Pawn to Queen 4.
Brown's discussions about changing the rules of monarchical succession to give the women of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha equal rights are a classic distraction. Some mid-level strategy wonk suggested it'd take people's minds off their economic problems and spur a new round of glossy and unrealistic TV programmes full of ruffs, thrones and pageantry.
It also has the advantage that it looks radical and anti-discriminatory if you squint really hard, and so it appeals to the former republicans on Labour's benches. But why now? The Prime Minister is quoted as saying:
"There are clearly issues about the exclusion of people from the rights of succession and there are clearly issues that have got to be dealt with."
Really? Dealt with now? Is there a clamour on the streets and in the blogs to amend the succession. Or some other urgent need we're not aware of? Even if QE2 (QE1 for any nationalist pedant readers) were gravely unwell, Charles is her eldest offspring, and his two sons would continue to follow him in the order of succession.
The anti-Catholic aspect of succession might come up sooner, true, and if we are to have a monarchy it's certainly absurd for any such discrimination to continue to be enshrined in law (and yes, this applies to the sexist priority given to male heirs too).
Brown goes on to say:
"But I think in the 21st Century people do expect discrimination to be removed and they do expect us to be looking at all these issues."
The idea that this would remove discrimination in matters royal is patent nonsense, though. Above all, this is a family firm: sure, you can marry in, but that's a pretty unpleasant prospect even considering only the attention you'd get from the tabloids.
The "discrimination" is actually far wider - it's against everyone who isn't born into this family or invited to marry into it. You will never be head of state (on the safe assumption that the minor royals don't read this blog), however male and Protestant you may be.
If we actually wanted a true equal opportunity system for heads of state, devoid of any discrimination against any of us, we'd have a ceremonial elected president, a la Ireland, Israel and all the rest. Catholic women, like the rest of us, could then stand on their own merits. I suspect that Gordon Brown knows that, buried away somewhere in that residual core of principles that he ignores.