Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Whether citizen or subject - you should attend our Assembly's state opening

It's alright, she doesn't bite!
Attend and smile through gritted teeth if they must, sit at the back, even break the odd bit of royal protocol.

On days like today, AMs are there to represent us - not themselves. Today wasn't about making political points. Or, in this case, making a political point by not being there. The first official opening of a new, empowered institution should be a celebration regardless of your politics (hardcore Unionists duly exempted).

Whether the state opening of the 4th Assembly is by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Betty Windsor - everyone's favourite mamgu, an Elvis impersonator or Bartley Bluebird matters not. It's a little like boycotting a (theoretical) Welsh football game as a Cardiff City fan because an ex-Swansea player is managing the side. Today was about the Assembly itself - not the Queen.

It's with some dismay that Plaid Cymru AMs have decided to use this as an opportunity for some sixth-form politics.

They have every right to boycott it of course, and I don't think any less of those who've done so. If anything, I'm pleased we have principled AMs - even if actions like these are an open invitation to beat Plaid with a stick by those appealing to base populism. That particular kind of toadying is nauseating.

I'm a republican. I believe that when Wales is independent, we should have an elected head of state - if the people of Wales want it via a referendum - in addition to a written constitution and Bill of Rights.

Personally though, it's quite far down the list of priorities. It's behind the state of our economy and education system. It's behind a separate legal jurisdiction, energy devolution, protecting Welsh culture, tax varying powers, independence itself and even a Welsh national cricket team!

I doubt I'm the only nationalist who could live with retaining the monarchy if it meant independence.

I'll give you another snippet of information too. Back in the Golden Jubilee year, I planned my own protest against monarchy. Only a Geography A-Level exam clash prevented me from going through with it.

That sense that all perceived injustices in the world have to be opposed by marching, loudhailers, raised fists, boycotts or waving a few placards seems as distant and old hat as that exam.

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