In a week when vast crowds of desperate families opted for risking a watery grave on the high seas instead of being blown to pieces at home, UK media boiled over with sucking indignation. About Kings and Queens and men in tights. Yes, really.
Newly minted darling-of-the-people, republican Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn side-stepped the opportunity to kneel before the British Queen and kiss her hand while being initiated into something called the Privy Council.
Apparently, in order to gain access to the nuclear button and other such intriguing instruments of state, Corbyn needs to become a member of the Privy Council, or PC as it is commonly called, which is ironic, considering that it must rank among the least PC bodies on the planet.
In the process, Corbyn needs to swear an oath to the Queen, and to validate the oath he must kneel before her and kiss her hand. No no, you’re not mistaken, this is the year 2015. But this is also Great Britain, although the ‘Great’ evaporated some time ago and what is left of Britain still seems to prefer the year 1915.
So what is this Privy Council? Well, if you judge the 800+ strong, unelected House of Lords to be the pinnacle of undemocratic government institutions, you clearly have yet to encounter Her Majesty’s Most Honourable Privy Council, currently comprising some 600 equally unelected members. Such lack of democratic legitimacy, however, does not prevent this body of… whoevers – from advising the monarch on all things governmental. Exactly why Her Maj needs such advice is unclear, as she has no influence over, well, anything. In theory, at least.
Now, Corbyn is a republican (a view for which he incidentally can still be incarcerated for life in Blighty). Be that as it may, he is hardly likely to subject himself to such public humiliation, and he would, in any event, be a hypocrite to do so. Such shenanigans have absolutely no place in a modern society. What is shocking is not Corbyn’s attitude but that no one has sought to question this risible ritual until now.
British blood pressure had already been pumped up royally by Jeremy not lending his vocal chords to the national anthem during a recent Remembrance Day ceremony. It seems that no one, except for Corbyn, has cottoned on to the fact that “God Save the Queen” is not a ‘national anthem’ at all. It is a ‘royal anthem’. Why one should wish to sing about saving one particular person, however royal, while honouring the war sacrifices of millions of citizens, dead or alive, is a mystery. In fact, it is quite offensive.
Denmark is a monarchy, so what does Borgen do?
As luck would have it, the week in question also saw Danish Parliamentary activity aflutter as Borgen returned from the summer recess. The opening of the Danish Folketing took place on Tuesday 6 October 2015 amid much jolly backslapping and an overflow of flowers and flags. Borgen’s answer to Dennis Skinner and veteran member of the House Bertel Haarder had even composed a rap to mark the occasion.
There was, however, not a glimmer of fancy dress. Or men in tights, for that matter. Queen Margrethe arrived, sporting a red hat, what else? Mode of transport: a vintage Rolls adorned with a couple of fluttering flags. A few half hearted bows and genuflections welcomed her and, together with the rest of her family, she took her seat upstairs, next to the public gallery, settling down to listen to Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen deliver his programme for the forthcoming year.
Now, despite general acceptance of the Danish royals, the country does have its fair share of vocal dissenters – it’s a free country. There are 12 parties in the Folketing, two of which, Enhedslisten and Socialistisk Folkeparti are confirmed republicans. As custom requires Members of Parliament to stand up when the Queen enters, the republicans simply enter after the Queen. Job sorted. Not everyone appreciates this approach, but all accept the right to do as each sees fit.
As for a national anthem, all Scandinavian monarchies have two anthems: a national anthem and a royal anthem. The national anthems all vax lyrical about the country and its people: “Der Er Et Yndigt Land” (“There Is A Lovely Land” – Denmark), “Ja Vi Elsker Dette Landet” (“Yes We Do Love This Country” – Norway) and “Du Gamla Du Fria” (“You Are Old You Are Free” – Sweden). In fact, so patriotic are the Danes that the first verse of “Der Er Et Yndigt Land” was sewn in to every item of athletes’ clothing for the London 2012 Olympics.
The royal anthems, on the other hand, either recount heroic acts by a dead king “Kong Christian Stod Ved Højen Mast I Røg Og Damp” “King Christian Stood by a Tall Mast in Smoke and Steam” (Denmark), or run along the usual lines of ‘long life’ ‘honour’ that sort of thing. Swedes sing “Kungssången” (“The King’s Song”) and Norway’s “Kongesangen” (“The King’s Song”) is a variation of God Save The Queen. Clearly no Eurovision winners there. They are all reserved mainly for royal births, marriages and deaths or visits by other royals.
So, as a republican, Corbyn is perfectly correct to decline to save the Queen, whom he is presumably hell bent on putting out to grass anyway. Besides, it is complete nonsense for a people to sing about a Queen, when they’re really celebrating themselves and the country they have all crafted with their own bare hands and fought for in their own blood, sweat and tears.
If the order of the day is to save someone, instead of singing about saving the Queen, our full attention should be on saving the desperate boat people in the Mediterranean. The Queen is more than capable of looking after herself.
Of course, the reason for all the flush-faced fury is that Jeremy Corbyn’s sucker punch has well and truly winded the entire British establishment, politicians to the left and right alike, the serried ranks of the armed forces and the jabbering journos of the media, who thought they could carry on blithely phoning it in.
Brits in their hundreds of thousands are, however, now massing behind change. They expect Corbyn to stick firmly to his guns and refuse to play the pointless, demeaning games that are helping to keep the elite in power and the people ‘in their place’.
The people just jumped the fence. They are in the building.