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DEMOCRATIC REPUBLICAN PARTY NEWSLETTER
For a Civic and Constitutional Republic
Issue No 105 26 August 2012
Highlighting news stories important to the Civic Republican view, particularly those that are overlooked or little covered in the main media.
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Peter Kellow gives a personal point of view
I suppose “prudish” is a word that people are absolutely terrified of now. To be accused of being prudish is the final insult. We live in a society where anything goes as long as (as least superficially) no one is being harmed and everyone is consenting as free adult individuals to whatever act
Watching people commentating on the incident in a Las Vegas hotel, in which the third in line to the position of head of state as monarch is photographed in what would have been called an orgy in the old days, I wonder if I am the only one that starts to feel a little out of kilter with standard contemporary morals. The consensus view seems to be that this is a young man of 27 doing what young men of 27 normally do, that is to say, indulge in group sex with young women that apparently they hardly know. Perfectly normal. That is where the morals of our society are positioned. Commentators keep saying he has done nothing wrong - in any sense, wrong
I am no expert on the activities of young people today, but I find it difficult to believe that many behave like this. The general feeling seems to be that serial monogamy is the order of the day. But even if this sort of activity is widespread that does not mean it is all OK.
I strongly suspect that the truth is that orgies like this are not so common. What is going on here is something that royals have often indulged in throughout history. The royal prince is being granted favours because he is royal and famous and in line to the throne. He is using the position that the bloodline bestows on him to get favours from women that probably would not be so readily given if he was an ordinary chap.
But the standard response does not make this connection between his position as a prominent royal and being granted sexual favours – as if the two were absolutely unconnected. But if you do start to join up the dots you come to the conclusion that his conduct reflects deeply on the office of monarchy. It is no good to say he is only (only!) third in line to the throne. If something terrible happened to his brother this guy would almost certainly become king – except for the fact that we will have had the republican revolution before that. But that last qualification should not be a consideration and I doubt it is a calculation that Harry has made.
I will return to the question of ascendency in a moment but the media have dwelt on the theme that Harry was doing something in a private place with people he had privately invited and that like anyone else should have a right to privacy from the prying eyes of the press. But once privacy is broken the issue of privacy is irrelevant. The information is in the public domain as a matter of fact. And the fact that the privacy was not broken by a paparazzi with a telephoto lens but one of Harry’s “friends” is surely relevant. The betrayal suggests that “private” is a doubtful word to describe the goings on in the Vegas hotel suite. Harry demonstrably invited people he could not trust and so how private and personal was this soiree in reality?
The idea that his conduct, whether private or not, does not matter is ludicrous. Of course it matters. It would matter for someone selected for office by democratic means (and quite a few have blown their political careers like this) so why should it not matter for someone selected by bloodline? Not one person ever argued that the conduct of Dominique Strauss-Kahn in a private hotel room in New York was irrelevant to his becoming France’s head of state.
The whole episode suggests there is more to it than we know. It smells. Why choose Las Vegas? This city is hardly the place to seek normal good clean company and entertainment. Why does he need to meet his “friends” in one of the world’s capitals of gambling, prostitution and organised crime? What sort of "friends" choose such a place for “typical 27 year old” shindigs?
And has no one got anything to say about whether the sex that took place was safe? Was the sexual health of the women checked out beforehand? Is there a chance that a new royal blooded baby might ensue from the Vegas adventure? Has one of women tricked him into a royal scandal? It would be an easy way of making a fortune overnight for a commoner with no royal fortune. Harry was hardly prudent about the possibility of being photographed and so it is reasonable to ask whether he kept his head together concerning other risks.
Some of those questions that would be asked of any other “fun loving” 27 year old, and so why not ask them of a possible future King of England? Presumably because we don’t want to be seen to be “prudish”.
Another aspect of this tawdry business that does not enter the discourse in Britain is how other countries and cultures see this. Not everyone shares the supposed western consensus that group sex is just fine and dandy. Not just Muslim countries but others in the east would find this unacceptable. And what about the truly Christian groups of people in Africa and South America? Might they too be uncomfortable with our prevailing sexual mores? This not to mention religious groups in Britain that one day could be the subjects of King Harry
Republicans in history, particularly in Britain, have a reputation for being puritan. Indeed in the era of the First British Republic in the seventeenth century most republicans were Puritans with a capital “P”. “Puritan” like “prudish” has become a dirty word but we surely need to redress the balance here. If we find Harry’s conduct in Vegas quite normal, should we not start to admit that we have descended into something approaching licentiousness – some would say decadence. The point is if we maintain no values about sexual conduct, how can we maintain them about other matters? There is a case to be made that the lack of attention to justice in our society may go hand in hand with a lack of attention to morality in general.
Whatever we may think of the more “prudish” views of others we should certainly respect them. If not they cannot be expected to respect us. Am I the only person in Britain to feel that to have a head of state with a history of this kind of activity would constitute and unacceptable embarrassment? I have heard no one publicly express such misgivings.
But to return to the matter of the real possibility of Harry’s ascendency to the throne, does his character not make it reasonable to ask if he really is who he says he is? In choosing someone by democratic election we naturally expect that the election process should be above suspicion and publicly be demonstrated to be so. Should we not demand the same level of transparent probity in respect of selection by bloodline. To be specific, we can see the guy is a Spencer but how do we, the people, know he is a Windsor? His mother was notoriously loose of morals and choosing of sexual partners, even inside her marriage to Charles, and this is a matter of record.
Harry should be subjected to an independent DNA test and the results made public. We are right to ask whether Charles could have fathered such a jerk – especially a jerk that does not look remotely like him or any member of his family.
Richard Middle writes
I have noticed a tide of monarchism and censorship sweeping through the BBC, in recent years. A few months ago, in Andrew Marr's amalgam of panegyric, propaganda and photo album, we saw high-definition hagiography reach either its zenith (in the view of monarchists) or its nadir (in that of republicans and TV critics).
Strangely, Marr himself has openly criticised the honours system in The Guardian. There must have been a different motive for making The Diamond Queen. I have to say that the title makes it sound as if Her Britannic Majesty is a very wealthy Cockney.
I can't see the current honours system surviving, if Labour win the next general election. Even the Lord Lieutenants of several counties are calling for radical reform. This sort of thing matters to republicans because it helps to change the culture of Britain. Only ninety-two hereditary peers are allowed to vote in the Lords. Soon, they will be gone. With three exceptions, no commoners have been given hereditary peerages since the mid-1950s. The hereditary principle is no longer accepted, so why, then, do we have a hereditary head of state? Reformers keep chipping away at the monolith and, eventually, cracks begin to appear.
One explanation for the new-found enthusiasm of "Auntie Beeb" for all things royal may be the retirement of more liberal, more cultured, more thoughtful, grammar-school-educated, baby- boomer managers and their replacement with career-orientated, power-hungry, status-obsessed, independent-school-produced "children of Thatcher".
It is fair to assume that, as time goes on, institutions like the BBC will become more right wing. Thatcherism's main strategy involved the destruction of the working classes, and working-class attitudes and loyalties; the replacement of the old social order with a new one, more like that of modern America, in which everyone would be "middle class" and in which, therefore, it would be natural for most people to vote Conservative. That objective had largely been achieved by the early 1990s.
The Palace and other elements of the Establishment may also have been applying pressure but, as Buckingham Palace now has a complete exemption from the Freedom of Information Act, we have no way of knowing what anyone gets up in "The Firm". Courtiers have been known to throw their weight around, when dealing with the media. See http://www.theage.com.au/entertainment/tv-and-radio/palace-gags-the-chasers-take-on-royal-wedding-20110427-1dwg0.html.
What we've observed at the BBC is a perfect illustration of the way, in which British society and the British state function. Britain is not a liberal-democracy, built on a foundation of respect for the rights of individuals, as equals in the eyes of the law and institutions of government. [Financial and economic equality are different matters and altogether more difficult to achieve.] It is a corporate state, where the only question of importance for those in positions of power is "How much influence does the person I'm dealing with have?".
An attempt by senior BBC managers and presenters to procure a few medals or post-nominal abbreviations for themselves (if that really was the reason for their acquiescent attitude towards royal propagandists) is hardly going to kill many people but it is still wrong in principle.
It is wrong because the BBC is promoting one political philosophy and excluding another. It is wrong because, in state which claims to believe in the rule of law, no one should be above criticism. It is also wrong because members of the nomenklatura [whether they are in the Cabinet Office, Downing Street, the Palace and the honours committee, which are responsible for gongs; the Cabinet and the Culture Ministry, which grant the BBC its Royal Charters; or the unaccountable, overpaid upper tier of bureaucracy in the BBC itself] are running publicly funded public services for their own benefit and that of their confederates and not for the benefit of the public.
The BBC cannot be truly independent, while its funding arrangements are controlled by the government of the day. At the same time, the Corporation should be accountable for its spending, as if it were funded by ordinary taxation. Could some sort of capital-trust-and-mutual-society co-operative, co-ownership model be the answer? The state could endow a trust with assets, from which the BBC could procure a steady income in perpetuity and viewers and listeners could join the mutual section for a fee, thereby gaining a right to vote at the AGM.
Incidentally, Bradlaugh's objection to the oath was really based on the requirement for MPs to "swear by Almighty God", when pledging their allegiance to the Crown. He was the founder of the National Secular Society and leader of its eliminationist wing. Trust me. I'm a Humanist committee member. [I'm a rare bird in modern Humanism because I believe that it should be a positive and practical philosophy and I'm interested in the history of secular groups, which stretches back over hundreds of years.]
Dr Starkey, always erudite as well as entertaining, is full of contradictions. On the one hand, he appears in the media as the little boy in the Hans Christian Andersen tale, who has the courage to tell several Emperors that they have no clothes. On the other, he says he is a "convinced Tory" (although it's now hard to tell which variety of "Torysim" he favours). It seems to me that he usually settles for what he considers to be the least worst option, among those available at the time. He has little expectation that something better might be available in future. He may be cynical and blunt but it would be grossly unfair to say that he lacks imagination.
[The BBC certainly lacks imagination. The idea of putting excerpts from Shakespeare's history plays together was copied from a radio series, recorded and broadcast in 1977 at the time of the Silver Jubilee. It was called "Vivat Rex".]
It could be that Dr Starkey is resigned to the fact that mankind is beyond redemption! Perhaps he despises all politicians and sees Tories merely as the best of a very bad bunch. Labour and the Lib Dems can't be trusted but, desperate though they are to be believed, they look as if they can't be trusted. In contrast, when a Tory tells a lie, everyone knows, somewhere in the recesses of his mind, that it is probably a lie but, somehow, many of us are overcome by the hypnotic power of the well-dressed, confidence trickster.
Dr Starkey's tendency to support convenient solutions at the expense of ethically sound ones is evident in his examination of the monarchy and republicanism. As he told an interviewer a few years ago, his main reason for making television programmes or writing books about kings and queens is that the subject is popular and therefore lucrative. He knows how to spot a weakness and exploit it, whether it's the sentimentality of the British public or the Leader of the Opposition's rather "Balcolmesque" voice. [I refer to a television commerical for Tunes, which was shown about thirty years ago. "Balcolm" wanted a "decond-class redurn doo Dottingham", as you may recall.]
Dr Starkey has also said that the monarchy's best defence is the prospect of Anthony Charles Linton Blair [I like to imagine a Crown Court judge carefully enunciating those names, followed by the words "...you have been found guilty of...". Don't we all?] becoming "His Excellency, the President of Great Britain" and Cherie being the First Lady. It is indeed a powerful emetic, as the good doctor might say, but one has a right to expect a more original argument from someone of his calibre. At least the name of (the unfairly maligned) Roy Hattersley is no longer flapped about in newspapers or on current affairs programmes- like a tacky, irritating message that one might see being towed behind a light aircraft- as the main "reason" for opposing a republic.
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