When the royal baby is born will any politician dare to be a modern Keir Hardie?

Soon William and Kate will have a baby and there will then be a ritual outpouring from the political class united in its uncritical adulation for the institution of royalty.

Tom London is a London-based writer and blogger

Soon William and Kate will have a baby and there will then be a ritual outpouring from the political class united in its uncritical adulation for the institution of royalty.

According to opinion polls, there has been for decades a fairly constant 20 per cent of the population who would like to replace the monarchy with an elected Head of State but no mainstream politician speaks for those millions of Britons.

Some prominent politicians may be closet republicans but stay quiet as they are fearful that they would pay too high a price if they ever challenged the prevailing consensus on royalty.

This is so powerful that it suffocates debate and leads to an attitude of unthinking deference and self-censorship which smacks of attitudes to leaders in North Korea.

In recent weeks, for example, the Queen received a 5 per cent pay rise and it was announced that £1million of public money had been spent to renovate William and Kate’s accommodation yet, even at this time of austerity and acute hardship, no mainstream politician breathed a word of criticism.

Back in 1894 a politician spoke up for those millions of Britons who are republicans.

On 23 June 1894, a future king was born. Keir Hardie, who had been elected as the first Independent Labour Member of Parliament, spoke in the Commons:

“From his childhood onwards this boy will be surrounded by sycophants and flatterers by the score – [cries of “Oh!,oh!] – and will be taught to believe himself as of a superior creation [cries of “Oh,oh!]. A line will be drawn between him and the people whom he is to be called upon some day to reign over. …and the end of it all will be that the country will be called upon to pay the bill. [Cries of Divide!]”

Hardie spoke just over a century after the defining moment of the Enlightenment, the French Revolution. The world had thrilled to the novel idea that all men are born equal. No institution stands so completely in opposition to that noble idea as does monarchy.

The central principle of monarchy is that some people are superior to others as a result merely of their birth or marriage. Hardie’s words are as true in 2013 as they were in 1894.

The baby boy that Hardie was talking about grew up to be an unimpressive and irresponsible man with Nazi sympathies. In January 1936 he became Edward VIII. In December 1936 he abdicated, before his coronation, over his relationship with the American divorcee Wallis Simpson. In 1937, notoriously, he visited Hitler.

Keir Hardie is today a respected figure in British history. Unlike the baby boy he spoke about in 1894. Who will dare to be a modern Keir Hardie?

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