Why The United Kingdom Needs Its Royals 

It's been quite a couple of years for the Royals with two weddings and a big birthday last year. And now our Queen marks her Diamond Jubilee. It's not surprising, then, that the popularity of the Windsors is higher than it's been for several years. And yet many folk would argue that, in 2012, the United Kingdom no longer needs its monarchy. That the whole idea is archaic, elitist and of no importance. And that the Windsors don't represent modern Britain.

Let's be contrary and look at the last point first. As it happens I think the Windsors reflect the modern British family in more ways than you might at first imagine. Granted they live in rather grander houses than the rest of us. And they get to wear posher frocks too. But when you take them as a family, they're pretty standard. The Queen is a pretty typical granny. You can rely on her to always do the right thing, to be correct, polite and hard-working. She is a keen follower of horse racing and loves her dogs. Her husband, while being well-loved can sometimes put his foot in his mouth when out and about.Three of their four children have been divorced, two of them have remarried. There have been divorces, both acrimonious and civil, one tragic accident and several embarrassing in-laws. Her grandchildren, now mostly grown up, have first lived with, then married their long-term girlfriends and boyfriends. And they have attended colleges and universities and worked in a variety of industries. They've partied hard, sometimes resulting in some embarrassing photos. And they've had their fashion disasters too. And what family can't relate to most of this?

But some people object to the idea of royalty on financial grounds. They argue that the Royals don't do enough. I'd wager, however, than the hundreds of charities with royal patrons might disagree. Royal association is a big money raiser, and there's nothing more certain to increase awareness of your cause than having a member of the royal family as a figurehead.

Everyone knows that lots of public money is spent on maintaining the monarchy. But is it as much as we think? Every year the government hands over £40 million to the monarchy to pay for the cost of expenses incurred by the Queen and the Royal Family while performing their public duties. But this is, in effect, an allowance. In return, since the time of George III, the monarchy voluntarily hands over all the money which the royal estates earns to the state. According to published figures the Crown Estates alone bring in profits of £200 million per year. Once the cost of the allowance is deducted this means that the state makes roughly £160 million profit a year from the monarchy. Divided by 62 million people in Britain this means that rather than the monarchy costing money, it actually makes each of us £2.60 per year. Which is not a bad deal. If the state stopped paying the monarchy, those lands and businesses would be treated as private businesses, far less of it would find its way back into the public purse. Of course the Royal Family do have private estates, like the Duchies of Lancaster and Cornwall, but the latter does pay tax. And while we're talking about income, we ought to take account of the incalculable amount of tourism income generated by our nation's association with the monarchy.

Some people object to the monarch being head of state at all because they feel it's wrong that one person should have ultimate power over the country just because their ancestors killed off all their rivals several centuries ago. But the Queen has no real power at all. Granted, in theory, its the Queen who rubber-stamps all legislation and who approves (or not) a government's decision to go to war. But this is really just a formality. After all it's unlikely that the Queen would refuse to approve a piece of legislation. To do so would signal a loss of confidence in the government and Prime Minister and likely trigger a general election. And no parliament would really allow a monarch to out-vote it. Just look what happened when Charles I tried it. Indeed not since Queen Anne, three hundred years ago, has a monarch refused to give royal assent. And a monarchy with no real power is neither a threat nor a hindrance to democracy.

When it comes down to it, the monarchy is ingrained in the history of our nation. We value its tradition. In many ways it defines us. And the idea that no country with a monarchy can be truly democratic is nonsense. Countries like Holland and Sweden and Norway all have admirable socially-aware democracies which sit happily alongside monarchies.

Just consider how the "Republic of Great Britain and Northern Ireland" (no place for a United King-dom any more) might look. We could, like the Americans, have an all-powerful president. One individual, backed up by his or her cabinet, and Parliament who was in overall control. But  before we jump ahead, let's not forget the way most of us feel about our elected officials these days. Our MPs have been dogged with controversy over the last 20 years. From cash for questions, expenses scandals, taking our country into unpopular wars, laxness with the economy followed by unpopular austerity measures and unhealthy coziness with the media, every administration of recent years seems to have had its own issues. Do we really want to add another layer to our parliament? If we thought our politicians had god complexes as MPs, what do we imagine they would be like as a president? Of course wecould take the Irish model and vote in a virtual figurehead with no democratic role and only official duties to perform. But ately we've been finding it hard enough to choose someone who's political beliefs we can stand behind. Just how would we go about picking someone to represent us officially? Someone who we're all comfortable with? And besides which, it seems an awful waste of money when we already have a ready-made, and constant supply of non-political figureheads in place. And in times of tumult and crisis, having the reassurance of continuity from our monarchy is surely a comfort?

But if you still have your doubts let me give you a two-word reason not to have an elected head of state on which we can all agree … President Blair.  If ever there were a reason to keep our royals …