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Republicanism

We're in the middle of the long Jubilee weekend for Liz's 60 years on the throne and it's been quite fun reading and listening to all the weird and wonderful reasons for ditching the monarchy.  None of the reasons I've heard have convinced me so far and I'll talk about some of the better reasons in a minute.  First, I should come clean and admit I am a bit of a Royalist.  Not in the sense that I've been out waving flags or anything but in the sense that I prefer the Queen to yet another elected politician who is only going to lie to us for a few years then lower tax for a week in a effort to keep his job.  I also played in a sandpit with Prince Charles as a kid, but I haven't let that cloud my judgment.

My favourite 3 reasons to become a republic in no particular order:
  1. Their armies fought to obtain and maintain their position
  2. They have too much power and are unaccountable
  3. They don't serve any function
Now let's have a think about each one in order.

First, I don't remember Liz fighting for her throne.  My understanding is that she is the direct descendent of George I, the first of the Hanoverian monarchs.  While Georgie undoubtedly fought wars to expand his territory in his home land, he did not fight to become King here.  He simply inherited the title on the death of Queen Anne.

Even if HMQ's ancient family were involved in wars to obtain the throne I don't see how that is an argument for abolishing the modern Royal family.  Take that to its extremes and we'll be giving England to the Welsh (who seem to me to be the original Britons before the Saxons, Normans, etc).

Point two is actually a far more powerful arguments and by happy co-incidence almost completely contradicts point three, which is always nice.

Heisenberg's uncertainty principle tells us that we can know the position of a particle or the speed of a particle but you cannot know both with any certainty (sorry hope the sudden change of tack didn't make you seasick).  HMQ's powers are analogous to the uncertainty principle in that we know what the powers are and we know what will happen if they are exercised in the way we expect, but we cannot be certain what would happen if Liz got drunk and tried to use her powers contrary to the will of the elected Government.  If that is correct then Liz both has power and yet has no power.

Let us say that Call Me Dave and his pet Liberal decided to force through an Act of Parliament that abolishes the monarchy.  HM Liz II feels a little hard done by and so when the Bill is presented for Royal Assent she refuses to sign.  What happens next?  There is no precedent that I am aware of for how to proceed.  I suspect; however, that Parliament would suddenly remember that it is supreme and that all is required for a law to be good is for Parliament to say so.  Will the Queen and the Royal family be abolished?  Yes.  So, what happens if the Queen refuses to use her power in the way directed by the Government?  It ceases to exist.  The alternative would be unacceptable to anybody, it would be a return to autocracy and no elected Parliament would allow that to happen.

There is a grey area where the Act of Parliament is less important, say Dave and Nick forced through an Act of Parliament ordering the destruction of all cute kittens and HMQ refused to sign, what then?  In principle the situation is no different, the elected Parliament can either accept a loss of face and almost certain electoral defeat at the next election or they can reform the way in which a Bill becomes and Act.

So, it seems to me that while Liz does appear to have very important and serious powers, those powers are in reality a smoke screen.  They are like a judge who presides of a murder trial and completely believes the defendant to be innocent.  But, the defendant is convicted by the jury.  The trial judge could stand up and walk out of court refusing to do his duty, but in reality unless he wants a swift end to his judicial career (and possibly a criminal conviction for misconduct in judicial office) he has no choice but to impose a life sentence on the man he thinks to be innocent!

Now, let us turn to our final object that the Royals serve no function.  Given what I've already said you might expect me to accept this point.  I don't, obviously, else where would be the fun in writing about it?

The Royal family serve a couple of important functions.  They have a minor impact on tourism.  I say minor because if we exiled them all to Elba tomorrow morning we'd still have all the Royal palaces etc that people really come to see.

I am told that they do serve a very important diplomatic function and that a visit by a member of the Royal family is used as part of the UK's overall diplomatic efforts across the globe.  One thing that is worth saying is that the Foreign Office has a lot of options at its disposal and if they didn't think the Royals did a good job here then they'd stop sending them.  It is a sign of how important the Royals are thought of abroad that the Taliban showed some interest in capturing Prince Harry in Afghanistan... I mean who here would want to capture him??  Put simply, foreigners seem to love our Royal family.  Their governments love to rub shoulders with Royalty to show their domestic audiences how important they are.

What would happen if we abolished the Royals?  For a start we'd have an embarrassing little situation with the money.  Do we put Liz and Phil up in a two-bed semi in Romford and continue using money with her mug on it?  Are we going to print a whole new range of coins and notes?  Maybe we should join the Euro.  Don't even get me started on the stamps.

Who would replace Liz?  As I see it there are two options.  Either a presidential figure or nobody and we just get on sans figure head.  The president would no doubt be yet another politician who has never had a proper job and is completely out of touch with the lives of ordinary people.  At least Liz spent some time working as a mechanic and driver in the Auxiliary Territorial Service during the Second World War.  What was Call Me Dave's last proper job?

That's my opinion anyway feel free to disagree... I'll probably change my mind in a week or two any way.

Comments

  1. President Blair? President Cameron? Dear God, no.

    (There are perfectly good rational arguments too, but that's the one that convinces people.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I go back a little further.

      President Wilson, definitely not.

      However, President Churchill or President Thatcher I might go along with, but many would not.

      That is the problem. Even the most popular politician would have a significant anti populous.

      Delete
  2. But then... Queen Camilla

    ReplyDelete
  3. Blair, Cameron and Thatcher got what they wanted as PM, why would their being "president" make it any better/worse? The defence of monarchy by saying how awful a President Blair or President Cameron would be is in fact an attack on democracy. It is akin to saying that it is awful that the government is elected by a democratic majority. At least a president can be impeached or can lose an election. S/he serves at the will of the people, rather than the government ministers who currently serve at her majesty's pleasure.

    Individuals who hold the rank of King or Queen may indeed be very nice people, who have served with great dignity and a sense of duty. But were they not to so serve, there's not a thing anyone could do about it, unless you want to commit treason or abolish the monarch. In which case, you do not so much believe in the institution of monarchy but tolerate it for as long as it's not a nuisance.

    How can we live in a society which promotes meritocracy on the one hand but then offers deference to some on the basis of their birth-line or marriage alone? On one hand we teach children to work hard and strive so that they can reach their fullest potential, while on the other explaining that Catherine Middleton must now be addressed as her royal highness and bowed or curtsied before. No black boy in this country may ever grow up to be head of the state. Kate Middleton could not have been Muslim nor even catholic.

    There are many problems with our democracy, including the trend that politicians are increasingly drawn from the ranks of those who have never done anything else. I’d rather work with that democracy than accept that someone can be a better head of state merely as a result of being born into the right family.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Barry, I think it's fair to say that even in countries that lack a king or queen there is still a certain amount of deference paid to some because of their birth, I give you the Kennedy's in the USA as an obvious example. The problem with complaining about the unfairness of giving deference to some for no obvious reason (Paris Hilton?) is that it's not really a complaint against Royalty but is a complaint about human nature. It's not even specific to our modern culture. The Roman's had a celebrity culture based on scandal (just like our gossip mags nowadays). There will always be somebody at the top of the tree and the chances are very high that those at the top of the tree will, in some way, be related to previous inhabitants of the top branches - George HW Bush and George W Bush for example or what about Tony Benn and Hilary Benn? It's no surprise at all that the children of the wealthy tend to do well. It's not all about private school or prejudice against the poor, it's in no small part experience. If you know how to succeed you'd be a very bad parent if you didn't try to give your children every advantage your position allowed plus the benefit of your experience of becoming successful.

    I think you are wrong about Kate Middleton - there is nothing in law preventing her being Muslim, only Catholic I think. In any case, you are right that should be changed, but if that is changed then does the monarchy become more acceptable?

    I agree entirely about politicians having no experience of the real world. And I take your point about preferring to have a head of state who can do the job well rather than simply having been born to it. But, you must also recognise that we must play the hand we have been dealt, which currently is that if we put Liz and Phil against a wall and shoot them, then we will have a politician replace Liz as head of state and that politician will almost certainly have little or no experience of the real world. The chances are they won't be as good as being Head of State as the Queen who was raised to the job and has 60 years experience in the role. Plus every few years we'll have to listen to the President's weasely lies as he desperately tries to save his own job.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Having an unelected Head of State means that they are able (and required) to be politically neutral. I think in terms of national cohesiveness, this is a feature, not a bug.

    ReplyDelete

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