Prince Harry’s wedding to actress Meghan Markle, was a great success, watched by approximately one billion people around the world. Everything to do with the wedding went smoothly, as we have come to expect from royal events in Britain.
Various estimates were given as to the cost of the wedding. Fox News said it was $34 million. A British source said 32 million pounds (one pound = $1.34). The cost was higher than seven years ago, when Prince William got married. According to Fox, security alone was more than $30 million, considerably higher than at William’s. Harry had a greater need for security, a sign of the times, together with terrorist threats made against him for his military role in Afghanistan.
The Queen paid for the wedding; the tax-payer covers security. When President Trump visits London in a few weeks, security will also be expensive. At least with the royal wedding, the financial outlay will be more than covered by increased tourism, television rights, sales of merchandise made for the occasion, and all those celebratory drinks and meals.
The cost of the monarchy is covered by entrance fees to the royal palaces.
The Economist’s first editor, Walter Bagehot (pronounced “Badge It”), wrote a classic book on the English Constitution, in which he explained the function of the two branches of government. The monarchy, he said, represented the “dignified” branch of government; while parliament was the “efficient” branch.
The Economist has a weekly column on British politics, called “Bagehot,” in memory of its founder, who edited the publication from 1860-77. “A royal wedding is as good a time as any to conduct an audit of the British constitution,” is the opening line of this week’s offering.
In the past, the weekly newsmagazine has called for the abolition of the monarchy. “An Idea whose time has gone,” was one such cover story about twenty years ago.
But this week’s publication points out that the monarchy and parliament have changed roles – “The efficient branch is in its worst state since the 1970s. The two main parties have been captured by their extremes. The prime minister lacks authority. Westminster has been rocked by scandals about sexual harassment and bullying. The Home Office is in turmoil. The government is preparing for Brexit, its most complicated task since the second world war, without a majority in the Commons or a consensus in its own ranks.” (“Something old, something new”, Economist, 5/19).
Most Members of Parliament do not support Brexit, but the people did in a referendum two years ago. “The efficient branch now has an agonizing choice: implement a policy that it believes to be foolish, or frustrate the “will of the people.”
“The dignified branch (the Crown), by contrast, is thriving. The Queen represents stability in an unstable world, as well as unity in a polarized one. She has spent 66 of her 92 years on the throne and has survived twelve prime ministers and innumerable political crises.” Last week’s wedding has boosted the popularity of the monarchy around the world; Prince Charles was chosen last month as the new Head of the 53-nation Commonwealth, to succeed his mother; Prince Harry was appointed as an Ambassador to Commonwealth youth; Zimbabwe has asked to return to the organization after leaving fifteen years ago over human rights abuses and failure to uphold the rule of law and democratic norms.
It remains the case, however, that twenty years ago, the monarchy wasn’t doing so well; a reality that could return at any time.
This is the age of populism and no politician is more popular than Queen Elizabeth II, whose approval rating in Britain is always above 70%, more than double the highest rated politician. Even in her overseas dominions, her popularity surpasses the politicians, so much so that many of them would like to say goodbye to her and the institution of constitutional monarchy. It is the ordinary people who feel differently and from whom she gets her greatest support.
GERMANY TO REPLACE US AS HONEST BROKER IN MIDEAST Handelsblatt Global, 18 May 2018
“Iran, Gaza, Jerusalem: If ever the time was right for EU countries to unite in their foreign policy as in their trade policy, it is now . . . May 2018 could one day enter history books as the moment when the EU countries including Germany at last embarked on a common foreign policy. The catalyst, as long expected, will have been an external power. Not, however, a common foe, but an ostensible ally: America’s Donald Trump.
“. . . the US and Europe can no longer pretend to be aligned. The US has forfeited its role of honest broker [in the Middle East] . . . If there is today an honest broker, it may ironically be Germany…
“Angela Merkel and her EU peers have certainly grasped the urgency of the moment . . . For Germany to play a diplomatic role . . . it would need to boost military spending far beyond its paltry 1.2% of GDP…”
(Handelsblatt is an influential German business paper; the German equivalent of the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times.)
Macron to Silicon Valley: Embrace Europe’s Regulations: French President Emmanuel Macron ratcheted up tensions with U.S. tech giants Thursday calling on them to embrace Europe’s regulation of topics ranging from taxation to privacy to artificial intelligence, because Washington is failing to do so.
Europe Seeks Russia’s Help on Saving Iran Deal, Despite Chill: U.S. President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal with Iran has added fresh impetus to a European outreach to Russia—although European officials say existing tensions make it far from a thaw.
Britain Takes Stab at Wrangling Dirty Money: The publication this week of a U.K. parliamentary report calling for tougher action to stop the flow of dirty Russian money into Britain is a landmark moment for the City of London, writes Simon Nixon.
ECB Warns Against Trade Spats, Urges Patience in Easing: European Central Bank officials warned at their April rate-setting meeting that international trade conflicts could hurt the eurozone economy and called for patience in phasing out the bank’s easy-money policies. (Brexit and Beyond, WSJ, 5/23
IN FACE OF A GLOBAL TRADE WAR
The EU announced its first defensive measures against US plans to penalize European companies’ business engagements with Iran, by reactivating the 1996 “Blocking Statute.” That law prohibits companies from terminating their business engagements with Iran, to avoid severe penalties in the United States. Some companies from Germany and other EU countries have already announced that they will cancel their contracts with Tehran to avoid endangering their business ventures in the US. German companies, involved in profitable ventures with Russia, could be facing a similar situation. Washington threatens to demand that businesses from Germany and the EU comply also with the April 6 sanctions announced by US President Donald Trump, against some Russian oligarchs and their companies. According to government advisors, German Russia-oriented businesses are “virtually panicking” because of the escalation of a global trade war.
Newsletter – How to Become a World Power
Berlin is seeking to use Washington’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal to increase its pressure on Tehran. In their joint statement published Wednesday, the governments of Germany, France and the United Kingdom declared their continued commitment to the agreement, while demanding that the Iranian government limit its ballistic missile program and its efforts to obtain influence in the region. The reintroduction of US sanctions offers Berlin a chance to disguise its continued pressure on Tehran as a war preventive measure. At the same time, US sanctions against Iran continue to fuel the power struggle between the EU and the USA. The Airbus Company alone could lose €16 billion in commercial deals due to the sanctions imposed by the US government. Commentators recommend resistance: “You don’t become a world power in a conference room.” At the same time, Israel is exacerbating the escalating tensions with its aggressions against Syria.
Der Spiegel comment on EU / US relations
“With his decision to blow up the Iran deal, U.S. President Donald Trump has thrown Europe into uncertainty and anxiety — and raised the specter of a new war in the Middle East. One thing is certain: the
trans-Atlantic relationship has been seriously damaged.”
Zimbabwe Formally Applies to Re-Join Commonwealth
To re-join, Zimbabwe must demonstrate that it complies with the fundamental values set out in the Commonwealth Charter, including democracy and rule of law plus protection of human rights such as freedom of expression. The membership process requires an informal assessment to be undertaken by representatives of the Secretary-General, followed by consultations with other Commonwealth countries. Zimbabwe has also invited the Commonwealth to observe its forthcoming elections in July.
Zimbabwe was suspended in 2002 for breaching the Harare Declaration. In 2003, when the Commonwealth refused to lift the suspension, Zimbabwe withdrew from the Commonwealth. Since then, the Commonwealth has played a major part in trying to end the political impasse and return Zimbabwe to a state of normality.(http://allafrica.com/stories/201805210678.html)
ISLAM INCOMPATIBLE WITH HUMAN RIGHTS
- The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHCR) itself has become a prime motivator and enforcer of the rejection of human rights.
- The other charters of human rights are to be found exclusively in the Muslim world. Anything that falls within Islamic shari’a law is a human right; anything that does not fall within shari’a is not a human right.
- “For us the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is nothing but a collection of mumbo-jumbo by disciples of Satan”. — ‘Ali Khamene’i, Iran’s current Supreme Leader.
- “The underlying thesis in all the Islamic human rights schemes is that the rights afforded in international law are too generous and only become acceptable when they are subjected to Islamic restrictions.” — Ann Elizabeth Mayer, Islam and Human Rights: Tradition and Politics.