Majority of Lib Dem members back monarchy – but 40% would prefer UK to become a Republic

Lib Dem Voice has polled our members-only forum  to discover what Lib Dem members think of various political issues, the Coalition, and the performance of key party figures. More than 600 party members have responded, and we’re publishing the full results.

44% want Charles as King, 9% prefer Wills: 40% want neither

Thinking about the future monarch, which of the following would you prefer?
Prince Charles - Some rights reserved by University Hospitals Birmingham

    44% – Prince Charles should succeed as King after Queen Elizabeth II

    9% – Prince William should succeed as King after Queen Elizabeth II instead of Prince Charles

    40% – Neither – there should be no monarch after Queen Elizabeth II

    6% – Don’t know

By 53% to 40%, our sample of Lib Dem members opt for monarchy over a republic. As ever, though, those headline figures include a span of opinion revealed in the comments.

I think it’s fair to say that, in the main, there’s not much evident enthusiasm for the institution of monarchy: many of those who want to see Charles crowned view a constitutional monarchy as a preferable alternative to an elected president. Others take the view that it’s largely an irrelevant sideshow, not worth arguing about.

There’s relatively little support for skipping a generation to William, with a number of commenters observing that the point of a monarch is you don’t get to choose.

However, there is a large minority, 4-in-10 of those who responded, who are republicans — though even among this group most seemed to accept that (or be resigned to) public backing for the monarchy means this isn’t worth a big political battle.

Here’s a selection of your comments…

The monarchy does no harm and is part of being British. Having a King is very popular even if it undemocratic

I believe the Queen should retire soon like Queen Beatrice and hand over to Charles. William will be a fine King later on, but he needs time as a private individual with a young family first. Once the precedent of sovereign retiring has been established, Charles can step down in favour of William at the right time.

What a stupid question.

In principle I don’t think inheriting the status of head state is right or fair. However, there are much bigger issues to deal with. I do think the Royal Family do a good job. If we were ever to change the system we’d need to think very carefully before introducing a system, such as America’s, where the head of state can’t get things past congress.

I’m a instinctive republican, but accept that there remains a majority in favour. As such, I don’t accept option 3 as realistic. However, if you are in favour of the monarchy then Prince Charles MUST succeed as King. If you jump to Prince William then the baby has been flung out with the bathwater.

Our monarch is a figurehead and a net gain for british coffers. I’m not a royalist, but it is part of our history and there are more important reforms to the democratic side of our government that need to happen first.

We need to modernise our monarchy. passing the baton to a younger generation would help to achieve it.

Oh, please, can we not waste time on more constitutional navel-gazing. If we can’t get Lords reform or PR in elections, who cares what we think about Royal succession?

Hooray! The question of whether we should have a monarchy at all is FINALLY in the public domain. I don’t expect to see a republic in my life time, but there’s hope for the future at last.

Not a great fan of the royal family but prefer a non-executive head of state so present system as good as any. would strongly oppose an elected head of state with executive powers.

I really don’t care very much, but ‘don’t care’ isn’t an answer choice. I support the monarchy as it is today. But I don’t mind who comes next. Why would we skip Charles?

I’d prefer no monarchy, but if there is one it as to be Charles who succeeds. The whole point of a monarchy is that you get pot luck through a hereditary system. If you start choosing you may as well have a republic.

My heart is republican and my head monarchist. As long as we have a constitutional monarch, succession should follow the general law of inheritance. Coronation by crowd-appeal is as dangerous as law by referendum.

  • 1,500 Lib Dem paid-up party members are registered with LibDemVoice.org. Just over 600 responded to the latest survey, which was conducted between 19th and 23rd July.
  • Please note: we make no claims that the survey is fully representative of the Lib Dem membership as a whole. However, LibDemVoice.org’s surveys are the largest independent samples of the views of Lib Dem members across the country, and have in the past offered accurate guides to what party members think.
  • For further information on the reliability/credibility of our surveys, please refer to FAQs: Are the Liberal Democrat Voice surveys of party members accurate? and polling expert Anthony Wells’ verdict, On that poll of Lib Dem members.
  • The full archive of our members’ surveys can be viewed at www.libdemvoice.org/category/ldv-members-poll
  • * Stephen was Editor (and Co-Editor) of Liberal Democrat Voice from 2007 to 2015, and writes at The Collected Stephen Tall.

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    17 Comments

    • Adam Corlett 28th Jul '13 - 12:19pm

      How about a non-hereditary constitutional monarch?

      That would maintain much of the institution (and the media whirlwind), while addressing the principled objections to inheritance, and without requiring an elected President – which even LDs don’t seem keen on.

    • One of the big achievements of the Royal family, that the birth of George has brought to the fore, has been to put family and service, at the centre of our society, something that I suspect would be extremely difficult to achieve in a republic or any system where there is no underpinning of continuity.

    • Melanie Harvey 28th Jul '13 - 1:08pm

      If a Republic is a Commonwealth.. and the Queen is head of the commonwealth are we somewhat a Republic in any case ? A rose is still a rose etc… Personally I see fors and against. The country does at least technically have ,with a monarchy and democratic government, an heir and a spare…

    • 9% don’t know the law – and clearly don’t believe in the theory of heredity. If we by-pass the heir because of popularity then why have a hereditary monarchy at all

      I have always thought that polls on the monarchy are pretty much useless as the status quo always wins. It seems that 20-25% are actively against the monarchy but the 75% for are not necessarily actively for. If ever I ask someone who supports the status quo, it is more of a ‘Brenda does a good job so why change?’ and that is difficult to counter.

      SAs we saw in annus horribilus and after Diana’s death this changed almost overnight to being much closer as that passive group became anti. By a well coordinated PR campaign it has jumped back up.

      I see no chance of losing the Crown/Monarchy as the concept is so entwined in our law-making process. I think, though, we may be seeing the high-point and through generational change (the post-war generation is very pro-monarchy) and a change of Monarch we may see the popularity diminish a lot.

      I will be interested to see the clamour for missing out Charles in favour of William and how the whole concept of the Monarchy is perceived when we have the first ever change in the media age.

    • John Whitney 29th Jul '13 - 7:52am

      Yes, time the UK moved out of the Middle Ages and into the 21st Century, Monachy must go!

    • @Stephen Tall “we need actively to decide who that person is and by what right they occupy the position”

      No we don’t need to actively decide who that person it. However we do need to decide by what right they occupy the position.

      If it’s a royal family then who occupies it is already decided, barring the change to equal primogeniture, and I don’t see why anyone would want to object to the first in line becoming king as that is the system we’ve got. If you want a say in who it is instead of Charles then the only other credible option is a republic, and it’s then up to the voters to decide who it is.

      Personally, I agree with Peter Tyzack. I don’t really care. If we were starting from scratch we wouldn’t invent it, but as the monarchy is already there I don’t think it does any harm to continue with it.

    • Andrew Ducker:
      The head of state has other functions and duties such as state visits abroad, meeting foreign heads of state and visiting parts of the UK to cheer people up. If there was no head of state presumably the Prime Minister would have to perform these duties which could take up a lot of time. It would take a long time, if ever, before people accepted a situation where there was no high profile public figure who represented the country .

      The monarch does not have links to any political party which has affected the Presidency of, for example, Giorgio Napolitano of Italy, an otherwise admirable man who is a former Communist and distrusted by the centre right.

      The British Monarchy is tremendously popular abroad in a way no President or Prime Minister could be. It would be silly to abolish it as long as that position remains as I have discovered on my travels abroad where people inquire about the Queen. Why would we want to do that ?

    • The fact is that the monarchy today is exactly what the rebels of the 1640s fought to make it (before the rebellion got hijacked by the generals of the New Model Army) — a powerless symbol heading a de facto parliamentary republic.

      That doesn’t mean that improvements could not be made in the institution — terminating the monarch’s nominal position as head of the Church of England (and disestablishing the church) would be very desirable, as would a gradual termination of the monarch’s residual political functions in favour of a predictable constitutional process, and elimination of honours and privileged positions (especially hereditary ones) for all but the most immediate members of the royal family; but complete abolition of the institution of the monarchy would require the expenditure of vast amounts of political capital and would produce little return, either politically or economically, and might well be a net negative for the UK’s world prestige and position.

    • nvelope2003

      Because it is anachronistic in the 21st to have a poweful political post decided by hereditary principles.

      And believe me, I syee the monarchy as being very much political – perhaps not overtly but on the quiet with no scrutiny which to be is insidious.

      How many ex-Labour PM’s were invited to the Royal Wedding? How many semi-state funerals have ex-Labour PM’s had?

      If foreign countries lover her so much then they can make her their monarch. Americans apparently love the Royals so perhaps we could suggest herediary monarchy for them rather than elected President…….hmm thought not!

    • Shirley Campbell 29th Jul '13 - 4:57pm

      The issue is one of principle and in a well-educated population it should not be beyond the wit of those most gifted intellectually to draft a constitution that reflects diversity and equality. Oh, and obstacles are there to be overcome. Quite frankly, our nation should be ashamed of itself for permitting itself to engage with what amounts to a lot of drivel. Sorry that I do not meet the intellectual standards of those who seek to excuse the nonsensical hero worship that is ridiculed when applied to the antics in North Korea.

      *Of Monarchy and Hereditary Succession*
      “MANKIND being originally equals in the order of creation, the equality could only be destroyed by some subsequent circumstance: the distinctions of rich and poor.
      But there is another and great distinction for which no truly natural reason can be assigned, and that is the distinction of men into KINGS and SUBJECTS. Male and female are the distinctions of nature, good and bad the distinctions of Heaven; but how a race of men came into the world so exalted above the rest, and distinguished like some new species, is worth inquiring into.
      To the evil of monarchy we have added that of hereditary succession; and as the first is a degradation and lessening of ourselves, so the second, claimed as a matter of right, is an insult and imposition on posterity. For all men being originally equals, no one by birth could have a right to set up his own family in perpetual preference to all others for ever, and tho’ himself might deserve some decent degree of honours of his contemporaries.
      Secondly, as no man at first could possess any other public honors than were bestowed upon him, so the givers of those honors could have no power to give away the right of posterity, and though they might say “We choose you for our head,” they could not without manifest injustice to their children say “that your children and your children’s children shall reign over ours forever.” Because such an unwise, unjust, unnatural compact might (perhaps) in the next succession put them under the government of a rogue or a fool. Most wise men in their private sentiments have ever treated hereditary right with contempt; yet it is one of those evils which when once established is not easily removed: many submit from fear, others from superstition.”
      Thomas Paine
      Born Thetford, Norfolk, England 9 February 1737
      Died New York City 8 June 1809

    • Shirley Campbell 29th Jul '13 - 6:46pm

      To me anyone who supports hereditary titles and hereditary privilege whilst purporting to supporting diversity and equal rights is nothing short of a hypocrite. Short, succinct and said from the heart and the head. I applaud our ancestors who sought to question the status quo and sought to move heaven and earth to further the interests of the masses. Why have latter day Liberals adopted a yellow emblem to denote themseves? Yellow!

    • Ed Shepherd 1st Aug '13 - 9:45am

      If even Prince Charles, a man who has made many unpopular mistakes in his private life, and his wife, Camilla, who was at one time reviled by a great many people, can still command 44% support in a poll of Liberals, then it proves to me that the monarchy is going to be around to stay for a very long time. The public dislike elected politicians far more than they dislike unelected monarchs. It might seem an archaic system but perhaps it seems to bring a certain stability and unity to society. It seems to have been a way of avoiding political extremes such as Bolshevism or Fascism. The monarchy has also proved highly adaptable. I am quite sure the institution of monarchy could find a way of accommodating a monarch of no faith or a non CofE faith, if necessary. Monarchy seems to have done a far better job of gender equality than monarchy has. We have had one female prime minister and she was a divisive figure. By contract, both Queen Elizabeths and Queen Victoria seem to have beed popular, strong characters who continue to fascinate. Thomas Paine was writing at a time of powerful, corrupt monarchs who provided over grotesquely unfair undemocratic societies. Modern British monarchs have limited powers, tend to be rather genial, dutiful characters and preside over a modern democratic state providing an (albeit flawed) welfare system for it’s citizens. Until someone shows me a better system that works, I will stick with it. I have no more in common with a wealthy, privileged politician like Nick Clegg who rose to the top thanks to family backing than I do with a prince of the realm. In fact,I think I would get on better with Charles and Camilla than with Nick and Miriam.

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