The Constitution Of An Oaf

I was prompted to think about constitutional matters recently by another blogger, intrigued by we Brits apparent fascination with and adherence to our monarchy.

To start with a declaration: I’m neither monarchist nor republican. As will be apparent having a monarchy in the 21st century is both absurd and an indulgence. Having a president on merit, supported by a majority appears far more appropriate in a western democracy but there is one, maybe two big failings: first the transition from here to there is fraught with so many risks I genuinely feel it really isnt worth the candle, and second, any president would be a short term appointment and, even one without power of consequence would want to make their mark before departing the stage. I struggle to think of any current Brit who’d fill the role satisfactorily.

So what are we stuck with? I’m not about to get all nerdy and review the basis of our monarchy. It makes little sense. There are few written rules and most of what happens today has developed as custom and practice over the years. No one really has a clue about our constitution. That is a weakness in that you can’t point to anything really solid and immutable; equally we aren’t stuck with an absurd second amendment allowing everyone to carry enough weaponry to make Bruce Willis feel unprotected because of the lack of a standing army 250 years ago. It’s lack of clarity is its constant flexibility.

To consider our monarch some sort of check and balance on power is a nonsense. Were the King to really take issue with something and, say, refuse to enact the decision of government, it would merely lead to the King being ignored (maybe not by the press, but certainly by the politicians). The King reads out ‘his’ agenda at the start of every parliament but he has no say in the words. The Queen was good at deadpanning it; I wonder if Charlie will look like he’s swallowed a wasp at some of what he has to say in ‘his’ agenda.

He’s a mouthpiece only. He parrots policy. Not really an edifying role for an educated intelligent human.

We have a democracy in Parliament, you see, only it’s an odd form of democracy. I don’t think anyone really believes what we call our democratic system is a pure form of that ideal. When a political party can command a majority of over 100 votes on less than 40% of the national vote, you wonder at that concept.

Yet, there’s no real incentive to change it. Mostly that’s self serving because we have two behemoths of political parties – the Conservatives and Labour – who’ve dominated politics for a century since the Liberals imploded after WW1 (and all that happened was Labour replaced them in what had been a two party arrangement for 150 years before that, with Tories and Whigs followed by Tories and Liberals).

There have always been fringe parties. Irish Nationalists preceded the Scots Nats of today and the DUP, Sinn Fein and others from Northern Ireland. We have the rump of the Liberals and the Greens and the occasional flurry of more right wing vehicles for dissatisfaction. But rarely do they amount to much and when they do hold the balance of power, it’s not enjoyable for anyone – usually (some enjoyed the Con-Lib coalition of 2010-2015, but like all political careers hereabouts that ended in failure for both its adherents)

Maybe we will see a hung parliament in 2024. Maybe that will exert more pressure to reform our ‘first past the post’ system. Hmm. It sounds good, modern, appropriate but our system is a fragile construct. Carry out fundamental change and watch the unintended consequences spiral us into… heavens knows. All that one can say for certain is it wont be what was anticipated, it wont be pretty and we wont be able to go back.

We have a monarchy because we cant really be bothered with the faff of changing it. It costs lost of money; it brings in lots of money. It makes us look antiquated; it makes us look stable. It perpetuates elitism; it stops anyone thinking they are all important because there’s always that King person above them.

It’s unutterably cruel on those poor souls born to it. On the downside, you can leave but you end up like Harry – not really wanting to go – or Andrew – not really believing you cant stay.

They say that everywhere the royals go smells of fresh paint, they have no idea about traffic lights and their thumbs have evolved to fit scissors more easily because of the rope and ribbon cutting.

And all that fancy dress and bling. All those military uniforms. I wonder if, secretly they yearn for Ikea after a life spent fighting with an ormolu desk or a rococo toilet.

We pride ourselves on our animal charities, on our love of pets, on our kindness to animals, yet our biggest, longest surviving zoo fills our screens and papers almost daily with the hee-hawings of the Windsor faction.

There really is little point to having it, save that without it we’d no longer be able just to muddle through and we’d probably end up being like the French with their power to the people politics.

No, while there are still sentient beings willing to undertake the given roles in the soap opera, lets keep recommissioning the series. There’s enough human conflict and misery within the script writer’s remit to keep us all engaged.

And, of course, this year there’s a coronation which will drag us back to dusty traditions, some of which will be less than 100 years old and some which will hark to a time when being King carried some oomph. Butting will fly, London will be rammed, the TV schedules will become vehicles for dull voices intoning geeky facts and we will get an extra bank holiday.

It’s all hugely irrelevant when set against the current inflation, the cost of fuel and food, the arguments over refugees or our polluted rivers. Except that, without it, we’d probably have some interminable dirge as a National Anthem. Say what you want about God Save The King. Having a tradition of only singing one verse means it is mercifully short.

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published several books: a four book series following Harry Spittle as he grows from hapless student to hapless partner in a London law firm; four others in different genres; a book of poetry; four anthologies of short fiction; and a memoir of my mother. I have several more in the pipeline. I have been blogging regularly since 2014, on topic as diverse as: poetry based on famous poems; memories from my life; my garden; my dog; a whole variety of short fiction; my attempts at baking and food; travel and the consequent disasters; theatre, film and book reviews; and the occasional thought piece. Mostly it is whatever takes my fancy. I avoid politics, mostly, and religion, always. I don't mean to upset anyone but if I do, well, sorry and I suggest you go elsewhere. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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39 Responses to The Constitution Of An Oaf

  1. willowdot21 says:

    Hear, hear couldn’t agree more!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Annoné Butler says:

    Monarchy doesn’t bother me much. Some of which I regard as the most civilised European countries are monarchies – the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Norway etc. They mostly seem to be modern, progressive countries. It works for them so why not for us. I’d like to see a bit less flummery but I suspect that will come over time. Some countries (e.g. Ireland and Germany) seem to have a Presidential system that works well but any transition would be pretty fraught. And, as you say, we have many more pressing matters to concern us.

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      I was prompted by a frustrating day leafing through the paper and finding something royal on every page. Surely there must be some real news somewhere?


  3. One half of the population can’t believe we bother with a monarchy and the other half is all for it – you’ll never convince either side to see differently.
    I still think that The Crown is poisonous, putting words into the actors’ mouths which may or may not (probably not) have been said by members of the Royal Family as it does.
    It’d be lavatory, not toilet !

    Liked by 1 person

  4. joylennick says:

    It may not be conclusive; how could it be, but that’s one of your best pieces of writing, Geoff. In my opinion, neither routes are perfect – is anything?! Put someone in charge of a country for longer than two years, and they will want to own the world, and start a war, like Putin, and the alternative has its faults too. Sadly, greed creeps in at every turn. Hey ho!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Heavy thoughts today, Geoff. Don’t feel I can comment.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Before getting rid of anyone, please, please, please, will someone dispose of Nicholas Witchell. For anyone who doesn’t know who he is, don’t bother looking him up because your ears will fall off, your brain will be addled and, I’m sure, you don’t need to hear sanctimonious claptrap! I served Her Majesty for 28 years and 151 days (true figure) so am a little biased. She and several of the past, and current, Royal family have served the community with marvellous work and I would be sorry to see them go. I’m sure The King will slim down the working royals greatly and will personally do a great job. After him I fear that that we are doomed, not that I’ll be around!


    Liked by 1 person

  7. noelleg44 says:

    A thoughtful consideration, Geoff. The US is not really a democracy, it’s a republic, although there are some who would like it to be a democracy. I rather like that the monarchy holds down a good bit of history for the UK and I thought Queen Elizabeth did a good job of promoting common sense.
    I would like those ridiculous uniforms done away with, though. They look like characters in a Gilbert and Sullivan production.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. tootlepedal says:

    “There have always been fringe parties like the Scottish Nationalists” . . . that depends quite a lot on where you live. In our part of the world, the Tories are the fringe party.

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      Not really when the topic is Westminster not Holyrood and the contrast is with the two main parties there. Of course in Scotland everyone other than the Scots Nats are fringe.


  9. Donna Kennedy says:

    Hi, would you object to me adding you to my Newsletter?

    Thank you!


  10. George says:

    You’ve just articulated my thoughts on the subject far more clearly than I have ever managed to. From now, if asked my opinion, I shall simply reply, “What Geoff said”.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Mick Canning says:

    I don’t think it possible to have more of a dirge than our absolutely ghastly national anthem.

    Other than that, I’ll keep my opinions on this subject to myself, since they are strong opinions!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Willow has already staked out my opinion of “Hear – hear!” as she often does.
    I would offer that your essay would be a great kick off to a part two – a British version of what I would call “The unelected fourth branch of government in the US – The Media” who often seem to wheld more power than either your or our executive office.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. V.M.Sang says:

    You say we’d probably have some dirge for a National Anthem. But the current one is a dirge. It’s not even a National Anthem, in that it says nothing about our nation, but is just a prayer to save the monarch!
    It’s a dreadful and boring tune, too. Think of how uplifting the Marseillaise is, or the Italian one (even though it’s a bit long). Most other countries have good tunes that stir the spirit.
    🙃 As you see, I hate our National Anthem. And why do Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have their own, but England doesn’t? God Save the King is the anthem for the UK!
    But please, not Jerusalem. It has a good tune, yes, but it’s called Jerusalem, for goodness sake–a city in Israel. And it’s very Christian, so does not represent the many different religions and non in this country.
    Apologies, Geoff. Rant over.

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      I agree with all you say (though the Italian is dull). The Welsh is the best one, the Scottish one gratuitously anti English and the Irish trite. The best is the Bosnian one that fits nicely with the Python song ‘Every sperm is sacred’. The temptation to blow a raspberry at the end is almost overwhelming. I’d vote for that.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Widdershins says:

    I still have a moment of ‘what-the-f…’ when I hear ‘King’ instead of ‘Queen’. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

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