The UK may be one of the world’s oldest democracies, but there are times when our democracy is embarrassingly undermined, mostly because unlike others we have never had our ruling class exterminated or banished by revolution or war. And so we retain an unelected chamber of parliament and a monarchy. While defenders of these institutions generally acknowledge that they are anachronistic in a democracy, they usually argue that neither has any real power; the Commons trumps the Lords and the Queen just does as the prime minister tells her.
Neither of these propositions is true. The Lords power to amend and challenge — often scupper — legislation and hold elected ministers to account is very real.
But perhaps worse of all are frequent revelations that the royals are such effective lobbyists. Prince Charles may not literally write in green ink, but his reputation for interfering in government affairs is well documented. He obviously still feels he was born to rule over us and, despite his abysmal in the circumstances educational record, thinks he knows best on all sorts of things. The royals retain veto rights in many areas and we’re not supposed to know anything about that, lest we disagree.
Nevertheless, today the BBC is forced to apologise for exposing the Queen. The BBC has upset the Palace by revealing that the Queen does have opinions after all and that she is not afraid of making them known. She obviously expects ministers to take her views into account. But she doesn’t want her subjects to know what she thinks, lest we discover we don’t agree with her on everything after all and begin to question her right to nudge elected governments this way and that.