I'm not exactly the shy and retiring type, but it takes quite a lot to make me stand in Waterstones shouting "NO! NO! NOT ALLOWED!" at a magazine with the ferocity and volume suggested by those capitals. Tatler managed it this week with their "Royal Baby Collectors' Edition". That's right folks, a whole magazine about a baby whose existence is still exclusively womb-based. I can't imagine what they'll do when the blessed thing actually emerges. Actually I can, and it's terrifying.
News of Kate Middleton's pregnancy was received with fear and trembling by tabloid offices country-wide. This was largely because she was suffering from morning sickness, which is relentlessly unsexy. Glowing pregnancy is lovely: bokey, bed-ridden pregnancy is not.
You could hear the anxious murmurs from newsrooms nationwide: "It's not weird is it? We can still perv on her even if she's pregnant and spending ten hours a day chucking up? What if she's one of the ones who gets fat all over? What if she gets chunky ankles? Or retains water like a cactus? No more reality please. It's too awful."
Mercifully, Kate has managed to appear in public and smile in the style of a slightly demented Barbie like she's supposed to. We have thus been treated to a thousand and one articles on how she is "dressing her bump". Unfortunately she has been dressing in much the same way as everyone else does, with clothes, and not with anything actually newsworthy like a pierrot costume or a wetsuit. Not that the coverage stops at her bland sartorial decisions because we of course have any number of things to consider about this stranger's pregnancy. What of the manner in which the infant shall be birthed? What of its name?
My lily-livered liberal rage subsided eventually, but this last concern struck me somewhat. What will the baby be called?
It won't be Mohammed.
The fact that our Head of State will never be called Mohammed betrays a bias at the heart of British politics that we completely ignore. Caught up in the flurry of the "Wills&Kate" brand, pastel Union Jacks and soft-hearted monarchism, we have allowed ourselves to be distracted from the fact that our Head of State, the highest office in the land, will never be anything other than posh, white and nominally christian.
This ensures that the role is and will be chronically unrepresentative of the British people. But the job is too important to just give it to whoever Kate Middleton gives birth to without thought of any alternative or indeed any consideration of the merits of the child itself.
Sceptical as I am of patriotism, I understand the desire for a Head of State who embodies the nation but my UK looks nothing like the Queen. Our rallying point will never be a black boy or a Hindu girl or someone who grew up in care or on a council estate. They'll never even be from Sheffield. They can never be like the UK that the majority of us live in.
We bleeding heart lefties are frequently (and quite rightly) up in arms about the private school, white, male bias in government. However, little mainstream media attention is devoted to what is undoubtedly the greatest remnant of the class system; we have an unelected monarch whose family enjoys a vast and worryingly clandestine amount of privilege because of the idea that they somehow are entitled to it by virtue of simply being.
I understand that I could be accused of simply falling prey to a different strand of the damp-eyed delusion of people who think that the Royals really care for them. Perhaps an elected Head of State would simply roll straight out of the Eton/Oxbridge boys' club with a G&T in one hand and ceremonial rights in the other. That doesn't change the fact that we should govern ourselves using our best principles and with thoughtful consideration of what kind of nation we want to be.
The monarchy represents an old-fashioned, class-driven UK that thinks hereditary privilege is enough. It is not, and we cannot seriously consider ourselves a democracy if we give the highest office in the land to someone regardless of their personal abilities, simply because of who their Father is.
We lament that institutions like Oxbridge are not doing enough to encourage gifted, able state-schooled pupils to apply there but make no such demand of the Royal Family. Any institution whose criteria are genetic cannot claim to represent a society which struggles, or should struggle, to give access in all areas on the basis of talent, not nepotism. In this instance, we don't even try. We're content with shiny hair, clipped vowels and blue blood.Suggest a correction