Thursday 28 April 2011

The royal scam

Like Julie, I had the odd experience this week of finding myself in agreement with the usually Blair-phobic and Labour-loathing Daily Mail, about the guest list for tomorrow's big event: specifically, the failure to invite our last two elected prime ministers, while handing out invitations to leaders and representatives from dictatorial regimes that are currently gunning down their own populations in the street.

Almost as oddly, today I had the rare experience of nodding vigorously while reading the editorial in Murdoch's Thunderer. It's behind the paywall, so I'll take the liberty of quoting from it at length:
Many guests — a full measure of the foreign ambassadorial corps, for instance — will obviously be present for reasons of diplomacy and etiquette, rather than because of any personal connection to the couple.
This being the case, it is a matter of regret that Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, two men who served William’s grandmother as prime minister for a total of 13 years, have not been invited. It has long been speculated that the curious delay in the announcement of William and Kate’s engagement might have something to do with the Queen’s low opinion of Mr Brown, which may have led her to feel unable to tolerate the thought of her grandson marrying while the Scot still occupied Downing Street. The surprising failure to invite the former Prime Minister, while welcoming the Zimbabwean ambassador, among several other undesirables, can only add fuel to such a theory.
The first duty of the Royal Family is that it presides over one, united, kingdom. Thus, it is doubly unfortunate that, while the two former Conservative prime ministers, Baroness Thatcher and Sir John Major, are invited as Knights of the Garter, the two former Labour ones, yet to be so honoured, are not. Such a distinction between the parties is a coincidence, no doubt. But it is a potentially damaging coincidence, and one that reflects badly on whoever is charged with avoiding such pitfalls at St James’s Palace. The royals cannot afford to appear to favour one political party over another. Had the Palace not been so reluctant to provide details of the full guest list, the consequences of this error might have been rectified.
Besides, to Mr Blair, for his guidance in the days after the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, the Windsors ought to feel more than a little indebted. It would be an exaggeration to say that Mr Blair’s assured guidance in those dark days of 1997 saved the monarchy. But it should not be forgotten that after their perceived insensitivity towards events in Paris, the Royal Family were teetering on the brink of serious unpopularity for the first time in decades. The royals were lucky to have Mr Blair on hand to give expression to the national mood in a way that they could not. It ought not to have been too much trouble to have offered him a seat at Westminster Abbey.
When the Mail and the Times, both of them normally deferential to the core, adopt this line, the monarchy had better watch out. And republicans and democrats can only cheer at finding new allies in unexpected places.

Friday 8 April 2011

Back soon

It's been pretty quiet around here lately, I admit. But it's going to be even more somnolent for the next week or so, as I'll be away from regular internet access. Might manage the odd tweet, though. Back in time for Easter.