Why You Can Be A Liberal And Still Love The Queen
After surviving the ‘Be warned he’s a far left writer’ criticism in the US and thinking ‘Hang on, I’m a middle-of-the-road liberal,’ I’m facing something similar in an online question. ‘How can you people support the Queen?’
Well, Elizabeth Windsor celebrated her 90th birthday yesterday, and is the longest reigning royal in British history, and I’m glad. Here’s why;
It’s not just me who’s in favour but 83% of the British population. In the remaining 17% is the Guardian’s Joan Smith, who just ran a poorly reasoned and surprisingly lazy piece of click-bait accusing HRH of failing to be a progressive, reforming monarch, when the facts (none of which she bothered with) suggest the opposite. Even with much work in the business sector hidden from public view (top royals are exempt from the Freedom of Information Act) it’s hard to see how HRH could be accused of not offering value for money. Let’s look at the hard cash.
Ignoring the millions raised through international building and defence contracts and global charities, education programmes and construction, the revenue paid from the Crown to the UK is at a record £285 million. If you remove the Queen’s £35.7 million, the UK is still left with £249 million. This means that our taxes are a little cheaper per person – about four quid a year – than they would be if the Queen did not exist. The money doesn’t include royalty tourism, which is conservatively estimated at £500 million p.a. In other words, she’s a financial asset, not a debit.
Now let’s look at the social perspective.
The Queen has been a constant in my life, before I was born and who knows, maybe even after my death, as an exemplar of decency, fairness and good behaviour. She had already made a lifelong commitment in public before she acceded to the throne. On her 21st birthday, in a radio broadcast from Cape Town the Princess dedicated her life to the service of the Commonwealth. Her mother advised her to remain positive and always find the good in people, saying; “Don’t point a finger at anybody. If you do, remember that three other fingers are pointing back at you.” In terms of political allegiance she has consistently shown a liberal bias toward inclusion and equality.
If you went just by her Christmas Day speeches alone, you’d have learned as a kid, a teen and an adult about duty and honour, compassion, the education and employment of other nationalities and communities, commitment and concern for those less fortunate than ourselves. The Crown rewards those who actively seek to improve the lot of others. These themes have remained the same throughout her reign and are clearly meaningful to her.
By all accounts her favourite Prime Minister was a Labour one, Harold Wilson. Her schedule is one few others could ever manage to maintain (and few other royals have – think of Princess Margaret and Sarah Ferguson). She could have become a distant figurehead, uninvolved with ministerial briefings or raising money or encouraging multiculturalism, but she has chosen to be an active participant throughout her long reign. She handed her life over to her country.
Where next? The general consensus is that we should skip a generation and leave Charles to his flowers, power it all down a little but keep the monarchy in principle. I think there’s something else we rarely touch on – that the presence of the Queen has provided a kind of calm, ordered continuity between past and present, and a powerful sense of national identity that surfaces in unexpected ways.
If we were to switch to a republic, where would the money we save go? To councils like Camden, who recently wasted twenty thousand pounds on ads for an austerity campaign, to Islington, who spent a fortune on revising road layouts that caused one of the biggest traffic snarl-ups in history, and to Hackney, who attempted to sell off parks and have been charged with fraud.
Suddenly HRH looks like a very good deal indeed.