having a monarch there to open a bypass? Send out a press release, maybe get the local mayor to appear, film it, job done. France gets the President to open TGV lines. Does anyone there give a toss that an elected person does it rather than one appointed by a sky fairy? Of course not.
But then who’d want the job? Every little girl dreams of becoming a princess. They usually manage to grow out of it. (Apart from some students at St Andrews, obviously…)Yes. Who'd want a job where you get to live in fantastic luxury, while seeing the world and your job doesn't depend on performance?
The task is not the making of unlikely promises but a sort of gracious, biddable impotence. Who knows what goes through the Queen’s mind as she sits on the throne in the House of Lords, reciting another list of proposed laws from the latest bunch to occupy the government benches? What is unarguable about the ceremony is that she has invested the humdrum with moment.And again, if the Queen didn't open parliament, if instead, a couple of blokes from the House of Commons just unlocked the doors at 8am, walked in and there waiting in every MP's inbox was the year's business, would government not function? Government is there to deal with the business of running the country. If it can do it without ceremony, it should.
So here’s the paradox. We require those who want to tell us what to do to put themselves to the inconvenience of being elected: to achieve anything they need first to cultivate popularity. For royalty, popularity is neither here nor there. Yet, even in well into her eighties the Queen continues the dutiful visits, openings, and commemorations. When a politician pays a visit, who can help wondering, “What’s he after?” We know there is nothing in any of these activities for the Queen.This is naive drivel. We know that the Queen gets to review legislation with ministers that might personally affect her wealth and we have no idea about the outcomes of such reviews. If the Queen is not on the take, then she would refuse any involvement in such matters.
This Jubilee year also marks the 60th birthday of anyone born in 1952. Elizabeth was on the throne when baby-boomers learned to walk, and she is on the throne as they prepare to collect their pensions. The luckiest generation in history once affected disaffection. The Queen is a beneficiary of the fact that many have at last begun to appreciate their good fortune. We have all grown up in her company, as she has developed from nervous young queen to gracious granny.And their good fortune of the boomers has nothing to do with her, but to robbing the younger generation of opportunity.