Thursday, 11 February 2010

Hacker... Humphrey... 20 Years on...?

Hacker:  You know what, Humphrey? When I look back and I think of the frustration I used to feel, when the likes of you and Bernard blocked or stalled what I was trying to do... And when I decided eventually that the only way to make things happen was to clip the wings of civil servants, and the wings, for that matter, of the other institutions that wanted to keep things just as they were... And when I then consider how we positioned our chaps above civil servants and concentrated power in No.10 - because, of course, we were elected politicians - When I think about how we used that power to force through certain policies, to respond swiftly, more dynamically to certain events, to act decisively, to act sometimes ruthlessly... when I think about all of that, and I then weigh up what it actually achieved, what it made better, versus how divisive it might have sometimes been, when I see that politicians did not become better people, they became worse... greedy, grabbing, sleazy... When I consider all of those things, and recall the rows that you and I had back then, in the good old days, about change... You know, I do rather find myself thinking from time to time that... this change we introduced, this sweeping away the old orders, without creating a more moral environment... well, Humphrey... perhaps... it wasn't quite such a good thing after all...

Sir Humphrey:  No... Prime Minister.

Better the devil you know - Section23a Part9

(Buckingham Palace - Elizabeth and Philip sit at the breakfast table. Phil studies the tabloid newspapers, Elizabeth stares into space.)

ER: Philip?

Phil: Yes?

ER: This Parliamentary privilege... It was designed to protect politicians from the likes of us, am I correct?

Phil: Likes of us? Whatever do you mean, woman?

ER: Kings and Queens. It was designed to stop Kings and Queens from victimising Members of Parliament.

Phil: Don't ask me, woman. I'm no King, nor Queen, for that matter. Of all people, you should know that.

ER: I know, Phil. But, it was supposed to stop us, the monarchy, from banging them up, this act. Am I right?

Phil: Suppose so. Not really up to scratch on the whole thing.

ER: Of course. Nor am I really. But, I am pretty certain that that's what it was all about.

Phil: If you say so.

ER: Yes... and am I right in thinking that my MPs are currently thinking of using it, quite unashamedly, to protect themselves from the people? From the electorate? Is that right?

Phil: Wouldn't put it past 'em. Pretty rum lot, current crop. Wouldn't be surprised if they overstepped their mark occasionally. Seem to have rather a high opinion of themselves, in my view.

ER: But that was not what it was really meant to do, was it Phil? Protect them from the people?

Phil: I shouldn't think so. Although it wouldn't stop them trying, I'd have thought.

ER: No, I'm sure it wouldn't. They're not known for their forbearance, are they? But the thing is, if they are now thinking of using it to defend themselves from the people, doesn't that mean that they are out of touch with the laws, those very laws that shifted power from the monarchy, that slowly drained our influence in the first place?

Phil: I suppose so. Why? What are you getting at, woman?

ER: Well I was thinking that maybe 'the people' who are baying for the blood of these MPs might want to, perhaps, get rid of that particular law and, who knows, other similarly self-serving laws, now that MPs are using them in this way... the wrong way, in a self-serving way.

Phil: And your point is, dear?

ER: Well, I was thinking. This expenses scandal... Do you think that if people became so completely disillusioned with these 'elected' representatives, they might, I don't know, do something about it, cut them down to size, strip them of many of their powers and privileges, and we, the monarchy, could end up perhaps taking up the slack and being.... well, like Kings and Queens used to be... Much more important, more powerful, you never know, more feared and respected?

Phil: By God, why would you want that, woman? It would mean having to be responsible, having to make decisions, and having to make some very difficult decisions at that. The kind of decisions that we don't have to make right now. Is that what you want?

ER: I don't know, really. But I do get bored sometimes. I'm not really terribly stretched. And I just sometimes wonder what it would be like to play a more active role, to feel, once more, like a proper King or Queen. Like a Henry... or a William... a Charles? Ok, perhaps not a Charles. But, I don't know, perhaps... like an... Elizabeth?

Phil: Elizabeth? Elizabeth? What? As in, off with your head, Elizabeth? Have you gone mad?

ER: Phil! Really!

Phil: I'm sorry old goose, but, but, well... it just ain't going to happen. Not a hope in hell. You really might as well drop this one now. I mean, can you imagine? Us... you and me, absolute power? An active role? The boys, idiot Charles deciding to declare war on a whim... because... because some country hasn't adopted his carbon trading strategy? Can you see him? 'Un-Enlightenment Charlie'? Having to persuade all those other nations? Making the case for war? Can't see him addressing the UN, can you? Unless the UN had suddenly been commandered by elves and pixies.

ER: Phil, please!

Phil: I'm sorry, Goosey. I really am. But you must be dreaming if you envisage anything like that. It's a fantasy, a whim. There isn't a hope in hell of it happening. Influence? Really! The thought!

ER: Oh, well... I suppose you're right, Phil. I probably am dreaming. But... we all have to have our dreams, don't we? And, you know... it's just that you can't help wondering sometimes. You know. What if? That is all I'm saying. What if?