If Brexiters want true sovereignty, then the monarchy will have to be abolished
Activate the Queen. She is the only person who can sort out this chaos. Politicians can’t, and the “people” certainly can’t because the will of the people is a floating buffet at which all stuff their faces, but still yearn for a proper dinner. So, for instance, a “people’s vote” will either undermine democracy by ignoring the first people’s vote or underscore democracy by having more of it.
Theresa May can’t sort it out. I feel about her as my friend used to feel about her husband: “He has been dead for years; it’s just that no one has told him.”
What we need is a grownup to calm everything down. Who better than the Queen, hatted and handbagged up; dutiful, but with a dry wit, apparently? Everyone loves the Queen. I saw Michelle Obama at the O2 at the weekend, talking about how touched she was that the Queen wore the “itty-bitty little pin” that the Obamas gave her. Living the dream. Just not mine.
It has been suggested that the Queen could stop Brexit, and the very notion is intriguing – this longing for unquestionable authority is a sign of our inherent repression. But this longing is dangerous, my friends, and it is the opposite of democracy. The Queen is not personally accountable for Brexit, but she presides over an institution that symbolises and legitimises much of the inequality that led to it.
Our politics is broken, our systems of representation cannot cope with globalisation, migration or technology. People feel abandoned. Westminster is falling down. Board it up like a shop that no one goes to any more. Over and over, the mantras of austerity and neoliberalism are chanted by the left as the reasons for the leave vote. The right answer back by accusing the left of cultural Marxism. But what does the right believe in? Philistine capitalism – and life in a permanent sense of deja vu about a war they never fought in. They also talk about vassal states and sovereignty.
What does being a sovereign power mean? In our case, it means having a monarchy that legitimates hereditary privilege, the Lords and owning half of Scotland. It means that power is an accident of birth, but God help anyone who disses the Queen. We not only enact our serfdom; we embrace it by accepting that the monarchy is above ordinary politics.
The younger generation of royals is still locked in a symbiotic relationship with the tabloids. They do a lot of charity work – including “difficult” causes, such as mental health. They showed more empathy at Grenfell Tower than May did, but any Dalek would have done that, so the bar is low. What they can’t do is embrace the actual, essential cause of the many causes they champion: deep inequality of wealth.
Instead, the luckless Duchess of Sussex is now held hostage, breeding in captivity as all royal women must. She has sinned by asking for privacy when the tabloids say that, because the country paid for her wedding, it’s our baby. By this logic, the afterbirth should be brought out on a platter and inspected by all us loyal subjects.
But the serious question is this: how will any of our institutions ever be reformed and how will we become a modern country while bowing to this feudal system?
The magic has worked if we still believe that the monarchy – embodied in a dutiful and doughty old woman – is a superior system to boring old representative democracy. Yet even sensible people fall for the circus of honours, touches of ermine and empire, while young working-class men get their legs blown off to serve “Queen and country”.
Constitutional reform makes most people’s eyes glaze over, even though we can see our chaos is bound up in systems that are no longer viable.
We must start from the bottom up: direct action and local democracy. And then work from the top down: dismantle the archaic monarchy. The Queen cannot solve Brexit because part of what Brexit is about – what is worth keeping? What has been lost? Who has lost out? Who has gained? – is entangled with all she represents.
The vote to leave, to be in charge of our own affairs and to change the status quo, has been read as reactionary, but can also be read as revolutionary. When the Queen dies, let the whole monstrous shebang of monarchy go with her. Only then can we be a sovereign country.