Naturally you would expect republican blues at a time of joyous national celebration of the monarchy - we’ve seen it all before when the vast majority of the nation (and much of the world) went wild for the Royal Wedding and Diamond Jubilee.
But there is a different kind of melancholy anti-Royal this time, one who laments the lack of airtime given to republican voices, particularly by the BBC. They accuse the corporation of being ‘unbalanced’ (something us so-called right-wingers would never do of course).
This argument doesn’t seem to hold up to much scrutiny. It’s one thing to have a debate about Europe and not call on a Europhile and a Eurosceptic, but this is a news story about the birth of a baby. Yes that baby is a royal, and the third-in-line to the throne, but does the occasion of his birth mean it is absolutely vital to have a debate on republicanism, probably fifty years before he will inherit it?
When the BBC reported on the birth of Brooklyn Beckham, did they call on Arsene Wenger or any of the Arsenal players to discuss whether Manchester United deserved to be champions next season?
Now, had the BBC decided that their coverage of the birth warranted a republican pundit, I doubt I’d have been too bothered. I may have moaned, shouted at the TV, and thought “why did they have them on there?”. But I wouldn’t have had much of a problem with the editorial decision. What particularly rankles about the Twitter gripes of attention-starved hereditary-haters is the arrogance of assuming because a royal is in the news they must be given airtime. I didn’t hear advocates of all-natural childbirth or anti-private hospital treatment campaigners given a platform either, but these equally esoteric special interests could have made the story more ‘balanced’. There is a time and a place to debate republicanism – it was necessary during the Diamond Jubilee when the Queen celebrated 60 years of rule – but some of the republicans desperate to be on television have to accept; not every royal story is about them.
Campaign group Republic even complained:
Perhaps after reviews of their Jubilee coverage, Aunty felt she was republican enough already!
On a separate note, those who support both a small state and the monarchy can take comfort in a National Review article pointing out what a comparatively good deal we get. While our own low-key head of state and family ended up taking about $57million from the public purse last year, the lavish arrangements of the US Presidency cost American taxpayers $1.4 billion. In fact, the office of the President and First Lady are more expensive than all of the royal families of Europe combined.
Sure, Republic would point out that the German Presidency costs less than our own head of state, but what way do we think our politicians – the same ones to have experienced expenses scandals – would go with our own Presidency?
There’s also something to be said for the hereditary aspect. Our monarch is now born an institution rather than a cult-of-personality politician, and therefore acts to constrain the power of our politicians, who serve that symbol of our nation. Even if the alternative was not President Blair/Brown, but rather PM Blair/Brown with President Kinnock signing off on their policies, I hate to think where we’d be as a country. In Italy, aging Communist George Napolitano wanted to quit as his country’s ceremonial head of state after one-term, but when political horse-trading failed to provide a successor, he was co-opted to remain in office.
Not to mention the loss of influence, interest, heritage and tourism that ditching the monarchy would result in. Bloomberg have even predicted a $375million boost to the UK economy from interest in the royal baby.
Finally, it’s worth remembering that the other Commonwealth nations that have retained the monarchy contribute as well. The National Review article set out the financial cost of William and Kate’s visit to Canada. With 15 nations other than our own using one Queen, that’s resource pooling the likes of which Eric Pickles would be proud of in our local councils!