Singapore General Elections: A Point of View

April 28, 2011

Singapore 2011 General Elections: A Point of View

by Eugene KB Tan*

Will the 2011 Singapore General Election (GE) mark the start of a truly competitive, two- or even multi-party democracy in Singapore? Or let’s take the question further — is a “freak” election result possible, with the People’s Action Party losing power altogether?

After all, this GE will see the most number of seats being contested since independence, with 26 out of 27 electoral divisions involved. Not only have the Opposition parties found enough people to field, this slate is arguably their best to date. About 2.2 million eligible voters will make their choice on May 7, and the battle for their votes will be earnestly fought.

It goes without saying that Aljunied GRC will be most fiercely and closely contested. The Workers’ Party (WP) has fielded its “dream team”. The question is whether there will be a marked spillover effect on the other seven constituencies the WP is contesting.

In these contests, how will the WP’s manifesto of a “First World Parliament” be received by voters vis-a-vis the PAP’s long-standing belief that our political system must produce a government with a clear mandate — a strong parliamentary majority that will enable it to lead decisively in Singapore’s long-term interests?

Arguably, the political destination for the WP and the PAP is the same: It is about making Singapore politically secure and sustainable. The key difference between the two parties is how to get to the desired state of affairs. It is one of the gamut of issues, including bread-and-butter ones, that voters will have to decide on.

Ever the shrewd politician, WP leader Low Thia Khiang has upped the stakes greatly by leaving Hougang where he has been Member of Parliament for 20 years to challenge a PAP team with three office-holders and one potential office-holder.

Low has indicated that if he loses in Aljunied GRC, he won’t take up a Non-Constituency Member of Parliament seat. In short, the WP is gunning for a win-big-lose-big. A lot rides on how convincing its alternative parliamentary model is to voters.

This GE sees the GRCs, rather than the Single Member Constituencies — conventionally seen as easier battlegrounds for the Opposition — being the focal points of key electoral battles. This time the Opposition has concentrated its best candidates in GRCs.  In some respects, the potential dividends from winning a GRC are much higher. And the Opposition parties seek to break the forbidding psychological and political barrier of having not won a GRC since the scheme was introduced in 1988.

What are some of the GRCs to watch? While attention will be riveted on the obvious hot seat, there could be “sleeper” hot spots that flare overnight.

One that is already shaping up for a gloves-off contest is in Holland-Bukit Timah GRC, where skirmishes have begun ahead of the hustings.

The re-branded Singapore Democratic Party has fielded its “A-Team” including a former top civil servant, that will seek to engage the PAP anchor Dr Vivian Balakrishnan over his ministry’s over-budget Youth Olympic Games.

The SDP’s other GRC contest is in Sembawang, a traditional PAP bastion. In both divisions we can expect the jousting to be hard and fierce. Will we see a different SDP this time, having a distinct identity from that of its leader Dr Chee Soon Juan? Will it hold firm to campaigning on the social and economic issues it has identified in its manifesto – or will it be diverted by high rhetoric, side antics and verbal tit-for-tat?

Compared to Aljunied, the stakes for the PAP in Sembawang and Holland-Bukit Timah are not as high, yet the loss of even one GRC is a blow.

Certainly, in Ang Mo Kio GRC, even a narrow win by the PAP would hurt. The team helmed by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is up against a hastily-cobbled Reform Party team and many will see his team’s performance as a proxy barometer of national confidence in his leadership.

Also worth watching out for is the PAP’s performance in what is popularly regarded as its GRC strongholds of Bishan-Toa Payoh, Marine Parade and West Coast. Despite public interest in Opposition personalities like veteran Chiam See Tong and NSP newbie Nicole Seah, the contests are the PAP’s to lose. It remains to be seen how the Jeyaretnam brandname will sit with West Coast voters.

So, how real is the possibility of a freak election outcome?Reform Party leader Kenneth Jeyaretnam (right)  yesterday dismissed the idea; PM Lee did not go down the route of fomenting anxiety over such an outcome, but said it was “good” to have a strong contest to “make Singaporeans realise more what is at stake at this election … it has very serious consequences”.

Indeed, the Singaporean voter has not been callous. In the 1991, 1997 and 2001 GEs, although the PAP was returned to Government on Nomination Day, voters still gave the PAP a credible mandate on Polling Day. Besides, playing up the fear factor of an upset may leave a negative taste with educated voters. — Today/

* Eugene KB Tan is assistant professor of law at the Singapore Management University School of Law.

In the UK, Monarchy is the IN thing

April 27, 2011

In the UK, Monarchy is the IN Thing

By Simon Heffner

With the royal wedding of our future king and queen two days away, it is the perfect time to reflect on the question of monarchy. The republican Left – and, unlike in Australia or New Zealand, our anti-royalists are almost to a man and woman socialist – is nearly bankrupt of ideas in advancing its cause. It is also bankrupt of popular support. There have been times – not the late 1990s, but rather the late 1860s and the early 1840s – when republicanism had a real grip on popular opinion in this country. That is not so now.

Republicans hate this. They tout arguments about the existence of a monarchy being a root cause of oppression, economic decline, and no doubt soon global warming, but still encounter an ocean of indifference among those of their audience who are not (their intelligence insulted) deeply hostile to them. We do not have a monarchy, let alone a constitutional monarchy, by accident. Decisions have been taken at certain times that we shall have one, and that it shall take the form it does. It is there, doing what it does, with the consent of the people. There is no mass movement against the institution precisely because it works, and works well.

No monarchist should fear republicanism, the leaders of which will continue to be boring, chippy and irrelevant until even the BBC tires of having them on for reasons of “balance”. (The “balance” point is interesting. Since most opinion polls show a four to one endorsement of the monarchy, shouldn’t the BBC put up four monarchists every time they ask one of these droning loons on? I only ask.) What we should fear, though, is the grandstanding interference of politicians.

Once, we had prime ministers who understood the constitutional settlement in this country so well that they knew not to play about with it. That is not so today. Even so prominent an example of what happens when you muck about with the constitution as the present state of the House of Lords, which has become a whole stable of Caligula’s horses, does not deter these people. Because Mr Clegg, our struggling Deputy Prime Minister, thinks the monarchy is an institution like any other, he has decided to seek to make it like any other, by demanding various changes in the way it operates. The full force of his ignorance has already met the full force of constitutional reality, and it has not been pleasant for him.

It has been disclosed that his plan to allow the marriage of descendants of Sophia, Electress of Hanover, to Roman Catholics has been vetoed by the Church of England, because of the far-reaching constitutional problems it would cause in terms of the monarch’s being the Supreme Governor of that Church. After all, if a future king married a Roman Catholic any child of that marriage would be required by the Catholic Church to be brought up in that faith. This would cause problems when such a child eventually succeeded as monarch and supreme governor of a different church.

Most of us could have told Mr Clegg this would be the case, had he bothered to ask. Perhaps he thought he would chuck in disestablishment while he was at it. Or perhaps he and the low-calibre people who advise him simply didn’t understand the consequences, any more than they appear to understand the consequences of the AV electoral system that they are seeking to push down our throats.

Nor, indeed, do they seem to grasp the consequences of another glib suggestion that Mr Clegg has tossed into the constitutional vortex, namely that semi-salic law, which dictates the order of succession, should be abandoned and that the first-born child of any sovereign should succeed to the throne. Mr Clegg’s thinking is straightforward, though shallow. We live, thank heaven, in an age of equality between the sexes. He wants this equality to apply as much to the throne as it does to a woman having the right to a job as a hod-carrier. I am told that there are few building sites with women hod-carriers; and, oddly enough, such a monarchy would provide its own, metaphysical difficulties. It is not just that to change this law, which appears to be harming no one, requires the assent of 15 Commonwealth parliaments. It would also require the amendment of any number of our own Acts of Parliament to bring them into line. I am not sure whether these ramifications are understood by Mr Clegg. He did not seem to grasp, in the matter of Catholic spouses, whether he wanted to chop up the 1701 Act of Settlement, or the 1772 Royal Marriages Act, or possibly both. Then there is the precedent set for peerage law, entails to heirs male of the body, and so on and so forth. Pandora’s Box doesn’t even begin to describe it.

The media have often been blamed for creating instability in the Royal Family, and rather a lot of that blame has been justified. I would not go so far as to say that some in my own trade had the blood of the late Diana, Princess of Wales on their hands, but it would not be too much of an exaggeration. The general public certainly have thought so, usually in those intervals between hysterically blaming the House of Windsor for her premature and lamented demise.

The manipulation of public opinion concerning the institution of our Head of State is a dangerous business. Newspaper and magazine editors and others in comparable positions in the broadcast media are not always perhaps so conscious of their responsibilities in this area as they should be. I fervently hope that Catherine Middleton is left alone in her private life in the way that her fiancé’s mother was not. But the media are not the main problem for the Royal family: the Queen’s ministers are.

It should not take too much wit for those ministers to understand two important points. First, there is no threat of the public withdrawing their consent from the monarchy, or showing any dissatisfaction with it as it is currently constituted: so there is no cause for politicians to start to interfere with it. Second, the public do not mind that this unique institution is configured in certain unique ways, such as having a Protestant succession, or following semi-salic law – so the politicians, who appear to have other, much graver issues with which to deal, should perhaps shut up and move quietly away.

Any attempt to change the nature of the monarchy would gratuitously weaken it. That is why the Prince of Wales must succeed his mother when the time comes (abdication either by her, or by him in favour of Prince William, would undermine the whole concept of monarchy); he is in any case far more popular with the public than some can bear to admit, as is his entirely harmless consort.

Would we rather have a political head of state, such as President Obama or President Sarkozy, both of whom now polarise opinion in their respective countries to a destabilising extent? Would we like the opportunity to have Chris Patten, who seems to have the reversion on all top public sector jobs these days, as our own Head of State? Or, better still, Neil Kinnock? That is where monkeying around with the monarchy would take us, and why we should be thankful indeed for what history has so wisely given us.

Singapore General Elections 2011: Lee Kuan Yew returned unopposed

April 27, 2011

Singapore General Elections 2011: Lee Kuan Yew returned unopposed in Tanjung Pagar

(Reuters) – Lee Kuan Yew, the founder of modern Singapore, was returned unopposed to parliament on Wednesday, but his long-ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) faces its toughest ever challenge at the polls from the city-state’s tiny opposition.

Eighty-two of the 87 seats in parliament will be contested in the general election on May 7, state media reported after nominations closed, the highest number ever. The only exception was the 5-seat constituency where Lee and four other PAP candidates were declared elected unopposed.

“I would have welcomed a contest,” said the frail-looking, 87-year-old Lee, dressed in trademark white shirt and trousers. “I assure you I will look after you for the next five years.”

Hundreds of PAP workers shouted and waved party flags as Lee, “minister mentor” in the cabinet, walked back slowly but unaided to his car after the nominations closed.

There is no suggestion the PAP could lose power. The party won 82 of the 84 seats in the last election, but faces criticism from voters over a surge in housing prices and the high cost of living, despite steering the economy out of recession in 2009 to last year’s record 14.5 percent growth.

Lee was prime minister from independence in 1965 until 1990, and his son, Lee Hsien Loong, is the current prime minister. The elder Lee is credited with the transformation of Singapore from a third-world, newly independent backwater into the shiny first-world financial centre it is today.

“Do not rock this foundation. Remember where Singapore came from and how difficult it was that we have got to where we are,” he said in a statement this week. “In the heat and dust of this election, do not risk your assets, property values, job opportunities. Make the right choice.”

Despite its stellar growth, opponents have criticised Singapore’s restrictions on political freedoms and on the press. The PAP’s near monopoly in previous elections has in part resulted from scores of walkovers in constituencies that the opposition did not contest.

This time the Workers’ Party, the largest of the clutch of opposition groups, has said it is aiming to win one multi-seat constituency, or five seats.It has put up its biggest stars — Chairwoman Sylvia Lim, sitting MP Low Thia Khiang and corporate lawyer Chen Show Mao — into the same constituency, which is likely to be the most keenly watched of all the contests.

There was some controversy over the walkover in Lee’s constituency. An opposition alliance filed nomination papers but election officials said they did not do so within the allotted time.

“It’s a feeble effort to show that they wanted to contest,” Lee said. “But everybody knows if you want to contest you go before 12 o’clock.”

(Additional reporting by Kevin Lim and Walter Sim; Editing by Alex Richardson)

Upbeat on Thailand

April 27, 2011

Upbeat on Thailand

by W. Scott Thompson

THAILAND truly is a land of contradictions. Bangkok is by far the glitziest city in Southeast Asia and coming from the moon, one would surely consider it the capital of a very rich country. But on Monday at lunch in the Normandy Grill (coat and tie required) atop the best hotel in the world, the Oriental, some distinguished economists bemoaned the chances the kingdom had to equal Korea or at least Malaysia in per capita income.

Yet Thailand isn’t doing badly for all the trouble it has had. It recovered quickly from the Asian financial crisis in 1997, which arguable it caused, and its growth continues respectably, as it has almost every year since World War 2 — an argument for the inexorability of compounding — when leaders let the bankers keep the country on a steady course.

But the army is now at “maximum alert”. Thai soldiers were killed on the Cambodian border, a conflict that has dragged on for more than half a century. Thailand was too blithe about its prospects in submitting the question of a temple, sitting on the border, and for which its historical claims seemed just, to the International Court, for arbitration.

Cambodia pulled a fast one by hiring Dean Acheson, former American secretary of state, to represent it — who won for Phnom Penh. This is not one of the world’s irresolvable conflicts; but centuries of hostility make it a tough one. They are sparring over whether there should be mediation and some Indonesian-supplied peacekeepers. Cambodia says yes, Thailand says no. The real problem is that neither side wants to drop it. The consequence is the loss of vast tourist spending for both sides.

And there are almost daily deaths in the south, though it is claimed that many rebels have turned in their guns. This one was solvable, but as I’ve written here before, the exiled leader Thaksin Shinawatra deliberately withdrew the intermediary presence of the Democrat Party, his competition, from its southern stronghold and ever since it’s been bloody.

Everyone here is howling about the “double standard” of the Culture Ministry — and the three girls arrested for stripping down a bit during the great water festival, Songkran.

Imagine! In Thailand of all places. Though this misses the point. The Thais think that “anything goes” if the doors are closed. Or rather, they don’t bother to think about it, if the doors are closed. But Thai culture demands propriety in public. The Thais are the greatest sticklers for public propriety, despite Patpong road and all that. Most farang just don’t get that.

So Thailand goes on its merry way; everyone in the capital is smiling, for one reason or the other. And I heard a very upbeat analysis, too.

A former and distinguished student of mine, who has held posts as finance and foreign minister, Surakiart Sathirithai, is optimistic. He’s also the first Thai statesman I’ve heard talking with sincerity about reconciliation, and he has believable plans for it.

Nor is he so frightened of the great transition that will come when the Crown Prince (left) assumes his royal duties. The royal duties themselves are time consuming, especially for one who has so many other “interests” to take up his time, especially abroad. His royal sisters each have a constituency to help fill the vacuum that will be left when the present king is here no longer.

Thaksin, in this narrative, being an astute businessman, can be persuaded to stay out of harm’s way — and the kingdom’s.

It’s of course essential that whatever government comes to power in the elections — with the blessing, of course, of the army and its powerful commander — tends to the needs of those who’ve worn red: more development funds for the poor areas especially in the northeast, better educational opportunities, the usual list. According to one columnist, the Red Shirt attitude is now to tell their “billionaire boss to please butt out, just give us your money, not your pearls of wisdom. Keep shut, will you?”

That should be good news for the prime minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva,(below right) but he has, not surprisingly, proved disappointing. He loves the politics of his job, but he’s there on sufferance of the army, and unlike Surakiart, isn’t a heavyweight. His programmes for alleviating the acute economic problems in the kingdom just haven’t gained traction.

The kingdom has always had a genius for letting a heavyweight emerge when really needed; one thinks of General Chatichai Choonhavan, who guided Thailand through tumultuous years of rapid economic growth two decades ago. Everyone is wondering who the new heavyweight will be.

But elections there will be. Factions are manoeuvring in age-old style, and politicians are changing sides — one suspects for more reasons than small change.

The Thai are very prone to self-criticism. But for all that has happened here since the economic crisis, from the serious illness of the revered king, the domestic fracas between red and yellow shirts, to the bloody crises on two borders, Thailand isn’t doing all that bad.

I’m not sure how many times I’ve visited or lived here in the past 42 years, but as always, I’d invest heavily in the kingdom if I could.

The writer is emeritus professor at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, the United States

Dilemma of “Dirty Hands”

April 27, 2011

Dani Rodick on Saif al-Islam el-Qaddafi: Dilemma of “Dirty Hands”

Harvard, CAMBRIDGE – Not long ago, a Harvard colleague wrote to me that Saif al-Islam el-Qaddafi, a son of Libya’s dictator, would be in town and wanted to meet me. He is an interesting fellow, my colleague said, with a doctorate from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE); I would enjoy talking to him, and I might be able to help his thinking on economic matters.

The meeting, as it turned out, was a letdown. I was first briefed by a former Monitor Company employee, who gently intimated that I should not to expect too much. Saif himself held photocopies of pages from one of my books on which he had scribbled notes. He asked me several questions – about the role of international NGOs, as I recall – that seemed fairly distant from my areas of expertise. I don’t imagine he was much impressed by me; nor was I much taken by him. As the meeting ended, Saif invited me to Libya and I said – more out of politeness than anything else – that I would be happy to come.

Saif never followed up; nor did I. But if a real invitation had come, would I have traveled to Libya, spent time with him, and possibly met his father and his cronies? Would I have been tempted by arguments such as: “We are trying to develop our economy, and you can really help us with your knowledge?” In other words, would I have followed in the footsteps of several of my Harvard colleagues who traveled to Libya to exchange views with and advise its dictator – and were paid for their services?

These scholars have been pilloried in the media in recent weeks for supposedly having cozied up to Qaddafi. Sir Howard Davies chose to resign as Director of the LSE, which awarded Saif his doctorate (which some allege was plagiarized) and took money for the school from the Libyan regime.

There is a strong sentiment that academics and institutions that collaborated with such an odious regime – often with the encouragement of their governments, no doubt – suffered a grave lapse of judgment. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s murderous stance during the uprising has revealed his true colors, regardless of his more moderate posture in recent years. And Saif al-Islam’s recent support for his father suggests that he is not the liberal reformer many took him to be.

But it is much easier to reach such judgments with hindsight. Were the moral overtones of dealing with the Qaddafis so obvious before the Arab revolutions spread to Libya? Or to pose the question more broadly, is it so clear that advisers should always steer clear of dictatorial regimes?

Universities all over the world are falling over each other trying to deepen their engagement with China. Most academics would jump at the chance to have a meeting with China’s President Hu Jintao. I haven’t heard much criticism of such contacts, which tend to be viewed as normal and unproblematic. And yet few would deny that China’s is a repressive regime that deals with its opponents harshly. Memories of Tiananmen are still fresh. Who is to say how the Chinese leadership would respond to a future pro-democracy uprising that threatened to undermine the regime?

Or what about a country like Ethiopia? I have had intensive economic-policy discussions with Prime Minister Meles Zenawi in Addis Ababa. I must confess to having enjoyed these talks more than most meetings I have in Washington, DC and other democratic capitals. I have no illusions about Meles’ commitment to democracy – or lack thereof. But I also believe that he is trying to develop his economy, and I offer policy advice because I believe it may benefit ordinary Ethiopians.

The conundrum that advisers to authoritarian regimes face is akin to a long-standing problem in moral philosophy known as the dilemma of “dirty hands.” A terrorist is holding several people hostage, and he asks you to deliver water and food to them. You may choose the moral high ground and say, “I will never deal with a terrorist.” But you will have passed up an opportunity to assist the hostages. Most moral philosophers would say that helping the hostages is the right thing to do in this instance, even if doing so also helps the terrorist.

But choosing an action for the greater good does not absolve us from moral culpability. Our hands do become dirty when we help a terrorist or a dictator. The philosopher Michael Walzer puts it well: “It is easy to get one’s hands dirty in politics.” He immediately adds, however, that this getting one’s hands dirty in this way is “often the right thing to do.”

In the end, an adviser to authoritarian leaders cannot escape the dilemma. Often, leaders seek the engagement only to legitimize their rule, in which case the foreign adviser should simply stay away. But when the adviser believes his work will benefit those whom the leader effectively holds hostage, he has a duty not to withhold advice.

Even then, he should be aware that there is a degree of moral complicity involved. If the adviser does not come out of the interaction feeling somewhat tainted and a bit guilty, he has probably not reflected enough about the nature of the relationship.April 12, 2011

Dani Rodrik, Professor of International Political Economy at Harvard University, is the author of The Globalization Paradox: Democracy and the Future of the World Economy.

Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2011.

An Unforgettable Easter for the Brits

April 26, 2011

The Royal Wedding of Prince William and Catherine Elizabeth Middleton–April 29, 2011

The Real Royals Say ‘I Do’ and Britain in Jubiliant Mood

by Roger Cohen (April 21, 2011) @

LONDON — It has to be said that the British monarch and newspaper columnists are diametric opposites: in 59 years on the throne, Queen Elizabeth II has never expressed a public opinion on anything.

No wonder she’s so popular. Even in an age when the royals are busy putting servers to work (Facebook and Twitter are their new domain), this head of state retains a strand of mystery from another age. Britain has no written constitution yet excels in constancy.

I resisted. I did. I ignored all the amblers in the parks saying, “What are you doing for the wedding?” I averted my eyes from the bunting along Regent Street, the stands outside Buckingham Palace, the commemorative china. I was not, whatever the pressure, going to write a column about the royal wedding.

It’s hard to say when I buckled. These are not things one likes, as a small-r republican, to talk about. Perhaps it was a businessman friend, after a conversation with colleagues in Bombay, telling me all India cares about is the wedding. Perhaps it was radiant Kate from Central Casting with the touch of whimsy in her hats. Or was it The Evening Standard’s screaming headline, “Kate to Say I Do Live on YouTube,” that tipped the balance?

There are some serious things to say about the union of Prince William, second in line to the throne, and Catherine Elizabeth Middleton — but they elude me. I will say this: At a time when Brits are learning to live without public libraries (not to mention jobs) as a result of budget cuts, they are enthused by this lavish ceremony that will see the daughter of millionaires (a commoner in local parlance) wed to the helicopter pilot who will one day head the sprawling enterprise royals call the Firm.

Bread and circuses, the Romans noted, are what people need. Circuses, it seems, are what they need most. No nation can script a feel-good moment, a global fantasy, quite like Britain, where class is the sediment of centuries. In the age of “Celebrity Apprentice,” the British royals are the time-honed pros.

There’s been a nod to straitened times. Kate will forsake a horse and carriage for a car. Prime Minister David Cameron, who flew the budget airline easyJet for a recent break in Spain — Michelle Obama, take note — was to wear a lounge suit in his ongoing campaign to prove he’s not what he is: an Eton-educated toff. That was before vociferous complaints led Downing Street to say he’d don tails.

America is entranced. As Hamish Bowles, who will cover the wedding for Vogue, told me, “There’s something mesmerizing to Americans about the idea of a society structured with this impenetrable citadel at the top.” A U.S. society whose self-defining myths include the myth of classlessness needs the spectacle of class at work.

So Kate, at some level, is a 29-year-old Cinderella, the commoner ushered into the citadel, the pretty girl who now has her own coat of arms (three acorns separated by gold and white chevrons.) She’s played her hand well. As Bowles noted, “There’s something of a kind of poised and manicured Upper East Side girl about her, with classic dress sense. A KM dress has iconicity: understated, pared-down, a dramatic solid color.” And then, of course, there’s the hat.

In fact, the Cinderella thing is wrong. She’s Marlborough-educated to his Eton-educated, a partner in a moneyed elite. They’re a modern couple: they met at college, broke up, and, as the dyspeptic father of the groom, Prince Charles, noted, “They’ve been practicing long enough.” He’s got a real job. He’s not found himself in the wrong company, like his Azerbaijan-attracted uncle Prince Andrew, or in the wrong inner-Fascist attire, like Prince Harry. In short, far from fairy tales, they seem grounded and real.

I think that’s what the Brits like — as well as the chance, with Easter and then the wedding, to take an 11-day break on just three days’ leave at multi-billion cost to the nation. In fact they like the couple so much they want to skip Charles (who may be in his 80’s before he gets the top job) and go straight to William. That won’t happen. On abdications the royal view is: been there, done that, didn’t like it.

Of course, King Edward VIII’s decision to quit has been much aired in the movie, “The King’s Speech.” And there, as a little girl, is the present queen! She’s met, as monarch, with every prime minister since Churchill — 12 of them. Another sharp contradistinction with columnists is she really knows what’s going on.

In truth, that’s what made me snap: her ever-presence. Just to remind myself of the British miracle, I strolled through Westminster Hall, its magnificent timber roof arching over the flag-stoned expanse that has seen coronation banquets from Richard I in 1189 to George IV in 1821, trials including that of Guy Fawkes, and Winston Churchill lying in state.

The genius of Britain is continuity, a very serious idea of which William and Kate now become part. It’s enough to make a republican dabble in monarchism.