Edwina Currie, Alex Salmond, Yann Martel and other public figures tell us whether the monarchy is good for Britainby Prospect / March 23, 2011 / Leave a comment
Published in April 2011 issue of Prospect Magazine
Eric Hobsbawm, historian
Constitutional monarchy without executive power has proved a reliable framework for liberal-democratic regimes, such as in the Netherlands, Belgium, Britain and Spain. It is likely to remain useful, if only because it removes politics from the succession problem. (Imagine having to choose any member of the present and past governments as president.) It won’t do any harm for a monarch to practise a religion, but there is no case for identifying a multi or non-religious country with a monarch who is the head of a single faith. Monarchy has ceased to be of relevance to most inhabitants of the Commonwealth. This is likely to become clear after the death of the present Queen.
Bonnie Greer, playwright and critic
Despite accepting an award from the Queen and thinking the current royals do a good job, the monarchy no longer serves the nation’s best interests. It acts as a cover for the country’s real rulers: the oligarchy. The British end up echoing Hilaire Belloc’s refrain: “always keep a-hold of Nurse/For fear of finding something worse.”
Andrew Adonis, former transport secretary
If one had to design a head of state for a parliamentary democracy, Elizabeth II is as good as it gets. A symbol of unity and continuity, she is non-partisan, judiciously encouraging of virtue and public spirit, and raises the tone and expectations for national life where few others, least of all the media, do. Her being head of the Church of England—a state church where belief in the 39 articles, or even God, is optional—helps. But the Commonwealth does not matter to modern Britain, and it surpasses understanding that Canada or Australia would still want a head of state from another country.
Edwina Currie, author and former politician
The prospects for the monarchy look good to me. If we didn’t have them, Tony Blair…