The Guardian - 9th April 2019
Jan Fleishchhauer, columnist for Der Spiegel
From Germany, it looks like the UK monarch is in the perfect position – after all, she has always responded to crises with dignity
"Never pass up a chance to have sex or appear on television” Gore Vidal once said. But there is another offer that a German always finds difficult to refuse: the chance to give an opinion on the Brexit “shitshow” (to use the considered phrase of our Europe minister, Michael Roth). Who could pass up an opportunity to retaliate for 70 years of jokes about the Huns, the Blitzkrieg and Germany’s inability to make sense of humour?
The problem is, am I too late? As Theresa May arrives in Berlin in desperate search of a friendly word from Angela Merkel, have we reached the point where mockery and ridicule are out of order? The only appropriate response to British efforts to carry out Brexit seems to me to be to offer condolences. But sincere sympathy is not a good basis for jokes.
In my view, there is only one solution: Her Majesty, the Queen must take back control. If there is someone who still reacts in the most difficult situations with dignity and decency, it is Queen Elizabeth II. I mean, this is the woman who survived Hitler and his V2s, the Great Smog, the “winter of discontent” and all the other trials and tribulations of her kingdom over the last nine decades. Surely, some well-placed words from her and this whole mess can be resolved.
I often wonder how, sitting in Buckingham Palace, the Queen views the situation. When she was born, the British empire stretched from Newfoundland to Papua New Guinea and covered almost a quarter of the world’s population. Today, Britain is a lovely island in the middle of the North Sea that is rapidly becoming the size of Iceland in terms of political importance.
What does the Queen think of people who blithely painted a nation’s future in the rosiest colours and are now surviving from day to day? Royal courts traditionally indulged clowns who were permitted to make fools of them. But no self-respecting monarch would have come up with the idea of entrusting the fool with the fate of the country.
I know there are narrow limits to the power of the Queen in a constitutional monarchy.
But if you ask John Bercow to take a close look at the archives, he may find a precedent – moments when the power of government was transferred to the Queen when the country’s destiny is on the line. That’s the advantage of looking back on a few centuries of monarchist tradition: somewhere there is always a clause that legitimises you.
Democracy is overrated anyway. The truth is, it only works reasonably well if the number of voters who have no idea (or perhaps worse: are convinced they do) are not too big on the day. Most commentators complain about poor turnout. If there are more people staying at home in Germany during an election than during the previous one, it is immediately said that democracy is in danger. The exact opposite is true: we owe the fact that our system is relatively stable to the fact that a not inconsiderable part of the electorate is incapable of getting out of bed on election day. So, let the Queen sort this one out.