Tag Archives: Republic

The British republican dream has to be more than an anti-monarch moan

Republic:

1. a form of government in which the people or their elected representatives possess the supreme power


In this sense of the word, I am a republican. This definition offers a positive image. An system of government based on democratic principles where people hold genuine power.

Too often however, the Republican movement in the UK confuses this positive image of genuine democracy with simply being ‘anti-monarchy’. I am as guilty as the next blogger for this. I have written highlighting royal corruption and how they too often over-step their constitutional position.

Equally, if you currently visit the campaign organisation Republic’s website, you are met with a banner advertising the ‘Abolish the Duchy‘ campaign. Is this what republicanism is about? Maybe in part, but it has to be so much more.

If we want real participative democracy, we have to move beyond just an anti-monarch rhetoric. We have to show the benefits that republicanism has to offer as well as what needs replacing and up-dating in our system.

To Republic’s credit, they do outline in some detail a Presidential system that they wish to see replace the current system. This however rarely makes it into the press releases let alone the public consciousness. The case for democracy is no where near as press friendly as good old fashioned royal bashing.

When making a positive case for democracy, we cannot completely shy away from  the fact that in a future republic, almost by definition, a monarch will not hold a position of power or even a symbolic position as ‘head of state’.

Just as a monarch can play no role in a future republic, nor can an unelected chamber within our parliament. The current House of Lords is as offensive to the concept of democracy as the monarchy is. Why do republicans spend so much time attacking the monarchy and so little the House of Lords?

Having an entire chamber of non-elected lords is not democratic. Having reserved seats within this chamber for bishops, or indeed any faith leader is equally as undesirable. Your historical institutional power should bear no resemblance to the weight of influence you have in the modern decision making process. Is this too radical a sentiment?

It is not just me making these ‘radical’ arguments. Recent polls show that 69% of people support the principle of an elected second chamber.

It is with absolute despair then that I have watched as the reform of the lords has been kicked into the political long grass once more. Labour failed in this respect for 13 years. The Liberal Democrats have, despite their best efforts, been unable to follow through in their pledge on electoral reform.

This failure to deliver Lords reform with such public support is a symptom of our broken system – our democracy is not working.

Unlike Lords reform, the anti-monarch sentiments of republicanism hold much less support within the British population. 69% of the population stated in a recent poll that they thought we would be worse off without the monarchy. Would the public vote in a referendum to keep the monarch as unelected head of state? Possibly, although of course the irony is that we don’t know because we have never been asked!

At the heart of my republican beliefs is a very simple, positive idea – that those who make the rules that govern us and those who represent us abroad should be democratically elected (as proportionally as possible). This is our future we are talking about. I think we should have an equal say in how we shape it.

Without shying away from the inherent incompatibility of the monarchy and republicanism we need to ensure that our positive vision of a truly participative democracy is what people associate with our campaign.

Living in a republic is not about denying our history and the role the monarchy (and the Lords) played in shaping this country. It is however about enabling all to equally have a say in shaping our future.

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It’s not just the BBC who should be apologising – Elizabeth Windsor also owes me an apology

The BBC has apologised for telling the nation that the Queen – Elizabeth Windsor – raised with the government ‘her concerns’ about why Abu Hamza al-Masri had not,at that point, been arrested. The revelation came on the Today programme on BBC Radio 4 and reveals details of a private conversation the BBC security correspondent had with the Queen.

The BBC has apologised for leaking details of this private conversation.

Should they have apologised though? With such a clear public interest in this story, are the BBC not entitled to release details?

The BBC has provided evidence that Elizabeth Windsor, the Sovereign of the United Kingdom has potentially over stepped the mark as a ‘Constitutional Monarch‘. She has meddled in politics.

The ‘rules’ are very clear, as the Head of State in a Constitutional Monarchy, The Queen (Elizabeth Windsor) has to remain strictly neutral with respect to all political matters.

Whether or not she has officially overstepped this role depends on whether she, on this occasion, failed to remain ‘neutral’. Regardless, there is a compelling argument to suggest that she has violated the spirit of a constitutional democracy, even if not the letter.

The problem does not stop there though. Due to overly secretive nature of royal involvement within our politics we have no idea when she has, or has not, ‘expressed her opinion’. New Labour, ironically after probable royal lobbying, made sure the royal family was exempt from the Freedom of Information Act.

Equally disturbing is the role of the BBC in this whole affair. Why do they refuse to make public any other occasions they know of royal intervention in party politics? As Republic’s spokesperson Graham Smith said, “The decision to disclose this one conversation while keeping all else secret smacks of a deliberate PR stunt to put the Queen on the right side of public opinion. Yet the BBC have acted as the official mouthpiece of the palace without making any attempt to scrutinise what has been said.” Are the BBC representing public interest or royal interest? They are not always the same thing.

So Elizabeth, it is not just the BBC that should be apologising to you. It is also you who should be apologising to me, and the 62 million other citizens of the UK. We are a democratic state and I tolerate you and your out-dated position in public life because your position is symbolic – I will not tolerate you having any involvement in political decision making.

The monarchy is not irreplaceable.

If we are concerned with how much Elizabeth interferes, just wait until she’s gone and we have her son as Head of State. Charles’ meddling in everything from education to agricultural, environmental policy, architectural commissions, the response to foot and mouth disease and the banning of fox hunting is notorious. I am not sure he even knows what a constitutional monarchy is.

For as long as the UK remains a constitutional monarchy, we need to ensure it is just that. Law making has to be left up to our elected politicians and law enforcement left up to our judiciary. These are the foundations of a functioning democracy.

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