The sorry spectacle of an elected leader travelling to the palace of an hereditary monarch to request permission to hold an election played out in the UK this morning, as it has done prior to every British election in living memory. The people of the United Kingdom (the clue’s in the name) doffed their collective cap to Queen Elizabeth in recognition of the ruthless ability possessed by her ancestors to violently subjugate the masses. Well done Liz! And well done people of Britain, for permitting such a weird and demeaning custom to continue for the amusement of the rest of the world.
And yes, we all know the queen’s role is technically ceremonial but the symbolism of the prime minister’s visit to Buckingham Palace is surely distasteful — at the very least — to anyone with a commitment to social justice and equality. Brown’s announcement on Downing Street, flanked as he was by his profoundly unlikeable and discredited cabinet that “the queen has kindly agreed” to allow the democratic process to get underway merely underlined the cringeworthy absurdity of the charade.
The thing it called most to my own mind was the explicit promises by the current government (promises that have been echoing in their speeches and manifestos since 1997) to remove hereditary peers from the House of Lords. This assembly possesses plenty of real, non-ceremonial power and influence, yet there are still over 90 members of the legislature whose position is predicated on who their dad was.
And this is a nation that feels comfortable exporting democracy at the barrel of a gun?