If I ruled the world: Irvine Welsh

Put women in charge and grant England independence
April 23, 2014















"There is a certain elegance in accepting that anything goes"

© Richard Chambury/Rex

The first thing I would do as ruler would be to set up an all-female government. Aside from myself there would be no men in power at all. The patriarchy has failed miserably, and it’s time for a fresh approach. There has always been the odd woman who assumes masculine characteristics in order to succeed, such as Margaret Thatcher, but it would be a very different situation if we filled all positions of power with women—the key benefit being a global shift away from war and empire building, towards creating better opportunities for the next generation of citizens.

Any hierarchical hereditary principles of government would be also abolished—it negates democracy. If you create an elite you are saying that not everyone can achieve their ultimate goals. I would abolish the monarchy and the House of Lords—they are anachronistic, irrelevant and their existence sends a message that elitism is engrained in our society and culture.

Since I would be a ceremonial head of state, I could happily retreat to a small tropical island and get on with my writing and enjoying my life. I would have effectively opted out of society but would speak to my advisors by conference call once a week to check everything was ticking over and that the constitution, which I would have drawn up beforehand, was being followed.

When I was first considering world domination it crossed my mind to include a clause in the constitution stating that all books other than mine should be burnt. But, this power thing is a bit strange—I wouldn’t really want to control people’s reading habits. Hopefully my new government would devise a more effective education system which would result in the creation of more works of quality rather than the escapist fluff that you see everywhere.

The way we put our arts and culture right is to take pride in what we do instead of trying to be the 51st state of America. It’s ridiculous to claim that films such as Gravity are British. It makes us look pathetic and needy, when our own independent films would do just as well if they got more exposure. At the Cannes film festival a few years ago I was standing in a hotel lobby with this beautiful Hollywood actress. A camera crew came rushing towards her and she patted her hair to make sure it was in place. They walked right past her and started filming this wee fat guy who apparently is a massive star in France. The crew didn’t know who this Hollywood star was and didn’t give a fuck about her. It was a brilliant illustration of how things should be.

Linguistically, I’ve already made an impact on the world. I noticed that “cunt” and “cuntish” recently made it into the Oxford English Dictionary, which I feel I must take some responsibility for. I think language is a living thing, it’s fluid and societies constantly evolve different words, but it’s weird when people in Britain start spouting a second-hand version of American street slang. “Smashed it,” which has become business speak, derives from “smashed it out the park,” which is a baseball term. People misuse it because they fail to understand its cultural origins.

I would grant Scotland independence, and England and Wales, too. The UK state hasn’t delivered, economically or socially, what the people of Scotland need. Nor, I think, has it delivered what the people of England need. England had a mission to be an inclusive multicultural nation and this old-fashioned imperialist UK has stopped it from fulfilling its political destiny, as much as it has stopped Scotland from fulfilling its, by becoming a more social democratic state. The problem with the UK is that there are too many elites grandfathered into the system. If you get rid of all that clutter you can create a stronger democracy where the people who are doing useful things in society are the ones getting rewarded for it. That would be a much healthier model of government.

But I would still try to foster a more inclusive sense of Britishness. Getting rid of a political entity could improve relations between Scotland and its neighbours. People might be more willing to embrace the concept of “Britishness” if it wasn’t presented as a political expression of the UK as a state but rather as a group of regions with different but complimentary cultures.

The legalisation of all drugs would also be on my agenda. Celebration and festival are integral parts of our culture, and are fuelled by intoxication. Even in Islam you have whirling dervishes who are effectively trying to get off their head by spinning round; that desire to alter consciousness is implicit in every culture, and taking intoxicants is just another manifestation of it. There is a certain elegance in accepting that anything goes.

As told to Serena Kutchinsky