As Britain braces itself for a ‘winter of discontent’, with students taking to the streets in violent protest and trade unions threatening to organise waves of strikes in protest at the even bigger waves of state sector redundancies on the way, Buckingham Palace today announced that the second in line to the throne, Prince William is to marry long term girlfriend, Kate Middleton. The marriage is set to take place early next year, and for those of us old enough to remember the last Royal wedding between Charles and Diana, the coming nuptials are littered with rich irony.
My first reaction at the news was ‘Oh no, not another bloody Royal wedding!’ And then I stopped myself. This isn’t because I have gone all soft and gooey in my middle years; I remain a Republican, albeit a Republican who respects Britain’s current Head of State, Queen Elizabeth – or Elizabeth Windsor to give her her correct name. I would much prefer her as Head of State than Richard Branson, Simon Cowell or Victoria Beckham, whom the public might vote for given half a chance. It is because simply ranting on about the expensive spectacle provided by a hereditary Monarchy in the early years of the 21st century, and being all po–faced about it, isn’t going to get me anywhere. Alright, part of me thinks that the whole wedding thing has been dreamed up by the British Establishment to act as a diversion to the shrinking, shivering Britain we will inhabit next year. But then, so what? Even if it has been, next year’s Royal wedding will make a lot of people quite happy, revelling as they will do in the escapism that it offers. So why should people like me rain on their parade?
Back in 1981, as Britain’s dole queues lengthened to three million and rioting disfigured the streets of many of the country’s inner cities, the then leader of the Greater London Council, Ken Livingstone, organised a ‘Not the Royal Wedding Festival’ in Brockwell Park, London. I don’t remember a great deal about the event, because most of it passed in a haze of dope, or should I say ‘day of hope’, but I do vaguely recall Ken Livingstone receiving huge applause for his speech. Revisiting that speech, here is what he had to say; “I can't think of a more appalling contrast between this wedding bean feast and what is happening in Ireland”. Bravo Ken!
Well that was then, and this is now. Charles and Diana did get married. The nation did largely celebrate, well with the exception of some ne’er do wells in Brockwell Park and a smattering of others including, as I recall, a Yorkshire miner whose dog was called ‘Cromwell’. Charles and Diana then got divorced, and Diana was tragically killed in a car crash in Paris. That much is ancient history. But lo! Here is my old friend Ken Livingstone, the great survivor of British politics, former leader of the Greater London Council and twice Mayor of London and now bidding for a third term of office – still with us!
Will Ken stick to his Republican principles? Even better, will Ken organise another ‘Not the Royal Wedding party’ in Brockwell Park? Afterall, we minorities should be catered for!