Is there not a delicious irony that it was in the very week when we celebrated our glorious Queen becoming our longest-serving Monarch, that it was in the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre that the Labour Party chose to announce their election of a Republican to be the Leader of her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition?
Much ink will have been spilled by the time you read this on the consequences of Chippenham boy Jeremy Corbyn becoming Leader of the Labour Party. But of one thing we can be sure: many people throughout the sane end of the Labour movement deeply regret his election. And in the (perhaps vanishingly unlikely) event of him becoming Prime Minister, more or less everyone would come to regret it when their security at home and abroad was destroyed by his loony lefty ideas.
Yet he was duly – and overwhelmingly – elected. And if you believe in democracy, you have to respect the will of the electorate. I was one of the thirty-seven Tory MPs who rebelled against a three-line whip last week, voting with Labour and defeating the Government. It was about their attempt to remove the ‘purdah’ regulations from the EU Referendum. Removing purdah would have allowed those in favour of remaining in the EU to use civil servants, and the Government press machinery to campaign for their side even during the campaigning period itself. That is strictly forbidden during General Elections, and has been during previous referendums, so we cannot see why it should not apply this time too. I feel no shame at having acted against my own party and in favour of free and transparent democracy without any taint of the result being “fiddled.”
On Friday, the House was - as is often the case with matters of conscience – at its absolute debating best. Passionate and powerful arguments were quietly advanced both in favour and against euthanasia. Each MP made up his or her mind on the subject, from long years of conviction, upbringing, instinct. I have always been strongly opposed to euthanasia, and am glad that enough of my fellow MPs from all parties agreed with me, and we were able to defeat the proposal by an overwhelming majority. Even its supporters will accept, I think, that it will be many years before the subject is discussed again in Parliament. That is the strength of democracy.
The only Western monarch to have exceeded the Queen’s long reign was Louis XIV of France who reigned for an eye-watering 72 years and 110 days. His absolute monarchy coincided, of course, with the English Revolution, the supremacy of Parliament and the restoration of a constitutional monarchy in Britain. Some historians would argue that his absolutism was amongst the complex of causes which resulted in the French Revolution and the ending of the French monarchy for all time less than 100 years later. The British Constitutional settlement, by contrast, got the balance between democracy and monarchy just about right. We can but hope that Mr Corbyn will come to recognise the importance of that balance, and to respect the monarch in whose conference centre his election as Leader was announced.