16 May 2010

I don't trust Charles Windsor to stay out of politics

Charles Philip Arthur George Windsor, styled the Prince of Wales, is probably going to be King of Great Britain someday.

A proud tradition of republicanism in Britain has faded over the past several decades, as the current monarch has wisely recognised the obsolescence of her own position and has kept her political opinions mostly out of the public eye — about as good as one can expect for any multi-millionaire.

Her eldest son, though, is not touched by the same grace. The Prince of Wales has used his fortune and position to influence the public mood and make political statements on everything from urban planning to new-age religion to magic pixie dust on the NHS to fox-hunting to what brand of butter you should buy.

A private individual is entitled to their own opinion.

But Charles Windsor is not a private individual: he is, someday sooner than any of us like to think, going to be handed not just the sweeping, usually-dormant "reserve powers" of the British monarch, but a bully pulpit above all others, in a unique position of public trust, from which he could state and even set policy without any meaningful democratic oversight short of an insurrection.

He doesn't act the benevolent prince now; I don't trust him to act the benevolent king later.

The British system of government is a democratic veneer over a byzantine, archaic patchwork of a deal between the aristocrats, the entrenched bureaucrats and the super-rich. If the 2010 election has taught us one thing, it is that the system needs not reform but reconstruction.

A monarchy, no matter how benign, can never truly represent the people.

If Mr Windsor wants a say in politics, he can vote like everyone else, and he can stand for parliament the way his cousin Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha did in Bulgaria.

Otherwise, he should stay out of the way and make room for genuine democracy.

[Here's an associated Facebook group!]

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