The media appears determined to narrow the Overton Window further to exclude republicanism, which would make the views of over 30% of the UK population unacceptable as a part of normal political discourse. The fascinating thing about the concept of the Overton Window as enforced by the UK media, is that some of the views not given media airing as being beyond the pale of “respectable” opinion – such as rail nationalisation – actually enjoy public support.
The media are currently intent on demonising Jeremy Corbyn as a republican by inventing conflict between him and the Queen. The BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg asked him in a corridor whether he would be prepared to kneel and kiss the Queen’s hand as part of the ceremony of joining the Privy Council, and the media splashed his demurral as the lead broadcast and print story of the day. It subsequently became plain that Kuenssberg is a medieval fantasist and there is no hand-kissing involved.
Naturally no apologies followed. The Guardian is still attempting, even today, to milk the story with a front page article indicating Corbyn may not kneel. I should sincerely hope not. I kneel to nobody. Personally I find the idea of kneeling to another human being as weird as the idea of sticking my penis in a pig’s mouth. But apparently grovelling servility is the norm, and even thinking about not doing it makes you a weirdo.
The interesting thing is nobody has actually asked the Queen. I have met the Queen in public many times and in private twice, on both occasions to be thanked for my role in organising State Visits. I had explained I was a republican and Scottish nationalist (in those days small n) and was therefore refusing the offer of a LVO and a CVO respectively. I did not bow, or call her Ma’am. She actually asked me my reason for refusing the honour the first time, and was perfectly pleasant when I explained politely but straight. I received direct from her hands small gifts of an armada dish and a letter rack. I eventually auctioned the letter rack for the Julian Assange Defence Fund.
She showed no umbrage or concern whatsoever that I was a republican – I am sure she meets them all the time – and behaved towards me in an entirely normal fashion, not in any way noting my refusal to obey the court protocol. I personally witnessed a proposed honour to another person being downgraded because “the Palace” did not like them, but there was no question of any sanction on me for my republicanism. The proof is that there was never any question mark over my doing the job all again on a second occasion, either from the Queen or from her private secretaries.
If Jeremy Corbyn sticks to his guns, and just goes along and shows normal respect, I have no doubt at all the Queen will carry on completely unfazed. She is not stupid, is very well aware that a significant number of British people are republicans, and is not interested in making people uncomfortable. She will expect so long as she is monarch, Jeremy Corbyn to work as prescribed within the forms of government – just as I organised State Visits to the very best of my ability. But personal displays of obsequiousness are not of importance to the Queen; they are rather the obsession of the pathetically servile Guardian and other media.
Craig Murray is an author, broadcaster and human rights activist. He was British Ambassador to Uzbekistan from August 2002 to October 2004 and Rector of the University of Dundee from 2007 to 2010.