The important point about today’s “Queengate” scandal is not whether Elizabeth Windsor was right to be worried about Abu Hamza. It is not the question of whether the BBC’s leadership will one day develop a backbone. It is that Britain’s supposedly “apolitical” monarch has been found to be lobbying ministers and seeking to exercise political influence.
I don’t blame Elizabeth Windsor for having political opinions. Like the rest of us, she is quite entitled to them. She does not have a right to unduly influence ministers because of a position gained through an accident of birth.
This incident gives the lie to the notion that the monarchy is above politics. This has always been a bizarre argument. Nobody can be “above politics”, because politics affects us all. Talk of being “above politics” implies that politics is something inherently dirty and that it’s best to be above it. But there’s more to politics than parties and elections. Politics is about all of us, about our lives together, about how we run our society and economy.
Of course, there are many other reasons for opposing monarchy. The idea of one person bowing before another and addressing her or him as “your majesty” or “my lord” is morally repugnant. It is an affront to human dignity and equality. The existence of hereditary privilege sends out a negative message about the values our society holds dear.
The BBC’s continued subservience to the Windsor family – despite its relative independence on many other issues – is another sign of the undemocratic nature of the monarchy.
Elizabeth has generally thought to be restrained in terms of political interference. Charles Windsor seems to have expressed opinions on any subject that occurs to him. If even Elizabeth is lobbying from the throne, how much more can we expect Charles to do so? Today’s revelations are another reason for holding a referendum on whether to continue with monarchy once the current postholder dies.