Dear Member of Parliament,
Thank you for your recent correspondence in which you commented on Elizabeth Windsor, the present British monarch, possessing “the right to have a personal view”.
May I say in answer to your email that I do not expect you to agree with me, even if you seem to suggest that the entire British nation supports the views you have expressed! Do the British people “fully support the Queen’s personal comments”? There may have been a time when such an opinion may have been acceptable. I am not so sure that we live in those times anymore.
Notwithstanding our apparent disagreement over this particular issue, one of the reasons for me writing to you is to present viewpoints that may disagree with yours – my right as a citizen of a parliamentary democracy with a particular political point of view. Please note that I regard myself as a ‘citizen’ and not a ‘subject’!
So too, I wish to ensure that, in a democratic society, Parliamentary representatives (House of Commons MP’s in particular) should be aware, and at least attempt to present the views, of their constituents – views which may be contrary to the those of the MP and the political colour they represent.
I would never suggest that your answers were anything other than honest – even in these days of political scepticism and the fact that numbers of MP’s do less than justice to their political parties and the processes of the nation’s Parliament. Indeed, I have admired some of your recent stands on matters to do with the business of the House.
Yes, of course, the present monarch is entitled to a private viewpoint on whatever matter she chooses. Nevertheless, she does not hold an elected office that, unlike MP’s, can be accountable to the people of the nation. Therefore, these views should remain private and not be used to advance a particular political or social agenda. I am not surprised that the BBC person who leaked the comments has apologised.
It is in the nature of the BBC that renegade, or simply honest, journalists with a story to tell are made to retract whenever embarrassment is caused to establishment figures. The recent happenings within the BBC can be cited as evidence for this.
This would seem to especially be the case when royalty is involved. There are more than singular ways to ensure that “heads roll” or renegades are brought into line! Monarchy in the United Kingdom is meant to have a Head of State function and should not interfere in legislative or judicial matters. You would seem to agree that Elizabeth Windsor’s private statements should not be made public, but I am not convinced that you feel that they should also not be allowed to interfere with matters rightly the responsibility of Parliament and the elected representatives of the people.
Unfortunately, in my view, the fact that the UK, in contravention of genuine democratic process, does not possess a written constitution and that the government of the day holds office at the discretion of “Her Majesty”, actually gives a monarch the opportunity to interfere in the political process, albeit without the necessary constraints imposed on elected representatives of the people.
As my MP, you have stated that I “would not expect me (you) to defend one of our most important institutions”. Well, yes, in fact I would! Obviously, you do not feel that there is any need to defend the institution of monarchy. However, there are growing numbers of British people who believe that monarchy can no longer be accepted for its own sake – irrespective of the monarchy being a part of the nation’s historical legacy, or because of its supposed popularity, or whatever other reason is advanced for its simple acceptance.
Myths and misconceptions surround the British monarchy and the time has come when the debate about monarchy needs to be opened-up – to support or refute. As a republican, I am not afraid of this debate; indeed, I welcome it.
If the monarchy is all that you appear to believe it is, then the development of this debate should be welcomed by you. To ignore the need for such a debate, or to believe that the monarchy needs no defending, is to give this institution an importance beyond what it politically, historically or culturally merits. Is there a human institution anywhere that deserves such a pedestal?
Recently, the government’s Attorney General, Dominic Grieve, commented on some statements of the Prince of Wales to the effect that, if they were genuinely held and publicly stated by Charles Windsor, they would seriously compromise his right to succeed Elizabeth Windsor as the British monarch. Is there any reason to doubt that Charles Windsor is genuine about the public statements he makes? Is he a seriously compromised future British and Commonwealth head of state? It is my belief that both the reigning monarch and her possible successor exceed the functions for which the British retain a monarchy.
The matter of whether or not Charles Windsor is a fit person to succeed his mother as the head of the Church of England is, of course, something for the future to debate.
Unfortunately, as the recent business surrounding women bishops has demonstrated, the Church of England does not always act according to accepted public opinion, its own principles and theological beliefs, or historical precedent, even when these matters are understood per se by that church. I suggest that, in the future, monarchy may well be embroiled in a debate that far exceeds the mere disclosure of private opinions.
As a former Minister of Religion, therefore, I would trust that, in respect of its theological beliefs and practical life, the Church of England would need to seriously examine its teachings about adultery, divorce and remarriage before it appoints anyone to succeed the present monarch as its head.
I recognise that you would not agree with some, if not all, of the viewpoints I express, but, I assure you, these views are honest responses to your stated positions.
Dr Robert Culbard