Tuesday 16 November 2010

A wedding present for William and Kate

Prince William and Kate Middleton have announced their engagement.

The BBC reports a jolly enthusiastic response from the Coalition Cabinet - where the news was greeted with "a great cheer" and "banging of the table" according to David Cameron - along with appropriate congratulations from other political party leaders, with Ed Miliband saying that "the whole country will be wishing them every happiness".

What the political parties should usefully now cooperate is to legislate to remove the gender discrimination in the line of Royal succession before the Royal wedding.

If William and Kate were, after the marriage, to have children - then a girl born before a brother would be placed after her brother in the line of succession.

That possibility ought to be removed by the time of their wedding in the Spring or Summer of 2011.

It is not just that "equal rights for Royal Princesses" could be seen as an appropriate constitutional wedding present for the happy couple. Nobody would suggest that this is the most important equality cause in our country, it is now time to act upon the long overdue removal from our unwritten constitution of an unnecessary piece of gender discrimination which makes no sense at all.

It would also now be dangerous not to finally act on this discrimination. If William and Kate were to have children, a reform could then affect existing individuals. It would be far better to act now, before that is the case.

Any supporter of the Monarchy should be able to see why there would be considerable public bafflement, and probably anger, if a first-born Royal girl was to be discriminated against in the line of succession in this way. And those who oppose the Monarchy for reasons of republican and democratic principle can have no reason - while trying to win an elusive public majority for that argument - to support gender discrimination within the Monarchy that we have.

Both the previous and the current government have said that they support reform in principle. There is no plausible reason how they could oppose it. That has been government policy for over a decade. There is overwhelming public support for the change. The government even reported to the House of Lords back in 1998 that the Queen supports the principle of reform. (The Royals are constitutionally not supposed to actively promote this or any other change; any interviewer who managed to ask Wiliam or Kate for their views might be rebuffed, though support for gender equality would hardly be the most controversial of public statements).

The Fabian Monarchy Commission recommended this reform back in 2003. Fabian Executive member Alf Dubs is sought to bring forward legislation to expedite government action on this "breathtakingly modest" reform in 2005. Former LibDem MP Evan Harris put forward a Bill on this in 2009, which again generated promises of reform from the government.

As Next Left has previously set out (full background and links here), there has been a lot of foot-dragging, with reasons for delay including the length of time and complication of writing to other Commonwealth governments (in which case, it might be as well to get on with it).

So once the Cabinet have got over their table-banging excitement, perhaps they could quickly decide - at their next meeting - to ensure the government puts in place plans to bring about this significant symbolic change by the time of the Royal marriage next year.


Unknown said...
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Unknown said...

Surely modern Britain should be a republican state. I'm not interested in "equal rights for Royal Princesses" I'm interested in equal opportunity for all. I'm pretty sure the founders of the Fabian Society would agree.

T.N.T. said...

I agree with Gerry. If we have to have a monarch, he/she should be chosen at random - by a lottery of UK citizens. And for a fixed term - say 5 or 10 years.

Who on earth on the Left cares about changing the rules of succession? It's just changing one completely arbitrary mechanism for maintaining birthright priviledges for another.

There really is much more important stuff for the Fabian Society to get worked up about than this.

Stephen Wigmore said...

I agree that the sex discrimination should be removed from the royal succession, before there comes a chance it could actually affect someone.

To the above, I am a staunch Monarchist. Far better a royal family and monarchy entwined with our national history and culture and architecture than some anodyne president, another greasy pole for failed ex-politicians to climb.

Richard T said...

Rats. There was I thinking that a good wedding present would be for ex Prinz Wilhelm to be a private citizen earning his own living and supporting his wife on his own abilities.

Unknown said...

I don't understand why Conservatives are Monarchists either. How can anyone possibly argue against a meritocracy is beyond me. Neo-liberal thought is about tearing down barriers to entry (self made man, pull yourself up by your boot straps, American dream etc) yet they continue to promote privilege. (I love the lottery idea by the way.)
The only pro-monarchist argument I'm aware of is the economic one (money in tourism) implicit in this (that is if you accept the basic premise Americans would suddenly stop flocking to the Buckingham Palace because the Queen is no longer their- not been a problem for Paris) is the “trickle-down effect”. Check the latest ONS/HMRC figures on wealth distribution, they blow that theory out of the water as 53% of the entire wealth of this country is owned by 20% of the population, while the top 1% own, while the top 1% own 21% of the UK's wealth. Here's the link http://www.statistics.gov.uk/cci/nugget.asp?id=2