by Rab Bruce’s Spider

A couple of interesting things have happened in the past few days, both of them casting a light on societal values within the UK.

First, we had the revelations in the Guardian that the Queen had put pressure on the UK Government to amend a new law on transparency to ensure that nobody could learn the true extent of her wealth. This brought to light the strange constitutional device known as "Queen’s consent" under which the monarch is entitled to be given advance sight of any proposed law which may have a direct impact on her. And when she discovered that her subjects, many of whom still adore her, might learn just how wealthy she is, she demanded that the UK Government block it.

This sort of thing is pretty much what we expect from the monarchy, so I’m not really surprised by the news as it merely adds yet another confirmation as to how the Royal family view ordinary people. No, what really surprised me is that the Government of the day was Ted Heath’s Tories. Yes, that’s Tories proposing a transparency law on financial holdings. Can you imagine that nowadays? It just shows how far to the right politics has moved in the intervening decades. Heath’s Tories, for all their many flaws, were very possibly further to the Left than today’s Labour Party.

And, speaking of the Labour Party, it was they who eventually introduced the Bill under Harold Wilson, even retaining the monarchical privileges - because that’s what the Establishment required, and Labour, even back then, were desperate to become and remain part of the Establishment. Now look at Keir Starmer’s Labour and see how well they have succeeded despite continuing media hostility to the faintest whiff of socialism.

This example of deference to wealth and power is typical of the way the UK operates, and it also shows just how much the likes of Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson have done to shift politics towards the extremities of the Right.

The other issue was the uproar over some Scottish Rugby players not taking the knee before their match against England. Of course, everyone is entitled to their own views on the best way to demonstrate their opposition, or otherwise, to racism, but the big take-away for me was the question of whether players should take a knee was not discussed at all beforehand. This, I think, demonstrates how low a priority it was for Scottish Rugby Union and the players. If there were two or three black players in the team, I suspect the issue might have been discussed, thus allowing them to make an informed decision. The fact that it was not mentioned prior to the game suggests that it is not seen as an important issue.

Of course, there are lots of views on whether taking the knee is an appropriate or proportionate thing to do. Everyone is entitled to make up their own mind, but as far as I am concerned, I think it is an important gesture. If just one child sees it and asks why the players are doing it, then the issue has been raised in the mind of one person. That can only be a good thing. And yet, all this incident has done is, as seems the norm these days, polarise debate. Sadly, things like the rightwards drift of politics has facilitated this sort of argument. It would be nice to think we can move away from such polarised debate in all walks of life, but it looks as if we are stuck with it for the time being, and unless we can get away from the malign influence of Westminster politics, our leaders (whoever they might be) are never going to be able to set a more conciliatory and measured approach to debate.