Statement by Sean Gabb
For the Libertarian Alliance
On the Happy Occasion of the Royal Wedding
29th April 2011
On behalf of those Officers of the Libertarian Alliance who do not yet regard the Monarchy with the contempt it richly deserves – which may or may not for the moment include me – I wish to congratulate William Mountbatten-Windsor and Catherine Middleton on this evening before the happy occasion of their nuptials.
I must say that, although thoughts of an “elected” President incline me to projectile vomiting, my own regard for the Monarchy has been sorely tested over the past three or four decades. It does not concern me if Her Present Majesty is not a woman of great intellectual distinction – after all, our last Monarch who did not at least border on the subnormal was James I, and he was a Scotchman without potty training. Worse by far than slight stupidity is lack of character and lack of judgement.
Let it be granted that our Her Present Majesty is now a shambling old woman in her eighties. Until she became that, however, there was much she could have done to slow the progress of England into a sinister laughing stock. In strict law, she is our Head of State and Supreme Governor of the Church of England and Commander in Chief of the armed forces. She appoints all the bishops and judges and all the ministers and civil servants. She declares war and all treaties are signed on her behalf. The only thing she cannot do is make laws by her own authority and impose taxes. She must have the consent of Parliament for both. She can also veto any parliamentary bill she dislikes – and her veto cannot be overriden by any weighted majority vote of Parliament.
During the past three centuries, the convention first emerged and then hardened that all these powers are exercised in practice by a Prime Minister who is leader of the majority party in the House of Commons. The power of veto has not, I think, been exercised since 1708. The tacit deal has been that we regard whoever wears the Crown in public as the Lord’s Anointed, and the Monarch acts only on the advice of a Prime Minister who is ultimately accountable to us.
The resulting constitution is unwritten, and is usually rather opaque to foreign observers, who tend to the error either that the Monarch is all-important or that England is some kind of republic. Neither is the case. The deal described above rests on the assumption that politics is other than a cartel of tyrants and traitors. When the politicians begin to abolish the rights of the people, it is the duty of the Monarch to step in and to rebalance the Constitution.
That duty has been apparent since at least 1972, when we were lied into the European Union. Elizabeth the Useless should have acted then. There have been many times since when she should have acted. At all times, she could have sacked the Government and dissolved Parliament without provoking riots in the street. So far as I can tell, she has acted only twice in my liftetime to force changes of policy. In 1979, she bullied Margaret Thatcher to go back on her election promise not to hand Rhodesia over to a bunch of black Marxists. In 1987, she bullied Margaret Thatcher again to give in to calls for sanctions against South Africa.
And that was it. She is somewhere on record as having said that she regards herself more as Head of the Commonwealth than as Queen of England. Certainly, I have never seen evidence that she has lifted a finger to defend the rights of her English subjects. In my view, that abolishes my duty of allegiance to her or any of her likely successors – who are equally useless. All that stops me from becoming a committed republican, as said, is the certainty that a head of state chosen by any of the likely other methods would be still worse.
I sometimes feel regret that a constitution that reconciled liberty with political stability for longer than any other in recorded history has been subverted. More often, I range between bitterness and anger. I used to regard the French Revolutionaries with all the horror of a smug and patriotic Englishman. Nowadays, I think rather fondly of the tumbrils and the guillotine and those ghastly women knitting away beneath it….
But I suspect I am wandering from my stated theme. On behalf of the Libertarian Alliance – with the reservations stated above – I wish all happiness and prosperity to the Royal couple. At the last Royal Wedding, back in 1981, I spent most of the day in bed, listening to Die Meistersinger. This time, I suspect I shall be bullied into having a shave and watching every ghastly detail on the telly. Well, at least Tony Blair and Gordon Brown will not be polluting the event by their presence. If the Mountbatten-Windsors had shown a little more backbone when these wretches were in office, I might think more of them today.