Whenever anyone tries to defend the concept of monarchy, two arguments always seem to be advanced – the value to tourism and the supposed inadequacies of an elected president. I was reminded of this today when a letter pushing both views appeared in one of our local papers, and I think these are points worth looking at.
Firstly, we’re frequently being told that the value of monarchy to the tourist industry is immense…but how do we know this ?
The answer is we dont. Tourists come for many reasons and, unless you’re going to question every single one as they’re about to enter the country, there’s no way we can know their motivation. To imply that tourists only visit the UK because of the monarchy is as misleading as suggesting that tourists only visit Thailand with a view to a little paedophile action. Undoubtedly some do, but most have other motivations.
It follows that the economic value of the monarchy to the UK tourist industry is impossible to calculate, not that it stops their cheerleaders from reiterating their supposed value – such as The Telegraph newspaper, which boldly stated that ” there is the unquantifiable, but enormous, tourist revenue it generates.” Yeah, but – if it’s unquantifiable, how do you know its enormous ?
In any case, unless you’re a visting head of state you are not going to meet any members of the monarchy on your visit. You might just see one from a distance at a ceremonial affair, but you’d probably get a better view on TV.
No, what most tourists probably come for is things – landscapes, museums, various other attractions…if the monarchy vanished without trace tomorrow, these things would still be there and tourists would still come to see them.
After all, does no-one visit France, Germany or America because they dont have monarchies ?
The second argument usually put forward is that “having a monarchy saves us from having President Blair”, the implication being that any president would inevitably be an ex-politician. They seem to miss the point that he would at least be a head of state we were permitted to vote in…and who we could also vote out.
But in any case, its not really a valid argument anyway, because there isn’t a rule book. In the event of the abolition of the monarchy we’d have the chance to actually write the new rules, and one of them could be to exclude ex-politicians from running for office – something I’d advocate.
What exactly would a president be ? Really, a sort of meeter-and-greeter on a national level, a non-political figurehead. Someone to put on a show at official functions, open a few events, someone like….an actor ?
Is it such a strange idea ? An actor would make a great head of state – they’d only be playing a part, after all. By actor, incidentally, I’m not talking about soap stars, I’m talking about actors – there must be loads of them around, experienced stage actors largely unknown to the general public but more than capable of bringing something to the part.
After all, Mrs Windsor might have been on the job for 60 years but she still sounds like a unenthusiastic housewife reading a particularly boring shopping list. This is partly because – despite what the media would desperately like you to believe – the Windsors have zero charisma, but also I suspect, because she never had a director telling her “put a little life into it, luv…”
And now – some more music…