Free the Buckingham Palace One - August 2011
Whilst we have a monarchy in Britain (and I see no real desire for an elected Presidency in this country) then we have to manage the relationship between elected politicians and the apolitical monarchy with great caution. Over recent decades there have been numerous attempts to make the Royal Household more accountable, and more 'like us'. The new Sovereign Grant Bill is one of a series of changes demanded by the House of Commons that are having the effect of ending the British Monarchy by stealth. I think it is deeply misguided for two reasons.
Firstly if we require the Monarch and the Heir to the Throne to pay taxes as the rest of us do, and also have their accounts examined by politicians (which we don't), how can we expect them to remain apolitical? Can Prince Charles seriously remain above the political fray when the Duchy of Cornwall is paying tax? The Queen has never commented publicly on the political issues of the day, and yet we now expect her to remain silent when she must clearly have a view about these new arrangements, and will be directly and personally affected by the actions of elected politicians. We risk politicising the British Monarchy.
Secondly, all this does is create a legitimate platform for the Republicans and anti-Monarchists in Parliament to attack the Royal Household - which is constitutionally prevented from answering back. Whether the money in the Royal Household is well-spent or not is of little real consequence politically, unless you want to have a debate about the abolition of the monarchy. An independent audit of the finances to ensure the money is only being properly spent on moats and the like might be appropriate, but opening that up to general parliamentary debate and 'scrutiny' is not for the benefit of our wider political life, but solely for the benefit of the minority of our public figures who wish to see the British Monarchy opened up to ridicule and ultimately abolished.
This move is symptomatic of a bitter Left-wing style of envy politics. It is the same argument that has got rid of the Royal Yacht (which benefited Britain in trips all over the world), has largely ditched the Royal Flight, and now requires our Prime Minister to go on holiday by low cost airline (even though we demand his immediate return at the drop of a hat). Germany has a brand new Airbus 340 for the Chancellor and Head of State... In Britain we have Easyjet and rented NetJets. The republican abolitionists love it, but the rest of the world is laughing.
If we we want to have pride in our institutions then we have to treat them with some degree of respect - if we don't why should the rest of the world? Treating the Queen like the head of a local authority and demanding that she keeps all her receipts is yet another nail in the coffin of our current form of Government.