Advantages A check on politics and politicians
Disadvantages Not always comfortable in the media age
Am I cheating? The question is: "does Britain still need a monarchy?" - to which the answer is of course not, any more than France needs a President or Germany a Chancellor. Well, cheating or not, I'm going to pretend I read, "does Britain benefit from its monarchy?"My answer is yes, on three distinct counts. And I am also concerned that the last and most important is being eroded...
My first reason you either sympathise with or you don't: tradition. Our monarchy and constitution are thoroughly intertwined, and the institution of monarchy provides a wonderful single focal point for many important structures of society.A few people seem to have entirely missed the point that the upshot of having a monarch is that it is the institution, rather than the person, that commands loyalty. Which is not to dismiss the Queen, merely to acknowledge that a great deal of her importance lies in what she represents rather than who she is. The judiciary is, perhaps, the most obvious analogy. A judge expresses her personality - perhaps the best judges are those who are unafraid to show a personality - but there are specific boundaries and responsibilities that the judge must always respect.
Typically, countries without monarchies have many, many 'heads' - which is a recipe for conflict. Countries with monarchies have a single point of reference, a figurehead for an entire generation. And in the United Kingdom, we are fortunate in having (sharing, remember!) a Queen who commands attention and respect throughout the world, not least because of her strict apolitical role.Which leads me on to my second point - the economic and political benefit to the U.K. We are the fourth largest economy on the planet, so it's hardly surprising we have some influence in world affairs - yet somehow that influence exceeds what we might think of as our natural place.
I have been fortunate enough to see the aftermath of more than one royal tour overseas. And I just wish more people could see at first hand what an incredible door-opener such a tour can be to British business and positive international relations. Should it be so? Perhaps not. Is it so? Yes. And I for one am glad!And, without wanting to relegate the monarchy to a tourist attraction, without a doubt royal events and habitations exert a strong draw. I did used to have some concern about the cost of it all, but now the royal list is being drawn rather shorter I believe the monarchy gives value for money.
Last I want to consider the check the monarch represents to individual political power. Democracy is a wonderful institution, yet its great unsolved issue is that 99% of those who obtain high office seem to be greatly motivated by thoughts of personal power and rather little by the desire to serve.The electoral moon creates huge tidal flows - favours bestowed and enemies slighted on the flood, gestures of universal beneficence on the ebb. The monarchy does not prevent these tides, but it does moderate them. High office can be only so high, and in particular the highest political office answers to the highest (apolitical) authority.
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