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A royal salute to the Commonwealth
In the article “A royal salute to the Commonwealth” by Peter Oborne, he reflects on the current situation of the Commonwealth and the importance of this organization. Throughout the text, he talks about the different aspects of the Commonwealth, and how it has evolved in the past decades. In this paper I am going to analyze and comment on the article, where part of the focus will be on the writer’s argumentation and the role of the Commonwealth as presented in the text.
Already from the beginning of the text, it seems clear that Peter Oborne’s attitude towards the Commonwealth and the British monarchy is very positive. The title of the article suggests a very pro-monarchy opinion. He does this by using an example of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their recent visit to Canada. There, some people would wait for more than five hours just to get a glance of the young couple, and the writer utilizes this occasion to exemplify the great history shared by the two nations. By quoting a woman from the crowd, who said, “William’s lineage is amazing, he’s walking history – I can’t believe I saw walking history”(p.1 l.12-13) he emphasizes the fact that some people still value the royal family. This is what Oborne calls the invisible strength of the Commonwealth.
The writer claims that the majority of the former British leaders did not care much about the commonwealth, and he argues that many of them never took it very seriously. He is especially pointing fingers at the New Labour movement in the 90’s with Tony Blair as the front figure. Oborne accuses him of not caring about the biennial Commonwealth conference and that Tony Blair was too friendly towards the United States. In the text it says, “Blair regarded traditional British values and identities as xenophobic, if not racist. Indeed, the Commonwealth does not rate a single mention in his autobiography, whereas there are endless pages devoted to the United States and the European Union.”(p. 2 l.24-27). This represents Oborne’s idea that the former British premier ministers lacked interest in the Commonwealth. However, you should keep in mind that this is just one example of a leader, who was not that fond of this organization. This does not mean that all of the former British leaders shared the same thought, but more on that part later.
In addition to his point about the careless British leaders, Oborne also claims that, in this present situation of the world, the Commonwealth is better suited than the European Union. He argues that due to the large number of member countries and the relatively low cost of membership, the Commonwealth is a better organization than the EU. He persuades his readers by presenting a logical and rational argument, in which he describes the different benefits of the Commonwealth.
According to Peter Oborne, the Commonwealth is a great investment in the future, and at one point in the text he is talking about the possibility of moving the Commonwealth headquarter to another place other than England. He mentions the suggestion that the former Conservative Party chairman, Marquess of Lothian, came up with. Lord Lothian proposed they should re-base the Commonwealth in India, which would expand the global horizon. Oborne agrees with Lord Lothian on that matter, because he thinks that it could lead to numerous opportunities for the British foreign policy, “Lord Lothian’s suggestion opens up an alternative vision of a future British foreign policy. We would no longer be tied so closely into Washington and Brussels, two connections that have served us so badly over the past two decades.”(p.3 l.68-70) Therefore there are great possibilities ahead if the politicians choose to adjust the organization in the right direction.
Even though Peter Oborne has mostly positive things to say about the Commonwealth, he is acknowledging the fact that the organization will have a future issue because of the age of the Queen. In all these years with the “careless” British leaders, the Queen has, according to the writer, been the “glue” of the organization. He is very concerned about the Commonwealth’s situation after she passes away. Since she has attended every conference in the last 60 years, her relationship with the respective nations’ leaders is extremely good. Therefore, Oborne finds it incredibly important that especially the Duke and Duchess choose to travel to the “right” countries and thereby contribute to the existence of the Commonwealth.
All in all Peter Oborne’s argumentation is, as mentioned above, based on rational and logical arguments. By using logos, he is appealing to the reader’s common sense. However, I would say that his argumentation falls flat because of his very one-sided perspective. As far as I can see, Peter Oborne argues in a very subjective way, and, besides from the concern about the Queen, does not try to raise himself above his opinion. Also, the writer makes a strong generalization when he talks about the former leaders’ lack of interest in British history. He uses Tony Blair’s autobiography as an example to argue that he, and many others, never really cared about the Commonwealth. Furthermore, he only talks about the negative aspects of the United States and the European Union, but I think we would all agree that, particularly the EU, has done some great things for the cooperation of Europe. Because of this, I would go as far as saying that this article is more about “selling” the message of the commonwealth rather than enlightening people about the organization.
Throughout the text, Oborne makes use of many negatively charged words when talking about the former leaders and the EU, and the other way around, when he is talking about the Commonwealth. An example of this can be seen in the beginning of the text when the writer introduces us to the Commonwealth, “…the invisible strength of the Commonwealth,” “the remarkable biennial event…” By using these words with positive associations, the reader is more likely to agree with the writer. Furthermore, the use of negatively charged words makes the reader think low thoughts about, for example, the EU.
On one hand, I do believe that the Commonwealth is important to have for the former British Empire countries, and the improvements, that he talks about, seem like a great solution for the future development of the organization. On the other hand, I think Oborne is a little bit too concerned about whether or not the royal family travels to the countries of the Commonwealth. As it says in the last part of the text, “For while the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s first choice of a foreign country to visit is welcome, their second is regrettable. They are travelling from Canada to the United States.”(p.3 l.94-96) To me, it seems that Peter Oborne is overreacting. Even though the young couple should, of course, take care of British interests, there is nothing wrong with visiting countries outside of the organization, including the United States.