Outside Buckingham Palace yesterday
I’ve never been one for claiming psychic powers but try this for size. Early afternoon yesterday the thought occurred, courtesy one of those random associative chains – their links no sooner forged than forgotten – the mind’s humdrum chatter churns out 24/7, that Prince Philip is dead. Well, I told myself, it can’t be long before his widow – on the throne more years than I, though seventy this month, have been drawing breath – follows suit.
When Jackie got home a few hours later with the news that the lady had done precisely that, I briefly entertained the idea I may be paranormally gifted. Then I recalled all those other days – infrequent, yes, but they do stack up over a decade or two – when I’d had thoughts of a similar nature: thoughts not subsequently elevated to prophetic status in the world of time and space; cause and effect.
Regardless, was she a Good Person? Don’t know, don’t much care. What I do know is this:
- In an illusion wrapped in a chimera – that of a constitutional monarch within a genuine democracy – she had the power to dismiss her government, with her armed forces solemnly oathed to support her in the event of any dispute on the matter. Of course this power is little used, though we should note the 1976 dismissal of Gough Whitlam’s Labour Government in Australia. The British ruling class has a plethora of seemingly arcane powers – cards for a rainy day, either unknown to the public else dismissed as harmless but colourful pageant – but none trump that ace of spades, the British Crown.
- This leads to a wider point. It matters not one whit whether and to what degree Elizabeth II was onboard with Gough Whitlam’s ouster. We needn’t suppose the powers invested in her to be a personal thing. While there’s ample evidence of their use to veto legislation on matters affecting her family, that is a damning but not pivotal issue. More important is that these powers exist to maintain class rule under threat. Given that an anonymous general declared, following Jeremy Corbyn’s election as Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition, that the armed forces might stage a coup in the event of his becoming prime minister, we again do well to remind ourselves to whom those forces pledge fealty. And let me say it again: for purposes of class rule it matters not whether that fealty is to a real person or a figurehead – though in truth both apply.
- Even as a real person, with that symbolic role set aside – it should not be forgotten how extraordinarily wealthy, which is to say powerful, Britain’s monarch, and senior royals like the man finally promoted to the top job, truly are. So toxic a mix of opulence and powers only part-hidden from view is not to be underestimated.
Naturally I am a republican, as any socialist must be. But this is not to say class rule depends on a royal family. Other equally rapacious powers – France and the USA spring instantly to mind – manage perfectly well to loot the planet as republics. But I won’t for a moment forget, as the world’s media and Britain’s in particular stage a hagiographic orgy over the death of one of the seven billion souls who inhabit this scorching earth, that as far as British class rule is concerned, the monarchy will continue to play a highly significant role.
The Queen is dead – short live the King!
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