Following some overindulgence on turkey and mince pies it took a little while for my capacity to caary out basic arithmetic to return! But a simple analysis of the Christmas Day TV viewing figures reveals something interesting. Topping the charts (for the 3rd year running) was Elizabeth Windsor with her speech registering 7.7 million views followed by Strictly Come Dancing on 7.2 million and the Christmas Bake-off at 6.3 million. You might think that was a sound argument for the continued popularity of the Monarchy, but the figures say otherwise. Admittedly the viewing figure are something of an estimate, but with a population of about 63.1 million (2011 census, but almost certainly higher in 2016) that means only around 12% watched the speech. Allowing for those too young, too old or without access to a TV this is still a surprisingly small figure when set against a monarch with, we are told, huge personal popularity. So like most things connected with the royals, the idea that everyone watches the Queen’s speech is nothing more than a myth. Certainly, few of my family and friends, (admittedly a pretty radical and rebellious lot!) watched it. Ironically, I was one of the few, catching up on iPlayer to gain insights into the current thinking of the ‘opposition’!
A few months ago following the election of Donald Trump the ‘Loose Cannon’ Giles Fraser wrote an article where he extolled the virtues of monarchy. While I have much respect for this clergyman who gave support to the Occupy movement around St Pauls in London, this was at best a weak minded piece. Boiled down to its essence the argument was that following Brexit and Trump the world was becoming too scary and it was more comforting to simply go back to believing in princesses and fairytale castles. Lets just say that at a time when we need to come to the aid of our democratic institutions this approach did not strike a chord with me! His point was that the monarch provides a rallying point in troubled times. But the Queens Speech viewing figures suggest this is far from the case and we may as well replace our Constitutional Monarchy with Strictly Come Dancing with Queen Tess of the House of Daly as monarch!
On a more serious note, a central plank of the argument for the continuation of Monarchy is that it commands overwhelming support. But no figure for what ‘overwhelming’ means is given (surely more than 12%!) and there is establishment reluctance to consider the possibility of a Constitutional Convention or even a referendum where replacing monarchy is an option. Based on these viewing figures it is understandable. Most opinion polls give a commanding majority for the monarchy, but simply answering a question where no effort is expended or costs incurred is easy. When, however, it comes to making even a minimal effort such as listening to the Queen on Christmas Day the story is very different. On that basis, how many would make the substantially greater effort to get out and walk to a polling station to support the monarchy in a referendum? As a republican I say ‘bring it on!