Thursday, 7 June 2012

The Jubilee: a Reply to Craig Murray

I was hoping you wouldn’t be so restrained!  That you’d offer a better target for a sniping attack. Oh, well.  At least I have a little to work with; even though most of what you say is fair, except for that last comment which throws your piece out of balance; and suggests why many (most?) find the left liberal position offensive.  The guillotine…  Here at least is something you have given me.

Walking around some English streets – of Whitby, Norwich, Cambridge, Leeds and London – what struck me was the lack of public enthusiasm: there were few flags, and only one photograph, in the houses I walked past.  Only in the shops, pubs and old people’s homes (and here I suspect arranged more by the staff than the residents) did they appear in any great numbers.  In Norwich, I counted three street parties; one of which seems to have been organised by a local deli (I suspect there were more, but the area I covered was reasonably extensive).  While inside a local café bookshop I was told bluntly by a pensioner, I thought they might be closed for the occasion, that they don’t do the queen here.

The sense I got in all these places was a general indifference.  The holiday mattered more than the occasion, and the people who watched the television coverage were more interested in the spectacle and the celebrities than the monarchy itself – just like you, in fact. 

Were people really enthused by patriotism, as you suggest?  I wonder.  Is it really the case that the crown is still an important, that is an instinctive, symbol of British identity for most people – football is more so, surely for the English; rugby for the Welsh.  Even if I am wrong on this last point I don’t think that many people were feeling overly patriotic on these two bank holidays.  They were enjoying the time off.  Whoopee!  Largely indifferent to everything else.

I suspect there was one exception.  The republican left; filling up the twitter and blogger traffic with acrimony and jokes in bad taste.  I could be wrong, of course.  However, last year’s royal wedding was too much for me: I couldn’t face reading so much about the monarchy again; and so have avoided the left wing sites, along with the BBC and the Daily Mail.

Interesting that you that connect the royal box with rising inequality.  I also think there is a link, but my views belong very much on the other side of the street: it could be that the decline of the aristocracy has helped create the conditions for this trend; by replacing one class, the aristocrats, who used to have a range of values, with another, the financiers and CEOs, whose only interest is the profit motive - a new ruling class that is rampantly capitalist.  With the decline of the aristocracy a certain restraint has thus been removed from our governing elites; and reflected in the figures you quote.  This position, which I think has some truth, is brilliantly argued by Adam Curtis in his The Mayfair Set.

Contrary to your views it may be that the monarchy could be a way towards a progressive politics, by at the very least creating tensions in a not necessarily cohesive British elite; unlike in America where there seems to be more of a single business class; one of the dangers of the republican position.

This is purely speculative.  A more practical solution, and the best, is to simply ignore the monarchy; and completely.   Once the TV is turned off the Queen ceases to exist – for you or me.  And I think this is the case for most people in the country: a few minutes to pass the time before the evening dinner or the bank holiday night shag.  Afterwards will they be dreaming of Prince Philip and Princess Anne?  Surely not. 

So if most people, when asleep, don’t dress up Prince Edward in frilly knickers or the Queen in a thong and leather boots, why is the left obsessed with these royal occasions?  It has often puzzled me…  Because they have nothing better to do?  Are they, like the rest of us, just a little too lazy?  Their reading and viewing matter the mainstream media; so sharing the same worldview, though giving it a different spin?  Are they like those (not so) clever Cambridge students who show their disapproval by wearing t-shirts of a moustachioed Queen?  What a waste of time!  And how predictably stale.  Instead, why not create a new world, which to be fair to you, you do, rather than standing behind the barriers carping as the processions go by.

The left, it seems, has to keep the TV on all day; and always there is the Guardian over the morning Weetabix.  But why not visit another century?  Investigate England’s own Al-Qaeda – Hawkins and Drake and the other English terrorists of the first Elizabeth’s reign.  Too busy, of course… pointing out the obvious… the bias of the corporate media.

I am being unfair to you Craig.  Your’s is a brief post, and reasonable and relatively restrained; except for that last paragraph, where your humour and analysis starts to wobble – intoxicated with the bank holiday? 

This reply is longer than I intended, but is not long enough… If you are interested, and you may not be after this, you may want to read my This is Kitsch, an attack on Johann Hari’s foolish criticisms of the monarchy at the time of the royal wedding.  It is an extended piece on why the left should leave the Queen and her mates alone: it’s about as much good as attacking Noel Edmonds.   

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