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21 September 2022

Letter of the week: New model monarch

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By New Statesman

Andrew Marr (Politics, 16 September) says we are “being carried along rather fast”. Indeed we are. And no doubt other republicans like myself feel somewhat isolated. Sound, thoughtful arguments for an alternative to the monarchy, or at the very least a slimmed-down version, are hard to find.

But if the new king is genuinely for reform, then why doesn’t he do the following:

1) Live in one pleasant house (possibly two) and relinquish the other royal houses and palaces to the nation. Perhaps the National Trust could take responsibility and Crown wealth could be taxed to maintain them and keep entrance fees to a minimum. Royalists and others can then have a good peep.

2) Pay tax, and at a handsome rate. That must include paying inheritance tax, like his subjects.

3) Accept that royalty is simply not sustainable into the future and that, after his death and following an extensive constitutional convention, a new, modern, democratic alternative will replace it.
Jol Miskin, Sheffield

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President and correct

Andrew Marr (Politics, 16 September) bravely argues that, absurd as it might be intellectually, now is not the time to challenge the monarchy. Rowan Williams, perhaps unwittingly, puts his finger on the other issue (Another Voice, 16 September) when he presents the monarch as a parent figure. Indeed, the monarchy infantilises the populace. It is never too early to start discussing how we might all grow up.
Jim Young, Halesworth, Suffolk

Richard Evans provides us with a timely and wise reminder that “where elected but powerless individuals have been head of state, it is clear that republicanism is no guarantee of success” (“How the Queen changed Britain”, 16 September), but the only example offered is the Federal Republic of Germany. The island of Ireland is another interesting comparison. The Irish Republic has had nine presidents exercising largely apolitical roles without controversy, and the two female incumbents, Mary Robinson and Mary McAleese, have distinguished themselves on the international stage. In the North, affection for the Queen notwithstanding, devotion to the monarchy has been dangerously divisive.
Paul Thomson, Mobberley, Cheshire

A fitting tribute

I read Simon Armitage’s poem “Floral Tribute” (16 September) with distinct pleasure, because in its delicate depiction of a beautiful but hardy flower it somehow summed up the Queen’s resolution to do her duty and serve her country, while always maintaining a light touch and an elegant, regal presence.

This poet has a way of not over-egging the royal poem. His tribute to the Duke of Edinburgh, too, was a memorable but not obsequious paean to royalty. Armitage lives up and more to the title of poet laureate.
Judith A Daniels, Cobholm, Norfolk

The lure of first-past-the-post

John Gray’s essay (“The coming autumn crisis”, 9 September) contained a common but flawed assumption – that a Labour-led coalition would alter the voting system to make a “Tory majority government practically impossible”. While I’m pro electoral reform, it’s not Labour policy and the party will not want to lock itself out of a majority either, especially if parliamentary arithmetic leaves one within touching distance. Isn’t it more likely that a Labour-led coalition would either kick the issue into the long grass, as Tony Blair did, or follow David Cameron by granting a referendum on the issue and coming out against change?
James McSweeney, Stevenage, Herts

Contested Corbynism

Lola Seaton claims Corbynism helped to fracture what Mark Fisher described as “capitalist realism” and thereby make it possible to “imagine a coherent alternative” to the status quo (The Critics, 9 September). A rather different view has recently been expressed by Liz Truss of young people in Britain as a generation of “Uber-riding, Airbnb-ing, Deliveroo-eating freedom fighters”.

Mark Fisher was an original and unorthodox thinker who would have dismissed Truss’s “freedom fighting” remark as utter baloney. But the idea that the prevailing capitalist order was successfully “fractured” between 2015 and 2020 also looks like yet another example of the wishful thinking the left is so prone to.
Ivor Morgan, Lincoln

Lola Seaton notes that 90,000 people discontinued their Labour Party membership in 2021, after numbers rose sharply during Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, but the idea that a drop-off in party members is disastrous should not be left unchallenged.

Keir Starmer is making headway in getting Labour to show it understands the overwhelming majority who don’t make direct debit payments to a political party. If parts of the left still don’t realise why that is so vital, then it appears the true lessons of Corbynism remain undiscovered to them.
Colton Richards, West Sussex

Action for doomed youth

Tomiwa Owolade (These Times, 9 September) is right: the establishment has “failed to uphold its side of the bargain” for the young. But the young need to acknowledge the injustice they face – with the climate emergency, low pay, high rent, and the lack of career opportunities – and organise their time effectively enough to threaten the ruling classes’ reluctance to address the issues that matter. Protests, votes, petitions, letters and strikes do eventually make a difference.  
Sebastian Monblat, Surbiton, Greater London

“Space” exploration

I am inspired by Amelia Tait’s vision (Out of the Ordinary, 9 September) for free public “space”. That it seems fantastical shows the reality of today’s Britain, where halting the privatisation of our public realm seems impossible. Of perhaps even greater concern is the future for those of us who, through schemes such as the Community Asset Transfer programme, have been given “space”. As energy bills rise over the coming months, these civic spaces could become poisoned inheritances. Safeguarding these assets’ futures, as warm hubs or otherwise, must be top of the list for Ms Truss.
Amy Foster, London SE25

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[See also: Letter of the week: Labour’s power line]

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This article appears in the 21 Sep 2022 issue of the New Statesman, Going for broke