HET REPUBLIKEINS GENOOTSCHAP
An anatomical analogy may help. The function of the royal family in the
British body politic is not dissimilar
to the function of the appendix: a vestigial organ, says the encyclopaedia, that serves no current purpose and
is believed to be gradually disappearing over evolutionary time. Opinion polls bear this out. A recent MORI poll
found that although a majority of Britons would vote to retain the monarchy if asked in a referendum, a majority
also expects it to have disappeared by the next century.
The average person does not volunteer to have his appendix removed
unless it is in danger of rupturing.
But whenever Britain's royal appendix grumbles, for no matter how trivial a reason, plenty of people seize
the opportunity to debate the monarchy's future. As it happens, the republicans in this debate have a good case
to make. But they are compelled to seize upon trivial opportunities to make it because governments see no
gain to be had from giving them a non-trivial opportunity. Mr Blair is certainly not their man. He has already
changed much of Britain's constitution. He wants to make a mark on history and his party contains many
vocal republicans. Some MPS are now demanding closer financial scrutiny to the royals. But this is
the prime minister who leapt instinctively to de defence of the monarchy after the death of Princess Diana,
and seemed only to profit from it. For the present, there are fewer safe votes in republicanism,
however strong the constitutional case for it. Let the royal appendix grumble. It will take a lot more than
a garrulous countess and a bogus Arab sheikh to make removing it look attractive to any prime minister.
The Economist, 14 April 2001