Thursday, 3 December 2015
PR is Dead. Contradictions on the downfall of monarchy
The following is the text of the 2015 John Campbell Lecture, delivered on November 30 2015, on behalf of Republic – the campaign for an elected Head of State.
It is a privilege to deliver the 2015 John Campbell Lecture.
When it comes to the monarchy, I have three questions:
Can the British Royal family overcome the tectonic shifts of our time and defy logic to maintain the status quo?
If PR is dead, how can an institution that is little more than a PR smokescreen actually survive?
In addition to a web of well-spun PR, is the Windsor family now propped up by little more than public apathy plus latent affection for an elderly woman?
The logic of circumstance and the march of change should determine that the monarchy’s days are numbered. However, I do not think this is the case. This is the age where trust in institutions has been eroded to the point of collapse. In my book, PR and spin died with the last millennium. The monarchy’s survival may be one of the last great contradictions of our times.
To be clear: I am adamant that PR is dead but I am no longer convinced that the downfall of monarchy – unlike other institutions – is inevitable. This depresses me. Make no mistake, the British monarchy is a huge PR illusion. It is effectively a “consumer brand experience” designed to suppress the democratic judgment and will of real people – of citizens. It is little more than a selfish, financially-driven marketing machine, operated by a narrow, self-interested elite.
We have witnessed many memorable royal sound bites. Cast your minds back to the death of Diana. Among the bizarre over-reactions and curious outpourings of national “grief”, we were treated to Alastair and Tony’s “people’s princess”.
One week later, after her retreat to Balmoral, we heard Elizabeth’s “what I say to you now as your Queen and as a Grandmother, I say from my heart."
In his memoirs, Alastair Campbell describes this, somewhat immodestly, as a “game-changer” that on his intervention “saved” the monarchy from collapse. Such was the power of great PR. But think about how much the world has changed in two decades since Diana’s death.
PR is one among many disrupted industries – no different from taxis and travel, publishing and porn. It no longer works as it once did. This spells trouble for any institution – monarchy included – that tries to deceive, spin or manage the message.
In an age of activism and networks, crumbling hierarchies and tired elites are unlikely to survive. But – and herein lies one of many contradictions – we also live in times of Open Tribes and Adaptive Change. The monarchy has been very good at adaptation and re-invention for several centuries now. The re-branding of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to Windsor is just one example.
I have been a committed republican since childhood. I have always believed in an elected head of state and I have long wanted to end the anachronism of monarchy. Monarchy suppresses democracy, undermines a flourishing citizenship and impedes economic progress. But my personal passion points are not important. I would like to take a more analytical view.
In theory, the collapse of monarchy should only be a matter of time. It should be the case that republicans simply need to ride the power shifts already underway. This could even be the most practical and painless path to pursue – to wait, as the “new normal” takes hold, rather than actively agitating for the removal of Elizabeth, the de-fenestration of Charles, or the political emasculation of William.
Many commentators, myself included, talk about this “new” normal. There’s no point fighting change, even if you are the establishment. PR – and its attempt to control everything – no longer works in the new normal. PR will not save you. This is one of the reasons I quit my job as EMEA CEO of the world’s largest Public Relations firm. I no longer believed in what we were doing, still less on what we insisted on selling to clients. The new normal is one where the future is negotiated, not imposed.
The monarchy, like medieval tithes or Sharia law, is without doubt an imposition. There is no open, consultative, or democratic process. Ed Miliband’s calls, prior to the last General Election, for a constitutional convention were lukewarm and underwhelming. The new normal welcomes a plurality of voices. I like to call them “citizen crowds.” Yet, with the exception of a cursory glance at the Daily Mail headlines, the monarchy listens not to the many, but to the few. The very few. They are truly the 0.1%.
Last year, Charles upset a relatively long period of accident-free communications with his comparisons of Russian President Vladimir Putin to Adolf Hitler. Charles’ Canadian moment – spoken privately to an elderly pensioner and quoted publicly by a media bystander – illustrated the very point that it is now impossible to control or “manage the message”. It also demonstrated how the end of the age of deference is really upon us.
This was not Charles’ first “moment”, of course. With his political speeches and spidery memos, he increasingly behaves like a social activist, rather than a regal diplomat. Curiously and maybe unintentionally, that puts Charles more in tune with the real world, which, like you and me, sees through the obvious veneer of “spin” and demands a return to honesty from those in positions of leadership and responsibility.
Much of my work over the past decade has focused on the relationship between communications, leadership and trust. No talk on how or who we can trust should fail to mention recent events at Volkswagen. Martin Winterkorn, former VW CEO, is the latest entrant into the ever-expanding Trust Hall of Shame. He joins a global cast from WorldCom to Enron, RBS, BP and Toshiba. Maybe even “Prince” Andrew, too.
The cost of VW’s criminal breach of trust is incalculable. It will exceed $20 billion – set aside for fines and claims – and up to 40% of the value of the stock price before the truth was told. VW thought it could beat the system on its own terms. It cheated and lied. Any organisation forgets the truth at its peril. Except, it would seem, the monarchy.
The UK royal family manipulates data, too. First, there is the issue of how much it all costs. The Royal Household says publicly that the annual cost of monarchy is about £42 million. But the estimated total annual cost is actually nearer £334 million – eight times the stated figure.
Second, the data surrounding Elizabeth’s personal wealth crosses some very blurred lines about what is “hers” and what belongs to us. Royal officials state repeatedly that "estimates of the Queen's wealth often mistakenly include items which are held by her as Sovereign on behalf of the nation and are not her private property" but, of course, they will not comment in detail on any of the royal family's assets.
A recent Wealth-X report revealed a number of huge investments. The Queen has around £362m in cash and a variety of assets, with £78m coming from Royal Mail stamps, plus her car, wine, art, and medal collections alone. She apparently has £121m in property, £90m in stocks and £109m in cash and other holdings.
Third, there is the truth/ facts/ data (call it what you will) about the involvement of members of the Windsor family – especially Charles – in national politics. They are famously a-political, are they not?
Since the 2010 election, Charles has had 47 meetings with Cabinet ministers and 21 with junior ministers – more than one a month. Tony Blair’s former Press Secretary noted: “the Prime Minister felt the heir to the throne overstepped the constitutional boundaries previously observed by the royal family by trying to influence government policy.”
If this is the age of transparency – as every politician trumpets – then we need to see what is going on. Minutes of meetings such as these must be published for all to see.
I have made up little white lies in my time. I am not proud of this now – but was back then. The fact that 8/10 women wear the wrong size bra started out life not as a properly researched statistic, but instead as a piece of PR fluff.
Lingerie was my thing. I went on to launch the infamous Wonderbra and the claim, often repeated, that Eva Herizigova’s “Hello Boys” image caused cars to crash. Actually, it didn’t. We made that up.
For me, the monarchy’s spin and deceit and its manipulation of data, lies somewhere between the playful innocence of Wonderbra and the criminal scale of Volkswagen. How can Britain trust them?
You shouldn’t trust me, of course. I used to work in PR. I’m a “repentant spinner”, according to Management Today. For decades, Public Relations has been part of the trust problem. It is not part of the trust solution.
PR – often with lawyers alongside it – has been used, time and again, to prop up bad business, bad politics and bad institutions. In my book, I call for an end to monarchy. I would do this over the next decade, pivoting with the death of Elizabeth.
I would expose the madness one bit at a time.
Change the iconography on bank notes and coins
Change the national anthem
Dis-establish the Church of England
Abolish ridiculous royal privileges and all manifestations of an elitist state
Stop calling us subjects and respect us instead as citizens
Some of our most “respected” and “loved” institutions – perhaps fearful of their own impending implosion – reinforce the malignant status quo. Consider the collusion between the monarchy and the BBC, whose royal reporter, Nicholas Witchell, Charles famously described as “that awful man.”
Check out the truth:
- Duchy of Cornwall accused of tax avoidance
Covered by: The Guardian, The Independent, The Daily Mail, Financial Times, The Daily Express
BBC coverage: none
- Royal finances to be investigated by public accounts committee
Covered by: The Independent, The Daily Mail, The Telegraph, The Sunday Express
BBC coverage: none
- Prince Charles uses intestate cash to fund own lobby groups and old public school
Covered by: The Guardian, The Times, The Daily Mail, The Daily Express
BBC coverage: none
But there is always room for the trivial:
Charles and Camilla take Tube ride
Prince Charles: 'I'm feeling very old' … urges 'harmony with nature'
Royal baby prompts green concern for Prince Charles
Prince Charles calls for more compassion in NHS
Prince Charles revives horse logging on Balmoral estate
Prince Charles 'worried' for rural communities
Prince Charles visits community shop, Northampton shoe or Middleport pottery factory
To quote Republic’s Graham Smith: "If the BBC has the time and resources to report that Prince Andrew uses an iPad, then it can report on controversies surrounding the royal finances or Prince Charles's political meddling."
Except, it doesn’t.
The BBC opts for wilful blindness instead. It is a complicit partner to the royal PR machine. It is part of its own PR play with the state – behaving not unlike Pravda in the Soviet era.
In my book, I challenge former BBC Economics Editor Robert Peston on his tiresome 1980s view of the Public Relations industry and his public defence of the BBC and its quality journalism.
For me, Peston protecting the BBC is not very different from a black-cab driver ranting about the disruption that Uber is wreaking. Peston presents a powerful symbolism of old media, old times and old institutions. Everyone is due their Uber moment.
Until this summer, Tom Fletcher was Britain’s Ambassador to Lebanon. Tom draws parallels between the world of diplomacy, the world of PR and the fragility of institutions today. If PR is dead, then diplomacy is certainly dead, too.
He writes: “Diplomacy has detached itself from public debate through meaningless platitudes; much of its form (summits, communiqués) was designed in 1815 for an age of monarchies and great states; it has been slow to adjust to the next wave of disruption. Let’s be honest, post Snowden and Assange, we are now less trusted than we were.”
Tom continues: “We need to embrace a more activist, insurgent, citizen-style of diplomacy if we are to survive”
This is how the Foreign & Commonwealth Office – another pillar of the British establishment – increasingly thinks and behaves. But most leaders don’t think in terms of insurgency or activism. Instead, they impose managerial hierarchies and attempt to command and control. They communicate through the equivalent of summits and communiqués – and spew the meaningless platitudes to which Tom refers. Mid- to long-term, this is not sustainable.
Meaningless platitudes will be ruthlessly exposed. Hierarchical institutions like monarchies can only fail in a networked society, especially if PR is the mainstay of what sustains them. But again we find contradictions.
56% of those surveyed back in September agreed that the monarchy is an elitist institution. But 65% still felt that it still has a place in modern Britain. On many metrics – from “uniting Britain” to economic benefits – the monarchy defies logic and statistics. The century-long legacy of a full-frontal and permanent PR assault will linger for some time yet.
These contradictions fascinate me. This is, after all, the age of Edward Snowden, not Edward Windsor. Edward Snowden symbolises the new normal. Snowden teaches us that we need a radical re-think in how organisations communicate and, more importantly, how they behave.
In contrast, modern Public Relations – according to popular legend – was the brainchild of Edward Bernays, Sigmund Freud’s nephew. He created PR in the United States a century ago as a means of control over the masses, whose judgment he did not trust. Bernays’ legacy is another reason why “old normal” PR no longer works. No-one is in control. Anyone who thinks they are – and can impose, rather than negotiate trusted relationships – is living in the wrong century.
Consider also the mega-trend of individual empowerment. This is the power shift from state to citizen; employer to employee; corporation to citizen-consumer. It is fuelled and accelerated by technology, costless communications and the rise of networks. It’s why all so many old institutions like the BBC – from the UN to the EU, trade associations, the medical profession, political parties and even global sports bodies – struggle to be as trusted as they once were. The result is chaos. Trusted leaders embrace chaos.
The new world is complex, too. Networks are inter-dependent and now global. We may trust others within our own networks but will not trust those who think they can impose external control. Trusted leaders understand complexity. I am not sure the Windsor family are great fans of either chaos or complexity.
Here’s a story from the world of business: Three years ago, I attended a session of the European Roundtable, talking trust with 44 of the 50 CEOs of the largest companies in Europe. At the end of my talk – titled “you are no longer in control” – there was silence. One of the CEOs then spoke. “What you do not understand”, he said, “is that people like me pay people like you to keep us in control”.
Before I could answer, another CEO jumped in: “You can pay Robert as much as you like, but the truth is we are no longer in control. The game is up”. If the control game is up for business leaders, why is it not up for monarchs, as well?
Many organisations use Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) to flaunt their values. The Chairman of one global brand, in the wake of a tragic factory fire in Dhaka, Bangladesh, asked not what they should be doing to help the families of victims, but instead how they should better showcase their CSR credentials, to distract from the issue at hand.
Bullshit CSR is not the answer to greater citizen trust. The monarchy deploys endless versions of its own CSR. Take, for example, the veneer of social commitment painted by William’s secondment to the Air Ambulance Service
How many days does William really work? Has anyone yet been rescued by the good prince? How does the offset work between his salary and the £4.5 million of public money paid to refurbish his London home or a further £1.5 million for his country house? Maybe stuff like this shouldn’t matter – but it does. For the record, William was available to work for 47 days last year.
Then there are the rather tenuous links between royal charitable fundraising and the actual costs of delivery.
Are struggling, worthy charities actually disadvantaged when funds are diverted to the causes favoured by royals?
Are we, the public, subsidising royals in their charity promotions?
One MP noted: “A visit of a minor royal to my constituency may have raised £1,000 in income but it cost the taxpayer more than £30,000 in policing and other security. The public stood nil-deep on the pavement. To avoid embarrassment, a group of schoolchildren were bussed in and given flags to provide a hollow ritual cheer.”
This is the way PR works and this is the social cost of “clever” PR. The old normal was very much about “what we say”. Now, it is what we DO that counts. Actions, not words.
In the new normal – as we see time and again from organisations with nonsense “mission statements” –there is no point adopting principles if you are not willing to implement different behaviours. It’s just PR nonsense or CSR bullshit. It has to be about what we do, not what we say.
The monarchy fails the “actions not words” test. Hypocrisy is laid bare. They say one thing and do another. Start with hunting. Endless killing trips for birds, boar and deer are offset with photo opportunities to save rhinos and tigers.
Then there are the frequent incidences of casual racism. Whether it is Charles getting his mate to defend him for calling him “Sooty” or Harry’s reference, exposed in the News of the World, to “our little Paki friend Ahmed.” Or Philip’s “they all look the same, don’t they?” question to Barack and Michelle Obama.
The royal spin machine is always there to tidy up the mess. PR is used, time and again, to prop up a dysfunctional family and – to quote Morrissey – “to impose a virtual emblem on our age”. We continue to be treated as subjects, not as citizens. Tom Fletcher’s evaporating age of monarchy and great states lingers still yet.
Back in the real world, management guru Charles Handy shares great statistics. 80% of employees within an organisation are not engaged – and don’t care. 25% of employees would actively sabotage the organisation for which they work. The revolution is underway in the places we work.
Technology, networks and activism are flattening old hierarchies and elites. Whistle-blowers, social media campaigns and citizen journalists will get you. The days of controlling anything, especially media, are receding fast. ‘People see what we see’. Everywhere we turn, resistance is increasingly futile. In an interconnected world, all of us are smarter than any one of us. Evidence suggests that organisations that embrace these beliefs will be more resilient, adaptive and creative.
The successful, more trustworthy organisations of the future are open, empathetic and relational. These are NOT behaviours the monarchy shows in abundance. One wonders what sorts of conversations are taking place “below stairs”, in the royal palaces?
At the heart of my work is a call for a new model of Public Leadership to replace the broken model of Public Relations. Public Leadership is activist, co-produced, citizen-centric and society-first.
The more trusted organisation of the future looks more like a social movement – a citizen movement – than a traditional hierarchy. Just as diplomats need to think like insurgents, so leaders need to think and behave like social activists.
Public Leadership recognises purpose at the heart of organisations. It stresses the importance of common good, as originally set out by Aristotle. Public Leadership is based on the simple principle of “doing the right thing” – for citizens, not subjects. Citizens understand what the common good really looks like.
The Public Leadership model is made accountable through Public Value. Every organisation, monarchy included while it lasts, should have its unique version – its own manifesto – because Public Value is better co-produced with wise crowds of citizens. This ensures its accountability to the many, not the few – the 99 per cent.
If we are to be properly accountable, then we need to take a more radical approach to honesty and transparency. The monarchy fails this test in spades. It is accountable to no-one – figures are dressed to impress; lawyers are used to suppress spidery memos and blatant lobbying; spin doctors continue to run riot with the truth. How is it possible for a non-accountable, contrary-to-common-good institution survive?
We know Jeremy Corbyn is a republican but I do not think he helps the campaign for an Elected Head of State. Jeremy serves as a warning that – even though change should be inevitable and immediate – the path towards an elected future will need to be carefully negotiated.
Aggressive disruptors – immediately dismissive of the social status quo – may hinder not help, especially in times of such economic and political anxiety and uncertainty. We are perhaps all more conservative than we would like to admit.
Even so, Corbyn has struck a political chord. Whatever you think of Jeremy, he (maybe inadvertently) demonstrates the principles of Public Leadership: activist, co-produced, citizen-centric and society-first. Corbyn’s Catch 22 is whether his own authenticity will be hisdownfall? His stance of Syria clearly exposes this.
Republicans can, however, take heart from the traumas of the Labour Party in recent months. The transition from Elizabeth to Charles may well be the equivalent of a royal Corbyn moment. Whatever happens, it is certainly time for a new national anthem – one that even Jeremy can sing.
I would like to dwell on the personal, as we think about that moment when the crown, blessed by a mythical god, passes from Elizabeth to Charles.
“The aim to have more trust is a stupid aim”, argues moral philosopher Onoora O’Neill. “Intelligently placed and intelligently refused trust should be the proper aim”.
Trustworthiness – better judgement – matters more to Onoora than trust. Better judgement is based on a combination of competence, honesty and reliability. Trustworthiness is personal and reciprocal. It is not for institutions to own. This is interesting for the future of monarchy and its possible “Corbyn moment.”
A very large percentage of current support and goodwill is for Elizabeth, more than the institution. It is highly personal. In our unpredictable world, there’s a good chance that 'trust' and goodwill will not be automatically transferred to Charles. Elizabeth has, according to prevailing mythology, earned her trust. None of the others have.
Reciprocal vulnerability makes accountability mutual – again not a current manifestation of monarchy. Organisations and institutions should be as exposed to their citizen stakeholders as those citizens have traditionally been to them. The genuinely trusted organisation accepts this and creates safe spaces in which dissenting voices are welcomed; where challenging conversations can flourish; and where there may be no single correct answer.
In these safe spaces, the leadership, metaphorically, stands naked before those it serves. This of course sets alarm bells ringing for PR traditionalists, who have always set out to know all the answers and ensure only happy endings. PR traditionalists, including, I am sure those in the Palace Press Office, don’t like naked leaders. And leaders – especially monarchs – don’t like standing naked anyway.
Look no further than a fly-on-the-wall TV series, created way back in 1969, that the Windsor family has long suppressed – a bit like that other film of Elisabeth and her mother giving Nazi salutes.
According to commentators, the documentary was buried because it showed real, fallible human beings – and did not support the image of royalty. Philip was apparently barbecuing a sausage. Elizabeth was making small talk with guests – telling US President Richard Nixon: "world problems are so complex, aren't they now?" Indeed they are.
Fallibility is normal. PR illusion is not.
What can Elizabeth learn from former Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, Margaret Hodge? Revolutionary approaches to the new normal are already underway in sectors we might least expect. The monarchy is slow to catch up. Tax, of all issues, is now being openly debated within crowds. There is now an open and public debate on responsible tax and the common good.
The project has brought together a coalition of global corporations, NGOs and activists. It has welcomed faith leaders and industry groups, regulators, administrators and government. Margaret Hodge – vocal critic of many global corporates – has been transparently involved.
In September, 120 stakeholders came together in the “Responsible Tax Big Tent”. This is a safe space that no-one actually controls – where everyone holds everyone else to account, however scary that may be for some taking part. Trustworthiness is better built by embracing vulnerability – and by being honest and transparent, together. No-one can learn if they don’t listen.
Could this also be a new model for a different type of constitutional convention and/ or people’s parliaments up and down the land?
Members of the Windsor family can learn a great deal from Margaret Hodge. As she noted in a PAC report: “the Duchy (of Cornwall) enjoys an exemption from paying tax even though it engages in a range of commercial activities. This tax exemption may give it an unfair advantage over its competitors who do pay corporation and capital gains tax.”
In that particular case – at least £18 million in revenues and NO corporation tax –
the Duchy is no different to Starbucks, who so many revile.
As part of my work on tax, I was privileged to meet Rowan Williams. The former Archbishop of Canterbury spoke wisely about apology. “We’re all familiar with how we feel”, he remarked, “when someone says only ‘I’m sorry that you feel like that’, rather than apologising outright”.
We all know what he means. Sometimes, only a proper “sorry” will do. When it comes to how organisations can demonstrate honesty and genuinely earn trust - the ability to say a “proper sorry” is possibly the most important point of all.
We all no doubt have our favourite apologies that we want to hear from the Windsors. Saying sorry for aggressive tax avoidance schemes. Saying a proper sorry for making Nazi salutes. For deliberately burying films from public view. Saying sorry for consistently making casually racist or sexist comments from a position of complacent power. Saying sorry for flirting with a fake sheikh – or with real sheikhs for arms deals, for that matter. When did we last hear them say a proper sorry?
If I was advising the Windsor family – which, for the record, I have absolutely no intention of doing – there are better communications strategies they should adopt, rather than their current “old normal” PR.
We have already looked at several closely:
Accept chaos as reality
Radicalise honesty & transparency
Build coalitions – even unexpected ones
Love the citizen crowd
Communicate through actions, not words
Of course, the Windsors and their advisors will adopt none of these.
Future institutions need to be social in all dimensions, harnessing the energy of networks. This runs to the heart of how they should operate – a far-flung distance from the hierarchies that we see everyday. It would certainly take more than a single royal campaign on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Clever hashtags aren’t enough.
Elizabeth (@BritishMonarchy) is on Twitter but this is really not the answer. We are fed bits and pieces from her day-to-day activities – but essentially they are shouted at us in old press release form. Again, we don’t hear from the person as a human being, just from the construct of monarchy. Such is the continued arrogance of elites.
It’s a bit of a cliché, but every organisation can be a media company now, even the royal family. Technology has blown away the imperialism of old media. We see examples everywhere – from consumer brands like Red Bull to more corporate institutions like HSBC or GE. They have their own digital newsrooms, You Tube channels and TV shows.
I am sure Edward would be more than happy to launch Windsor TV. It would give him something to do. We should welcome it. The infamous Royal “It’s a Knockout” was, for many, a watershed for the monarchy. It was one of many days when “royalty finally lost the plot.”
Many still believe that Kate Middleton is the best PR the royal family could ask for.
Washington Post writer Autumn Brewington notes: “Her appealing image as an ordinary woman who happened to marry a handsome prince has inspired an illusory sense of pride that the couple have leveled social distinctions in a historically class-conscious society”.
Illusory indeed. Pure, old-fashioned PR. Social distinctions have most certainly not been leveled. This “ordinary” image is ruthlessly enforced – buying “High Street” clothes and, shock-horror, even wearing the same outfit twice. But this is not real-life. This is illusory life. This is pure PR. It is all so carefully managed.
We should not ignore the Kate factor. Kate helped increase the share of Britons who thought the monarchy would be around in 50 years rise to 56%. Is Kate really the secret weapon of a doomed institution? Possibly, “yes”.
Yet British women – so polls tell us – don't actually want to be Kate. A staggering 89% of women have no interest in being Kate, even for a single day. So – according to one commentator – the royal PR machine creates the illusion of a woman to whom the British public no longer attach themselves emotionally. They are not psychologically invested in her life; they do not project their own identities onto her; she is not a repository for the nation’s sense of itself, nor of its beliefs.
What on earth is going on?
If, in the real world, we want to address the crisis of leadership and trust and move happily – or unhappily – into the new normal, the answer certainly does not lie with PR as many still practice: active deceit, managing messages, spinning furiously. Except for the royal family – at least, for now.
Earning genuine trust demands we stand naked. Reciprocal vulnerability. Real public leadership. Citizens first. Genuine accountability. Except for the royal family – at least for now.
Making the right decisions and doing the right thing have never been more important than the “who do we fuck today?” mentality we see from certain politicians, CEOs, industries and institutions. Except for the royal family – at least for now.
In good theory, the Windsor’s downfall should be imminent. But my sense is that we are some way off yet. The campaign for an elected Head of State may need to exercise active patience. It needs to be more interventionist, more activist and more asymmetrical, for sure. It needs to do more than simply bide its time, waiting for the inevitable. But it may need to reluctantly accept the institution, short-term – while fighting hard against the silent authority it wields. The monarchy’s Corbyn moment will inevitably come. I am sure of that.
The Windsor family represents a huge contradiction in a messy and uncertain world. The Wall Street Journal’s Peggy Noonan, after the death of Osama bin Laden, wrote: “Here is the fact of the age. People believe nothing. They believe everything is spin and lies. When people believe nothing, they believe everything.”
So much about Britain’s royal family is spin and lies. We, the people, believe nothing but seemingly allow ourselves to believe everything meanwhile. We need to confront this and other contradictions, if we are to flourish as British citizens. Timing is everything.