Alex Massie

Monarchies vs Republics and the Importance of Cynicism

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Christopher Caldwell's* diary in the latest edition of the print magazine is good fun and I look forward to reading his new book. This part was especially entertaining:

For many years, the ingenuity of the British press in exploiting the Brown-Blair rivalry story amazed me. What a gift the papers had for conveying that, this time, it was really about to blow. It was good to see last week that this old journalistic warhorse can still be saddled up, with the help of Hazel Blears’s remarks about the Prime Minister’s ‘lamentable’ failure to communicate. To an American audience, Blears’s insistence that she was 100 per cent behind the prime minister would have sounded wholly credible. For us, describing a politician as ‘failing to communicate’, or (in Americanese) ‘not getting his message out’ is what loyalists do. It’s a way of avoiding the alternative explanation, which is that the public hates him. Funny that the press does. Ninety per cent of them were drumming up Brown’s candidacy in the old days. Now, to someone who’s been away only a few months, their contempt is unfathomable, even irrational. On Monday, two daily newspaper cartoonists filled their frames with caricatures of the prime ministerial bum. Maybe this sort of personalisation of political opposition happens more in monarchies than republics.

There is, I grant you, a corrosive quality to the (often warranted) scepticism with which this country views its parliamentarians and it is possible that that this is a Bad Thing, but I confess I find it more appealling and vastly less worrrying than the notion that any American president should be given the benefit of the doubt merely by fact of being President and, thus, the elected Priest-King of All the States. Scepticism and a proper dollop of cynicism should be features, not bugs.

*Yes, I was somewhat disobliging about his most recent Weekly Standard piece, but so what? He's always worth reading.

**Yup, my 17-year-old self would be appalled by the extent to which I've become a monarchist.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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