This is an edited version the article, written by Eddie Ford, which first appeared in Weekly Worker. This blog has often warned how the use of the Crown Powers could stymie any attempt to set-up an independent Scotland. This article provides a warning to those who look to Jeremy Corbyn to lead a new Labour government. Under the Crown Powers the British establishment can call on the monarch to appoint an alternative Prime Minister.
THE ROYAL WEDDING – PROVIDING POLITICAL COVER FOR THE UK STATE’S
Jeremy Corbyn- a genuine or a platonic republican?
Although politicians might not have been invited to the royal wedding on May 19th at Windsor, this was definitely a political event. Its purpose was to demonstrate once again the central ideological role of the monarchy – which, as we all know, stands ‘above politics’, so that it can serve the common interests of the ‘entire nation’, whatever your class position, as opposed to outsiders. No doubt this is part of the reason why Markle must become British herself.
Communists insist that the republican question cannot be ducked or avoided – quite the opposite in fact. We know that the leader of the official opposition – one Jeremy Bernard Corbyn – is on record as criticising not just the cost of royal occasions, but the fact of them. In the past he has shown his disapproval of the whole monarchical system, not just the ‘excessive cost’ of this or that event.
Or at least that certainly used to be Corbyn’s position. Back in 1995 he seconded the Commonwealth of Britain Bill brought forward by Tony Benn, which called for the transformation of the UK into a “democratic, federal and secular Commonwealth of Britain”, with an elected president, devolution and abolition of the House of Lords (1). Almost enough to provoke an army revolt. At other times, Corbyn has merely talked about abolishing (or weakening) the queen’s royal prerogative – which he rightly described at a leadership hustings as a “very convenient way of bypassing parliament”. For the Jeremy Corbyn of just a few years ago, the royal prerogative should be “subject to parliamentary vote and veto if necessary”.
Yet nowadays we never hear even the latter sentiments coming from the lips of the Labour leader: whatever happened to the real Jeremy Corbyn? But frankly it would have beeen good and healthy if he had made it clear he would not be joining in the celebrations and had no intention of giving his own stamp of legitimacy to a thoroughly reactionary institution. Rather than shilly-shallying around, Corbyn should have used the occasion to put forward a series of democratic demands, including, of course, the abolition of the monarchy.
At the TUC ‘new deal for working people’ demonstration last weekend, Corbyn talked a lot about the Labour government doing all sorts of marvellous things. But in order to get into ‘power’ – using that term in the everyday sense – Corbyn has got to win a general election on one level or another: either by being able to command a majority in parliament or at least by heading the biggest party in terms of the number of MPs. However, according to constitutional convention, it is the monarch (acting on the advice of the privy council) who invites to Buckingham Palace a person likely to be able to form a government. But there is no constitutional requirement that it must be the leader of the largest party represented in parliament.
Though most of the left seems to think it is an amusing eccentricity on the part of the Weekly Worker, this publication has pointed out that the chances of Jeremy Corbyn being invited to the palace are rather less than certain in the middle of a hard Brexit not to the liking of the bankers, the City, state bureaucracy, civil service, Financial Times, etc (or no deal at all). After all, he is clearly less than enthusiastic about Nato and Trident and cannot be regarded as a trustworthy ally of the US, if and when it launches its next military adventure in, say, the Middle East.
Under these circumstances, it is more than possible that, far from Lizzie asking Jez over to the palace for Earl Grey tea and cucumber sandwiches, she will invite someone else instead – say, that nice, clean-cut Sir Keir Starmer (as it happens, a former Pabloite (2). Remember, no fewer than 172 Labour MPs signed a no-confidence motion against the Labour leader less than two years ago – talk about the enemy within. Following the next general election, unless there is some near miraculous transformation of the Parliamentary Labour Party, it will be MPs of the same political complexion standing behind the seemingly triumphant Jeremy Corbyn. The queen, or her heir, could well give the Nato-hating, IRA-loving, pro-Russian Corbyn a wide miss and rather give her blessing to the likes of the now impeccably mainstream Starmer – he would never let a hard Brexit happen and could well command not just majority support from Labour MPs, but potentially more besides. Perhaps he might even form a national government to rescue Britain from the hard Brexiteers. Bye, bye Jeremy.
It is more than worthwhile pointing out that in the past monarchs have chosen someone who is precisely not the leader of the biggest party or majority party – that is perfectly legitimate under the British constitutional-monarchical system, even if it is rather unusual. Anyone who says this would provoke a revolution is living in a fantasy world. Sure, it might cause a few demonstrations organised by the usual suspects – but so what?
In fact, the left urgently needs a lesson on what a revolutionary situation exactly is and what you need to make a revolution in the first place. Revolutions do not happen because a lot of people are unhappy or have gone on so many marches – there needs to be a split within the ruling class and, crucially, the army. Furthermore, logically, for there to be an actual revolution – rather than a counterrevolution or quick relapse to the status quo – there needs to be an independent working class party armed with an internationalist programme for revolution that has mass support amongst the population. If Keir Starmer, or whoever, was asked to form a government instead of Jeremy Corbyn, that would not act as a catalyst for revolution or insurrection. Indeed, given the situation and mood today, such a measure might well meet with wide approval. When asked by various polls, most people tend to agree with the sentiment that politicians should stop all this silly party-bickering and, instead, work together in the national interest.
There is also the historical example of Ramsay MacDonald, who could not get his Labour cabinet to back his austerity programme, but at the initiative of George V, formed a national government with the Tories and Liberals. He then called a general election which virtually wiped out the Labour Party in the House of Commons. Given that we are not living under normal circumstances, but the rather dysfunctional state of affairs provoked by the Brexit referendum, it would be foolish to rule out a comparable scenario. Today’s Corbyn-led Labour Party could be decimated by a cross-party coalition (even if its popular vote did not fall). Of course, for Labour MPs that went with a cross-party coalition political death would soon come. At the next general election it would be they, the Labour traitors who would be decimated. They would then have to trade in their dreams of glittering ministerial careers for a seat in the House of Lords. But in the meantime they would be praised for putting the nation above party.
We also have the valuable lesson of the 1975 Australian constitutional crisis (‘the Dismissal’), which saw the Labor prime minister of three years, Gough Whitlam, summarily sacked by governor-general Sir John Kerr – who was, of course, acting on behalf of the queen (3). On the very same day (November 11) Kerr installed the leader of the opposition, Malcolm Fraser of the Liberal Party, as caretaker prime minister and announced a double-dissolution election for the following month. Fraser and his coalition National Country Party partners won the largest majority government to date in Australian history, while Labor suffered a 30-seat swing and the indignity of having its House of Representatives numbers cut almost in half to 36 seats. Yes, there were a few protests, but they came to nothing – and, of course, the current governor-general (Sir Peter John Cosgrove, AK, MC (4) still has the same powers of dismissal.
What is vital to understand – yet seems beyond the economistic left – is that royalty is not about bowing or swearing loyalty to some weird feudal relic: it is an integral part of today’s constitutional system. In other words, it is a vital prop of the British state. Extraordinary things could happen and do happen, and Jeremy Corbyn could end up a victim of such forcess if he does not change his game.
The Labour leader ought to drop his platonic republicanism and start treating the monarchy as a serious problem.
The full version of this article was first published under the heading,
The Royal Wedding and Platonic Republicanism at:-