Peter Rhodes on fishy justice, the anti-monarchists and mixed messages for the crowds

Read the latest column from Peter Rhodes.

Monty Python's fish dance
Monty Python's fish dance

Before the Queen's lying in state, the Government does two things. Firstly, it invites people to walk past the coffin. Next it almost urges them not to.

Visitors are told to expect horrendous queues and to ensure they bring food, drink, phone chargers, waterproofs and sunscreen. They must be “appropriately dressed” and will be searched, airport-style, like potential terrorists. There will be no talking, no photography and no use of mobile phones. Loyal subjects are being treated almost as criminals. Watch out for disappointment and disorder.

Amid all the pomp and circumstance, the protocol and the precedents, one little procedure has been largely overlooked.

I refer to the solemn expulsion from the National Federation of Fish Friers (NFFF) of Jaki Pickett who runs a chippy in Muir of Ord, Scotland. An anti-monarchist, she outraged her neighbours by celebrating the Queen's death online with champagne and an offensive slogan. The NFFF was quickly on the case and has now revoked her membership on the grounds that the posts were “in extremely bad taste”.

I have no idea what form this revocation takes but I find myself reminded of Monty Python's fish-slapping dance of 1971 which ends with John Cleese knocking Michael Palin into Teddington Lock with a single blow from a very large halibut. And that's you out of the Federation, sonny.

The chief complaint of the anti-monarchists is that the King is not elected and therefore undemocratic. But our Government is democratically elected and yet rentamob still stands at the end of Downing Street and screams for its downfall. And if we were a republic with an elected president, I bet the same people who howl at Charles III would be howling at the president because what really narks them is authority in any form.

Anyway, in this week of solemn reflection and affection, the demise of the monarchy looks as far away as ever. It could happen only by the public's consent through some sort of referendum. And if by some miracle the anti-monarchists won that first vote, imagine what would happen on election day when the candidates presented themselves to the people and the people voted by a landslide for the First President of the British Republic to be one Charles Windsor of Buckingham Palace.

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