So now that the Union Jacks have been furled (or at least spray-painted to turn them into George Crosses), is it an appropriate time for the big question? Probably not. But then it never is: which makes me suspect that it’s not really that big after all. So instead let’s have a bit of fun with it.
To kick off, do we need a Head of State at all? I’m talking constitution rather than society here. All the Queen does, in our system, is rubber-stamp legislation which we, through Parliament, have already enacted. (As an aside, just to stir up the stew, do Acts passed by the Scottish Parliament get the Royal Assent? I don’t know.) So that’s not much of a role. She could say ‘No’, but I doubt she will. So in theory we could just eliminate that whole top tier. But we’re not that radical, so let’s assume the answer is ‘Yes’.
Which of course raises the more important question: what’s a Head of State’s job? There are two models here, which I can conveniently characterise as the British and the French. Other examples of the British model are Ireland, Sweden and Spain. Of the French one, Germany, USA and Russia. In the first, it’s constitutionally and politically formal and neutral; in the second, it’s politically (and often even constitutionally – think of Italy) active and partisan.I don’t think the British would want a political President. If I’m right, and we were to go for abolishing the Monarchy, we would be choosing a constitution in which a powerless hereditary individual was replaced by a powerless elected one. Big deal? But then there’s the social aspect.
That’s what really matters. Given our history, I think we’re looking at a massive culture shock. Some will say that that’s exactly what’s needed, a good shake-up – I agree , but if we have to shake anything, let’s start with the newly sprouted leylandii and the knotweeds rather than the mature oaks. Whatever you may feel about injustice on the broader field, carping about irreversible historic wealth and privilege is a stupid place to start. Get over the distractions – last weekend proves that we’re more than capable of enjoying distractions - and get focussed on the real stuff.