Jane Kelly explains
Capitalist economies in crisis, rising unemployment, rebellion in North Africa, climate chaos, how will we get out of all this? I know, let’s have a royal wedding! Apart from the Olympics what could be a better diversion. Everyone loves a wedding – don’t they?
Well, actually no, they don’t. But surely spending a whole day watching an attractive young couple get hitched on the TV is just a nice thing for people to do? Well actually no it isn’t!
Some of us have a deeply ingrained habit of avoiding marriage like the plague. Perhaps it’s just a hangover from the feminism of the 1970s, but I go with Engels who said something like: ‘In a marriage the man is the bourgeois and the woman the proletariat’. He might have written it a long time ago but in fact it still resonates today. Women still earn only 4/5ths of a male wage and that’s in full time work. Women are still mostly employed in a segregated job market, doing work which relies on skills learnt in caring for others and despite some improvements since the 1970s, women are still an oppressed group as well as being exploited in the same ways as male workers. And because more women than men work in the public sector, we are now losing our jobs more rapidly then men in the government cuts.
Marriage is part of this set up although the numbers of people actually living in the classic nuclear family – husband, wife married with two children – is much reduced over the last thirty years. Nonetheless many, who don’t get married, live in a ‘marriage-like’ relationship, with lots of the same problems as if they had in fact tied the knot.
So a second function of THE wedding is to reinforce the norm (despite the figures) that the nuclear family is the best way to raise and look after children. That in itself is debateable, but the idea that the marriage of William and his future wife will be anything like the way all the rest of us live is a sick joke. It is part of the attempt by the Windsors to present themselves as a ‘middle class’ family, a trick that has been going on for many years. The marital breakdown and divorce of three of the four Windsor children usefully rearranged as evidence of ‘ we’re just like you’! That the future bride will travel to Westminster Abbey in a car instead of a coach ‘because she’s a commoner’ deceives no one.
Just as Prince Charles’ marriage to Diana was really all about providing an heir, so also this marriage is also about the continuation of the royal line. And those who say ‘what does it matter? They are irrelevant’, should have a look at what happens in a constitutional crisis.
In May 2010 Nick Clegg was appointed Lord President of the Privy Council. This secretive and archaic body has 538 members (as of August 2008) mainly drawn from both Houses of Parliament and the Church of England. Once appointed you are on it for life unless, like Jonathon Aitken you are convicted of perjury. It meets with the monarch once a month and the quorum is three! Normally the queen remains standing at meetings of the Privy Council, so that no other members may sit down thereby keeping meetings short.
As Privy Counsellors are bound by their oath to keep matters discussed at Council meetings secret, the appointment of the leaders of Opposition parties as Privy Counsellors allows the Government to share confidential information with them "on Privy Council terms”. This usually only happens in special circumstances, such as in matters of national security. For example, Tony Blair met Leader of the Opposition Iain Duncan Smith and Leader of the Liberal Democrats Charles Kennedy on Privy Council terms to discuss the evidence for Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction.
While much of its business is a formality, in a constitutional crisis, such as a disputed election or the election of a workers’ government, the queen could rule through the Privy Council and bypass Parliament. She not only has the right to prorogue or to dissolve Parliament but in a grave constitutional crisis to act contrary to or without Ministerial advice.
Far from being an irrelevant sideshow, the monarchy in Britain, albeit ‘constitutional’ has a distinct role which with the Privy Council would be a real bloc against even an elected radical government let alone a situation of dual power.
There are only a few who actively oppose the monarchy and call for republicanism – it is hardly at the centre of peoples’ consciousness – but in a revolutionary situation institutions like the Privy Council, the monarch, to say nothing of the army, would seek to uphold the status quo against socialism.
The wedding in April is just one event but the groom will be heir to a throne we would be better without. That’s why it matters.