Info for Students » Uncategorized

Change primogeniture? Why not go the whole hog?

Pigs flew, apparentlyMost peoples’ first reaction to Friday’s announcement on changes to the laws of succession to the British throne was probably largely positive. Initially I was with the Prime Minister all the way, perhaps for the first time ever. However the more I thought about it, the more I came around to the realisation that a) actually I don’t care at all, this affects almost no one, but more importantly b) this is actually an incredibly false and cynical move. The Prime Minister, along with the leaders of 15 other Commonwealth countries who have the Queen as their head of state have unanimously decided to end both the tradition of male primogeniture – where a younger son is ahead of an older daughter in the line of succession purely because of his sex – and the ban on the monarch being married to a Roman Catholic. Who doesn’t want sexual and religious equality? It’s not the move as such that annoys me; it’s the clearly cynical motive. David Cameron has always had a problem rebranding his party as liberal and modern, and this is just the latest move in an effort to do so, like apologising for section 28, or hugging a hoody. The Prime Minister wants to win over progressive, middle Britain and thus needs to portray himself as a champion of equality while keeping his conservative base happy by talking up the benefits and significance of the monarchy. Being seen with heads of the commonwealth rather than Sarkozy and Merkel can’t hurt with the eurosceptics who have done him so much damage in the recent days and weeks. The move itself is irrelevant. The likelihood is that it won’t affect who is our head of state for the next sixty or seventy years, if not longer, or ever. The fight for sexual equality is about ending the pay gap and domestic abuse, promoting the right to choose, justice for rape victims and above all changing attitudes. In other words it is about fighting for the rights of the oppressed, not for members of the most privileged family in the country. After all, any daughter of Kate and Wills was always likely to lead a pretty comfortable life. Acts promoting purely formal equality are meaningless; they need have the power to improve the quality of real people’s lives. Of course the whole system is inherently discriminatory anyway. As Graham Smith of the campaign group Republic said, “The monarchy discriminates against every man, woman and child who isn’t born into the Windsor family.” I say if we are going to have a royal family, and if we are going to go down the route of equality, then let’s go all the way. If we’re not going to be sexist, then let’s not be ageist either. Instead of automatically choosing the eldest son or daughter to be our head of state, the royal family can choose amongst themselves who it’s going to be, like a Cambridge Union election. But then if we’re going to start voting we’d better have universal suffrage – so we’ll all vote for our favourite member of the royal family. Camilla anyone? Fergie? Harry as the controversial outsider? “Just for the lols” Phillip? Then of course if we’re going to have universal suffrage, we might as well allow anyone to stand, and I mean anyone. We won’t have any discrimination on the grounds of race, wealth, ethnicity, religion, sex, age, disability, nationality or belief, so we’d better avoid speciesism too. Just think how we could unify around Brian the British bulldog. We could re-establish my favourite official position: Groom of the Stool. People come with baggage; any human being we choose is going to be divisive because some people think he’s too posh, too northern, too Christian, or even, as I overheard in Pret the other day re: Cameron, looks too much like “a single buttock with two eyes stapled on”. I know we can’t have complete equality for positions like Prime Minister, Chancellor and Foreign Secretary, because they are real jobs which require certain capacities, like speech and reason, to fulfil. King or Queen? My vote’s for Gary the Goat…or whatever other alliterative anthropomorphic character you can come up with. At least with Gary we could break that taboo about “royal” names at the same time.

Comments are closed.