Realpolitik (see also Political realism; from German: real “realistic”, “practical” or “actual”; and Politik “politics”) refers to politics or diplomacy based primarily on practical considerations, rather than ideological notions or moralistic premises. In this respect, it shares aspects of its philosophical approach with those of realism and pragmatism.
"Manchmal werden Leute den Wald vor lauter Bäumen nicht sehen."

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

040 - Opinion Short: Prince Charles' Letters Blocked

Tantamount to a conspiracy against the public, the attorney general's decision to block the revelation of the contents of Charles Mountbatten-Windsors' (Prince Charles) letters to various government departments, has been upheld by the High Court today. Not entirely surprising, even in spite of the excitement of those of us of pro-republican (anti-monarchist) extraction last October, when Elizabeth Windsor (the Queen) was revealed to have opined on the politically sensitive issue Abu Qatada's deportation and the initial revelation of the heir to the throne's political meddling.

All we know is that the concerned departments were Business, Innovation and Skills; Health; Children, Schools and Families; Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; Culture, Media and Sport; Northern Ireland Office and Cabinet Office. (source: BBC News) And The Telegraph have gone for a more creative 'what might he have sent' approach in October last year, making seemingly benign queries and making a nod to perceptions of his 'meddling.'

As it stands, we can only speculate on content. What is apparent though, is that the frankly condescending assertions that convention inhibits monarchy from wading into day to day affairs, is a gross deception and anyone who believes in this self-imposed neutrality is to be frank, misguided at best.

If we are to believe in the so-called virtues of constitutional monarchy, the members of this elite cabal are to remain above day to day politics and to focus on ceremonial roles for the nation. They are however vested with the private ability to consult, encourage and warn, the degree to which is not measurable since such meetings are not open to public scrutiny.

The reality however is that Elizabeth Windsor can opine about British extradition policy in relation the ECHR conventions, and Mountbatten-Windsor can insist on homeopathy in the NHS (thus opining on Health policy), yet neither be accused of breaching their political neutrality. As members of the British Monarchy, and the living font of executive power in this country, it is dangerous to consider such behaviour as harmless.

Even in constitutional form, the monarchy remain a deeply undemocratic, unaccountable mechanism of the British state. Acceptance of monarchy is not demonstrated by a lack of popular pro-republican insurrections, or opinion polls conducted in the midst of royal weddings, Jubilees and births. Monarchy is simply unacceptable and incompatible with a liberal democracy, as it completely disregards the notion of representative democracy. Without being subjected to universal suffrage, one cannot presume a democratic mandate.

Additionally, positive perceptions of the character traits of members of monarchy - a hard-working Queen, a loyal Prince- cannot be allowed to absolve the need for constitutional clarity. By extension, that Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair enjoyed popular perception for a short period during their governance, would not ever be allowed to override the need for regular elections. It is of course, difficult to critique a position which so skilfully portrays itself as being separate from the mechanisms of state, when in actual fact it is entirely collaborative.

To monarchists, I ask where your exalted family was when the government introduced the unfair Community Charge in the 1990s? Where were they when millions marched against invading Iraq in the early 2000s? Why did they not refuse a rise in funding, against a backdrop of public service cuts? In a position to consult, encourage and warn and yet they never spoke for the nation. In fact, they stayed silent, only allowing opinion to slip when they felt it would put them on the right side of public opinion. Enter Abu Qatada and his deportation debacle; a perfect PR opportunity to posit oneself on the right side of public opinion (quite literally.) Just like many so-called career politicians, the monarchy serves itself. I take it a step further and suggest that the self-preservation tactics of monarchy, by extension encourage and legitimise the distancing of politicians from ordinary people; monarchy and parliament remain sovereign, whilst ordinary people are subjected to their will.

The situation is made worse by the lack of a single basic piece of legislation, that unambiguously delimits the roles of various state actors. Historical parliamentary acts have indeed curtailed the arbitrary power of monarchs, but such power has merely been conferred onto a self-selecting de facto executive, rather than checked and balanced amongst institutions. Add to this the insistance that dealings between the "neutral" monarch and the government remain outside of scrutiny, only add to the speculation that political remits are still unclear.

The demands are simple: curtail the power state actors with a clearly defined codified constitution; subject all fiscal and political business by state institutions to public scrutiny; instill universal suffrage as the sole legitimising mechanism for all ceremonial, executive and legislative power.


See More:

"We're sorry for telling the truth, ma'am." (Realpolitikblog)
Decision to block Prince Charles's letters upheld (BBC News)
Should the public be allowed to read Prince Charles's letters to ministers? (Poll)(Guardian)
High Court Judges refuse to remove block on publishing letters written by Prince Charles to Government ministers (The Independent)
Prince Charles's letters to ministers will stay secret, High Court rules (London Evening Standard)

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