Sixty Joyless De-Britished Uncrowned Commonpoor Years (1949-2009)

Elizabeth II Vice-Regal Saint: Remembering Paul Comtois (1895–1966), Lt.-Governor of Québec
Britannic Inheritance: Britain's proud legacy. What legacy will America leave?
English Debate: Daniel Hannan revels in making mince meat of Gordon Brown
Crazy Canucks: British MP banned from Canada on national security grounds
Happy St. Patrick's: Will Ireland ever return to the Commonwealth?
Voyage Through the Commonwealth: World cruise around the faded bits of pink.
No Queen for the Green: The Green Party of Canada votes to dispense with monarchy.
"Sir Edward Kennedy": The Queen has awarded the senator an honorary Knighthood.
President Obama: Hates Britain, but is keen to meet the Queen?
The Princess Royal: Princess Anne "outstanding" in Australia.
H.M.S. Victory: In 1744, 1000 sailors went down with a cargo of gold.
Queen's Commonwealth: Britain is letting the Commonwealth die.
Justice Kirby: His support for monarchy almost lost him appointment to High Court
Royal Military Academy: Sandhurst abolishes the Apostles' Creed.
Air Marshal Alec Maisner, R.I.P. Half Polish, half German and 100% British.
Cherie Blair: Not a vain, self regarding, shallow thinking viper after all.
Harry Potter: Celebrated rich kid thinks the Royals should not be celebrated
The Royal Jelly: A new king has been coronated, and his subjects are in a merry mood
Victoria Cross: Australian TROOPER MARK DONALDSON awarded the VC
Godless Buses: Royal Navy veteran, Ron Heather, refuses to drive his bus
Labour's Class War: To expunge those with the slightest pretensions to gentility
100 Top English Novels of All Time: The Essential Fictional Library
BIG BEN: Celebrating 150 Years of the Clock Tower

Wednesday, 27 June 2007

The Long Goodbye and Hello

Goodbye, goodbye and goodbye again. An insufferably long goodbye. Goodbye! Hello, hello and hello again. An insufferably long hello. Hello!

Tony Blair is not a humble man and the premiership is no longer a deferential position. A little while ago, he rode up the Mall on his white horse to Buckingham, and diminished Her Majesty by his very presence. Never before has the spotlight shone so brightly and so long on the position of a British prime minister, and never before has it shone so faintly on the British Monarch. The consequence of all his media-savvy, attention-seeking grubbiness over the last decade has been to catapult number 10 into the centre of national life. As with kings and queens, prime ministers are now effectively acclaimed months and years in advance of their taking the oath, with all the media suspense of a coronation.

That to me is probably Blair's biggest legacy. He stands as a transformative leader - the Britain of today resembles something quite different from it's pre-1997 history, to the point where traditional Britishness is disappearing altogether. Substantial shifts in deference, defence and devolution have all played their part in this, but it's not the diminishment that counts as the largest story here, it's that even while the power of Britons to control their own lives and liberties has receded, the power of the prime minister has only increased. (The imperiousness with which he left a Cabinet meeting that was in the midst of scrapping the exorbitantly expensive Millenium Dome, to accounce to the media that the Dome would go ahead anyways, is a perfect case in point.) The man has effectively centralised Westminster parliamentary democracy and cabinet government into one-man rule (Blairminster), while devolving whole chunks of British sovereignty to national assemblies and to an unaccountable transnational bureaucracy. Winston Churchill would be appalled.

4 comments:

El Jefe Maximo said...

Your comments on former-Prime Minister Blair’s expansion of the role of his office at the expense of the Crown seem, in general, to me to be well-taken, but further observations are in order.

First, I wonder how much of the increased visibility of the Prime Minister is due to Mr. Blair’s adept exploitation of a media environment that has radically changed since 1997 ? The proliferation of 24-our cable networks -- with well-funded and overstaffed news organizations; arrival of the internet; and, the general enhancement in the power of the media and lawyer class these trends have produced seem made to create an enhanced role for a politician who is a central casting member of the chattering classes.

Second, careful what you wish for. The size of the modern media machine, and the need
to have attention and sell advertising has produced a fixation on novelty, celebrity and scandal that must be continually fed. The phenomenon of Princess Diana is a prime example. But the players are tolerated only as long as they please and entertain, and after a time, familiarity breeds contempt, as Prime Minister Blair has discovered.

The Monarch would be poorly advised to play this game, or to be drawn into it on any terms other than the Crown’s. The Monarchy is not entertainment -- entertainment is for children, and the Monarchy protects and enhances the adult values of the British nation. A certain amount of distance may well protect the Crown from, like Mr. Blair, wearing out its welcome.

Beaverbrook said...

Excellent comment. I agree wholeheartedly.

Younghusband said...

Read in the NY Times the other day an analysis of Blair's decade with the explanation that politicians are simply reviled in a deeply cynical Britain regardless of any real evaluation of their policies. Just look at the great Wellington being barricaded in his own home once he took the position of PM.
Having spent the day yesterday listening to my 2 CD set of Churchill's speeches, I was struck by what he said in a speech (read by his grandson) about England and what made it strong- the very institutions that Blair has so carelessly undermined. If Bush is rightly criticised for invading Iraq without a plan to deal with the situation that would arise, so the same can be said of Blair with his devolution scheme which, on paper is justifiable to my mind but required a bit more planning than his matchbox provided.

Matt Bondy said...

Great comments above, for a wonderfully insightful post.

The degradation of parliamentary institutions and the visibility of the Crown threaten the survival of Britain's character, as it does Canada's.