Posted 06 June 2012 - 12:44 PM
There are a number of issues all going on at once when one discusses the monarchy, which is why it so rapidly gets heated.
The first one is constitutional - should the Queen be the Head of State? Personally, my thinking is that a consitutional monarchy is far better (and, ironically, more directly democratic) than a presidential system, but that I can't see (when we have the House of Lords) why we need a titular head of state at all, especially when you realise that no monarch has exercised the veto on legislation since 1707.
The second one is economic - costs versus benefits.
The third one includes the idea of community. It is fairly unarguable that, in a very diverse Britain, the Queen is one of the few unifying factors we possess - Mr Cameron, for comparison, would be a dividing factor. Moreover, the Queen's focus on the Commonwealth gives us insular islanders a very necessary international dimension. Against this, there is the equally unarguable fact that the Queen sits at the top of an elitist, classist system of privileges and honours which have embedded and continue to embed inequality into our society.
The fourth encompasses the idea of human dignity. For myself, I think - for all the faults in the system - the Queen has personally made a very good job of a bad role, and I am quite happy to applaud her for a job well done, in the same way as I might applaud a retiring colleague. What begins to gall, however, is when when people begin to speak as though she were somehow a superior being (cf Ed Miliband's paean: ""The Queen’s reign is a golden thread that links people across the country and across the generations: united in ... in the reverence she has inspired in people across this country, across the Commonwealth, and across the world.") And it is this doffing acknowledgement of our 'betters' which so often accompanies such events as the Jubilee where I draw the line - I feel it demeans people as human beings (though I have to admit that it doesn't seem to upset them ... but it should!)
My final point is that - if there is any point in celebrating the Jubilee - it is to celebrate a constitution which, whilst it has a monarch as its head, includes a freedom to say that she should not be. And it is THAT which makes our royal pageants so much better than all those parades and rallies around the world and through history where, if you weren't cheering, you were arrested.
So we can all welcome the Jubilee, if only because it gives republicans like me the opportunity to vent their opposition.