Just how thrilled are we about the ‘royal pregnancy’?


By Paul Leinster

David Cameron yesterday announced that he was “delighted” at the news of the pregnancy of the Duchess of Cambridge.

His sentiments were echoed later by Ed Miliband who called the announcement “wonderful news” and stated that “The whole country will be thrilled.” The BBC went into overdrive as the pregnancy topped every news bulletin for for the rest of the day, all news websites had it as their main headline and not a single newspaper does not feature it on their front page today.

Something which the coalition government has become very good at is creating an artificial sense of joy to distract us from the real problems which are affecting the country.  We saw it with the royal wedding and the diamond jubilee and we have seen it again with the pregnancy.  This is only encouraged by the press who jump enthusiastically onto the government’s bandwagon and fill their papers with positive stories about the Queen and her family.

Republicans are often dismissed as being spoilsports, just trying to ruin everyone else’s fun, and lack of enthusiasm for William and Kate’s news is just another example of our killjoy attitude. But it is important to stop and actually ask why the country is celebrating the news of the royal baby.

Within the royal family, the role of women first and foremost has always been to provide a male heir to the throne.  While there is currently legislation going through parliament which will end discrimination against women in the line of succession, it is difficult to imagine that gender discrimination can ever be ended completely in an institution which has, for its entire history, had discrimination enshrined in law.  To celebrate Kate’s pregnancy is to celebrate that the woman has performed the duty for which she was brought into the family.

The pregnancy also reiterates the concept of hereditary privilege and power.  From the moment of its birth, this baby will be third in line to the throne.  It will not have done anything to deserve to be our head of state, it will simply have had the fortunate combination of accidents of firstly being conceived and secondly being born.

From the day that this baby is born, its whole life will already be planned out ahead of it.  The best schools, a top university, probably a spell in the armed forces, and then a life of social engagements and public appearances, waiting for its own father to die so that he or she can be crowned as the next monarch.

It is difficult to feel sorry for someone who will know nothing but wealth, power and privilege but this child will be unable to have a normal life, it will be raised in a bubble, detached from the real world.  Furthermore, on the day that this baby is born, hundreds of other children will be born across the country, their parents in the knowledge that whatever they hope their child will achieve, whatever aspirations and ambitions they have for their baby, that child can never become head of state.

We need fundamental constitutional change in the UK to ensure that if this royal baby does indeed wish to become head of state one day, he or she should have to stand for election and be chosen by the people.

Glancing at the newspapers today, it would be easy to be fooled into believing that the whole country is indeed thrilled, as Ed Miliband stated, but behind the sycophantic face of the press, the huge wave of republican sentiment in this country is surging once again.

At the beginning of 2011, the Republic campaign group had around 9,000 supporters but the wedding of William and Kate that Spring led to a huge surge in membership as people tired of the non-stop, nauseatingly saccharine coverage of the event.  In 2012 as we were bombarded once again with over the top, fawning coverage of the royals, this time for the Queen’s diamond jubilee, membership surged once more and today Republic has become a fully UK wide campaign, with groups operating out of Scotland, Wales, the English regions and the three main political parties.

If the huge increase in website traffic, Facebook and Twitter followers of the various Republic pages last night is anything to go by it can be expected that as Kate’s pregnancy progresses and the press gets more and more hysterical, 2013 will be another very good year for republicanism in the UK.

Paul Leinster is the Chair of Republic Scotland