The Empire is a long time a-dying but its last vestige, the Commonwealth, is looking decidedly shaky. It is an organisation without power, or logic. Nations today are grouped by geography or common interest, often economic. The Commonwealth has neither. At best it is a talking shop, at worst an anachronism. The sad (for some) truth is that it doesn’t matter and never did.
It took us an unconscionable amount of time to stop being Imperial and remarkably we do still have a few colonies. But the Commonwealth is not colonial – though there is a strong element of nostalgic deference to the “Old Country” in it. It’s not venal, doesn’t damage the sovereignty of the member states – but it is irredeemably silly and pretentious.
When the Queen came to the throne the process of decolonisation had only just begun. She was never an Empress, but the sun never set on her subjects. Some seemed to like that and she remains Head of State in many. Quite why is hard to fathom. It’s daft enough for Britain to have an unelected Head of State but for countries to choose to have one who isn’t even a national is weird to say the least !
The Commonwealth countries choose their own heads of State and that some of them choose to have the British monarch (most don’t) is their business. A harmless eccentricity. The Commonwealth as a whole is the same. Some countries with no colonial past have joined the Commonwealth which makes the whole thing even odder, and arbitrary.
Can you name one thing the Commonwealth Conferences have actually achieved ? “Commonwealth Preference” is long since gone. The problem, of course, is that they have no power so their sentiments may be worthy and Jaw, Jaw is always preferable to War War but they can’t do anything.
Britain’s place in the world is in a state of flux – the “lost an Empire and not yet found a role” descriptor is more valid than it has ever been. The Commonwealth may remind us of our “Glorious Past” (not so glorious actually, but that’s another story). But clinging on to an ersatz Empire just makes us look self-important and silly. Time a line was drawn under this nonsense.