Royalists were unable to contain themselves during the summer of 2013. Apart from the birth of George Windsor there was also this report in the Daily Mail. According to the article the Queen was ‘discreetly’ campaigning to make the Head of the Commonwealth a hereditary position. Apparently this included getting David Cameron to speak to the other Commonwealth leaders at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting 2013 (CHOGM13). Now, it must be said that the Daily Mail has been known to get things wrong! There was certainly nothing in the final communique, but maybe that was because it was very discreet. But lets make the entirely reasonable assumption the story is correct. Such an assumption is supported by the royals own website which deliberately confuses matters by having a Role of the Monarchy on its Commonwealth page. The Queen may currently be Head of the Commonwealth as a person but that is not true of monarchy as an institution. The idea that anyone could be promoting the extension of hereditary privilege in the 21st Century is simply disgusting. Furthermore, the fact that a change in the constitution of an international organisation would be attempted ‘discreetly’ shows the complete lack of respect that the Windsor family has for Commonwealth citizens.
The Mail was indeed correct in stating that the words ‘does not pass automatically to her heir’ had been removed from the Governance section of the Commonwealth Secretariat. The site, however, still emphasises the fact that the Head is chosen collectively by the member states. What gives the story credence is that the Queen had already attempted to make the Head of the Commonwealth a hereditary position. When the Letters Patent were issued in 1958 to make Charles the Prince of Wales it was intended that he, along with his heirs and successors, shall be future Heads of the Commonwealth!
As the Queen is clearly at odds with the Secretariat, an interesting question is the extent to which making the post hereditary fits in with the clearly stated aims of the Commonwealth as given in the Charter. Perhaps unsurprisingly we get no further than Clause 1 on Democracy before encountering the first inconsistency. The Clause states:
Governments, political parties and civil society are responsible for upholding and promoting democratic culture and practices and are accountable to the public in this regard [democratic processes].
Clearly ‘promoting democratic practices’ is immediately violated by imposing a hereditary head on Commonwealth citizens. Moreover, as Head of the UK State the Monarchy effectively subverts accountability by the culture of secrecy and a ban on Freedom of Information. It gets no better if we examine Clause 2 of the Charter which deals with Human Rights and includes the statement:
We are implacably opposed to all forms of discrimination, whether rooted in gender, race, colour, creed, political belief or other grounds.
There is nothing which speaks more of discriminatory practices than declaring that your organisational head must be a member of one family only! But the Queen is also complicit in breaking the spirit and letter of Clause 6 on Separation of Powers:
We recognise the importance of maintaining the integrity of the roles of the Legislature, Executive and Judiciary. These are the guarantors in their respective spheres of the rule of law, the promotion and protection of fundamental human rights and adherence to good governance
At this point it is important that the UK Monarch is not only Head of the Government but Head of the Judiciary (and Supreme Governor of the established Church of England!). Furthermore the festering Privy Council system has the potential to bypass Parliament (the legislature) and impose draconian powers with little restraint available to the judiciary. So much for being a guarantor of the rule of law and Human Rights!
Overall, provides it lives up to the spirit of its stated aims such as the promotion of democracy I consider the Commonwealth to be a benefit. Any organisation which promotes dialogue between nations in disparate parts of the world is no bad thing, provided it is a genuinely free association which consistently pursues its aims. But it must not be a comfort blanket or familial fiefdom for a regressive and backward-looking sovereign desperately clinging on to the residue of a colonial past.