I know I need to write a reply to the chap who blogs over at God Save The Queen who has objected to my post below about the aristos. He makes some bad points, as well as a few good points, and I’ll hope to find the time in the not-too-distant future to respond properly.
And I was puzzled by Dave Gwydion’s mention of “frogging” in a recent comments box, and am now illuminated by his own blog: “For a long time in Europe”, he writes, “aristocrats not only had special rights–which is, I suppose, the definition of an aristocrat–but that they had the right to humiliate commoners, including, for instance, the right to require the local commoners to get on their hands and knees and chase frogs off the aristocrat’s property.” Dave, like myself is an academic, and so cannot resist a healthy dose of bibliography, and he concludes, “For a good account of “frogging,” as it was known, see Marcel Garaud, Histoire general du droit privï¿½ franï¿½ais: La rï¿½volution et la proprietï¿½ fonciere [Paris, Receuil Sirey, 1958], pp. 102-9.” I’ll put that on the list for the next time I head into the Bodleian, though since term has started, that may be a while.
But the main point of this post was to respond to Adam H’s thoughts in a recent comments thread: “I’ve been wondering recently who might be head of state instead – some horrible Blairite, a winner of pop-idol,…? Perhaps the Republican movement should actually suggest and support someone non-moronic now so that you aren’t still left with unpowdered wigs (or something) when the Republic is declared?” The who-would-you-have-instead question was bound to arise, so let me have a crack at it now. First, anybody is preferable to the current lot. Or, rather, anybody we could reasonably imagine getting through a democratic selection procedure of any kind at all would be preferable. Second, and relatedly, I’m not sure republicans should say, “get rid of this lot and replace them with X”. That’d be for the people to decide once the queen’s been shipped off to wherever. But thirdly, and this is the Official Virtual Stoa Position, we wouldn’t actually need to elect a President at all.
As I said in this thread over at Matthew’s (and here I cut-and-paste horribly) I’ve been saying for a while now that the head of state should be the Speaker of the House of Commons, and the fact that the present incumbent’s pretty hopeless doesn’t put me off in the slightest.
If there’s H-o-S work to do, then the Speaker can do it and one of the Deputy Speakers can preside in the Commons, as they so often do. We could even have another Deputy Speaker, if necessary. But I like to think that there wouldn’t be much H-o-S work to do, anyway. All this visiting places and saying “What do you do?” is pretty stupid, we can send FCO ministers off on foreign trips, and so on.
Most people have to retire in their 60s; the country seems to have the view that the Monarch’s role is sufficiently undemanding that somebody can do it in their 70s, 80s, etc. without a problem. And Great Republics such as the USA combine the offices of Head of State and Head of Government. If someone as famously idle as GWB can combine the two roles, I don’t see why we can’t combine the Speakership of the House with a small head of state function. Furthermore, since the Speaker has a nice flat in the Palace of Westminster, we can do what we ought to have done bloody ages ago and turn Buckingham Palace into an art gallery (as the sensible French did with the Louvre all those years ago).
OK: problem solved.