Opinion: Liberal Democrats should make the case for an elected head of state

I’m proud to be in a party that values freedom and democracy above all else. We passionately campaign for equality of opportunity, and a world in which success is based on a person’s own merits rather than privilege and nepotism. We want to reform the outdated electoral system, and object to an unelected House of Lords, described by Nick Clegg as “an affront to the principles of openness which underpin a modern democracy”.

That is why I, like many other Liberal Democrats, cannot support a system of monarchy whereby power is inherited and all but one family is excluded from being head of state. It is an affront to democracy. What’s more, it is a system in which transparency is severely limited, and accountability is completely absent.

So on Sunday, as the Queen joins a flotilla of 1,000 boats drifting down the Thames to mark her 60 years on the throne, I will be joining anti-monarchy protesters outside City Hall to demand a choice about who represents us as head of state.

It will be the largest republican gathering in modern times. Sadly, this will remain true whether it attracts 200 or 20,000 people – modern republicans have been let down by previous generations that have preferred to retreat to France rather than make the case for change here. The campaign group Republic, with its 22,000 supporters (double what it was before last year’s royal wedding), is determined not to make the same mistake again.

Many in the party are open about their republicanism, including MPs Norman Baker and Julian Huppert. Reading Councillor Ricky Duveen caused a minor stir in February when he voted against a Tory motion of congratulations for the Queen. “I have spent endless time supporting and campaigning for equality; equality of colour, race, gender, sexual orientation, equality of opportunity,” said Cllr Duveen, “so how can I with one breath shout hurrah for equality, democracy and civil rights and in that same breath shout God Save the Queen”.

Yet strangely many Lib Dems are still not comfortable in ‘coming out’ in favour of an elected head of state. I’ve spoken to senior MPs in the party who have told me they are republican but too scared to say so publicly, as well as countless activists who say it’s just not worth causing a fuss about. Some think it would be politically damaging to be openly republican, though there is no evidence this would be the case.

Like most republicans, I’ve heard the usual arguments time and time again, none of which stack up against the facts. Perhaps heard most often are the “I don’t want President Blair” argument, the “The Queen is above politics” argument, and the “Monarchy is good for tourism” argument. [On which note, I’ve never met anybody who has admitted they would vote for President Blair; elected representatives can be above party politics, as is the President of Ireland and indeed our own House of Commons Speaker; and tourists come for our history not to catch a glimpse of the Queen – and anyway, should we really be basing our constitutional arrangements on what brings in the punters from abroad?]

Of course people will also ask: why not wait until after the Jubilee celebrations? But sixty years without holding an election for head of state is nothing to be proud of. For the Queen, who was given a job for life at 25 and has managed to stay alive ever since, it is merely an achievement of longevity. My gripe is not with the individuals, it’s with the institution. But in a modern democracy, it cannot be taboo to criticise the head of state or the system that put them there, particularly when the Government and media narrative is so unquestioning.

The Liberal Democrats are the natural home of those who want to make radical but rational changes to the way we do things in Britain. We have argued for many years that we need a new way of doing politics, and an end to unearned power and privilege. We should not shy away from applying that to the very top.

* William Summers was the party’s parliamentary candidate in 2010 for North West Norfolk and creator of www.whatthehellhavethelibdemsdone.com.

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  • William – I applaud your stand and I would like to voice my support for it: I’m a member of the Liberal Democrats and a fully paid up member of Republic. I see no contradiction between the two, rather, harmony: fairness arises from equality of opportunity. How can equality of opportunity be truly established when the principle coming from society’s apex is that one is born into a particular station?

  • Michael Kilpatrick 1st Jun '12 - 10:03am

    Your argument is very curious in that it tries to suggest many Lib Dems might be republicans who are “not yet comfortable coming out”, I’m not sure by what route you arrived at the conclusion that Lib Dems might on average be any more republican than any other political party in the UK. I doubt they are. In which case, republicans are very much a minority here, as elsewhere.

    When you lament “the usual arguments” you try to suggest that no-one would vote for President Blair, but most clearly, they would! They voted for Prime Minister Blair in the first place. What are you trying to argue here? Whoever the next “Blair” will be, let’s be in no doubt that he will exist at some point in the future, whether he be a Prime Minister, a President, a King, or a Mayor. And we won’t know he is that type until *after* he has been elected.

    As a monarchist, I believe it’s better to have a head of state that no-one voted for or against, rather than one who claims to represent the country (and therefore each and all of us citizens) but whom I actively *voted against*.

  • Toby MacDonnell 1st Jun '12 - 10:05am

    I don’t see the point. The premice of modern democratic-republicanism is that we represent the many (the demos, the people) through the few (the elite, our MPs) and the nation in the One. While it’s obvious that the people who have genuine power to change the law should be answerable to those who obey it, the Monarch holds a totally symbolic office. Democratic accountability isn’t really nessecary, because there’s nothing to be accountable over. All they have to do is be a symbol of the nation. Electing the monarch would be like electing the flag, or the parliament building.

  • Rebecca Hanson 1st Jun '12 - 10:24am

    I’m in favour of and ‘If it ‘aint broke don’t fix it’ policy. Any chance the Lib Dems could adopt that philosophy?

  • I’m not sure we need an elected head of state. It would be nice if the politicians we do elect actually represented us, But anyone one who makes the case for a republic gets my support.

  • Michael Butlin 1st Jun '12 - 11:06am

    Our Royal Family have led and served in the ast and do today. To the republicians I say, I defended your right to be wrong for over 20 years of army service. I have lived under a presidential system during 12 years of living in Massachusetts. Even met a man who became President.
    But the choice between either system is easy for me, our system, our Monarch and her family who continue to demonstrate serve to lead.
    A loyal subject, free to speak my mind
    and Liberal Democrat member

  • Personally, I do not believe in a single head of state, elected or otherwise. I like the executive being a committee, accountable directly as part of the legislature. But I cannot accept the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” philosophy: immunity from Freedom of Information and Parliamentary Questioning makes the state of the current system unknown. It might be broke, it might work really well – I simply don’t know, and as a liberal, transparency and openness from all involved is a must.

  • “Yet strangely many Lib Dems are still not comfortable in ‘coming out’ in favour of an elected head of state. I’ve spoken to senior MPs in the party who have told me they are republican but too scared to say so publicly, as well as countless activists who say it’s just not worth causing a fuss about. Some think it would be politically damaging to be openly republican, though there is no evidence this would be the case.”

    I think that is the case for a lot of politicians in larger parties such as Labour and the Lib Dem. As MPs belonging to mainstream parties, those views will be under scrutiny. Republicanism is an idea deeply at odds with the majority opinion of voters who favour the Monarchy, and may be perceived as electoral suicide if it were to ever be made an issue in Parliament. It is probably easier for smaller/regional parties to be more open about their views (e.g. Leanne Wood, leader of Plaid Cymru) since their influence is mainly confined to certain areas.

    While I respect the views of William and other Lib Dems in favour of an elected head of state, the overall Republican movement can’t get off the ground while it has cheerleaders like Peter Tatchell supporting it. The trouble is that it’s still so synonymous with socialism (left wing politics in general) implying that there’s only ‘one type’ of Republican out there.

  • Simon P. Hughes 1st Jun '12 - 11:47am

    Interesting to see some Lib Dems anti an elected Head of State; I assume those people are also anti an elected House of Lords?!

  • Toby MacDonnell 1st Jun '12 - 12:08pm

    William, an election wouldn’t change that state of affairs. Greater transparency would. No good electing a president unless the problems of monarchy are dealt with: and once you’ve done that, what’s the problem with a monarch? They are, after all, the same post.

  • Richard Hill 1st Jun '12 - 12:55pm

    Personally I think that the monarchy (and the House of Lords) helped create a balance that countered some of the problems with democracy. Mainly, to get voted into office there is a lot of pressure for populist policies which in reality might not be the best policy. The present situation seems to have led to one of the most stable countries on the planet.
    There is an element of democracy involved in the monarchy and the House of Lords as they are an excepted institution of a democratically elected government. Having people selected on merit, which in a way the monarchy are, by a democratically elected government is a good counter to populist problem with democracy. There may be good reason as to how these people are selected being modified but I think to remove these checks and balances would probably change things in a way most people have not yet imagined. The fact that at some point people, with a reasonably proven record, can check and give their opinions without having to worry about whether what they say is popular or not can only be good in my understanding of existence.
    Still, it is a democracy and people want to learn the hard way so be it. At least until it all falls apart and it leaves the way open for a dictator.

  • I’m definitely in favour of an elected head of state, separate from the Prime Minister, for the purposes of democracy. While the Queen is often seen as a merely symbolic, powerless figurehead, the fact is she still has access to a surprising amount of legislative power if she chooses to use it, and I seem to recall that she has in fact used those powers in the past (I believe she used her power to choose a Prime Minister when a parliament of the 40s or 50s fell apart, though my memory is a bit fuzzy on the details).

    However, personally (and I admit this is purely a stylistic thing of little importance) I’d want an elected head of state to still be called King or Queen, as a nod to our history, culture, and national identity. “President” just doesn’t sound right to me for a UK head of state. As I already said, this is just stylistic and doesn’t really matter, it’s just my view on the title a head of state in this country should be given. I’m curious, would anyone else prefer an elected “King”/”Queen” over an elected “President”?

  • Amen, Moggy. Just like same-sex marriage in many ways.

  • I don’t really see why we need to replace the monarchy with an elected head of state. Since Liz’s duties seem to amount to a) being in places, and b) not expressing any opinions, then I don’t see why we couldn’t replace her with a goat or a dog, or one of the other animals that organisations like to use as mascots, or anything else that’s capable of being somewhere and not expressing opinions.

  • paul barker 1st Jun '12 - 1:46pm

    Almost, but not quite completely off-topic, anyone have any ideas about who to vote for in the “Unlock democracy” elections ? Are there any “slates” ?

  • Moggy is right (even if I personally favour democracy), David, you are wrong – this is nothing like same-sex marriage, which the majority support.

  • I think the protests are aimed more at the avalanche of mostly uncritical pro-royal propaganda, union flag-waving nationalism and forced jolity we’re being subjected to, rather than against her Lizness. I don’t think even the most zealous republican really cares all that much about the jubilee per se, but having this cringeworthy, primitive drivel rammed down our throats for months on end while being told to enjoy it is bound to get few backs up.

  • Andrew Duffield 1st Jun '12 - 7:32pm

    Unfortunately, the re-packaging of the royals as super celebs and their brand association as utterly synonomous with Britain (e.g. union flags everywhere, rather than royal standards) means that this argument – no matter its intellectual appeal and egalitarian merits – is going nowhere fast. The bread and circus of monarchy will consume itself eventually. Liberal Democrats have other fish to fry.

  • Andrew Suffield 1st Jun '12 - 8:43pm

    While I am inclined to support the idea of a republic, two major objections stand out:

    – Elizabeth Windsor is probably the most spectacularly capable politician alive today, and nobody else could plausibly do the job better
    – There are so many other more important things to address

    The first of these points will clearly not extend to the next monarch, and I suspect that public opinion will change after that happens. That might be a good time to give this proposal serious consideration.

  • Paul Walter Paul Walter 1st Jun '12 - 10:34pm

    I am “out” as a Liberal Democrat Republican. I am happy to make a fuss about that but I don’t see the need to be “in yer face” about it. I agree that Ireland answers most of the arguments against an EHOS. Their President and the previous two are sublime examples of superb Presidents. I don’t think this is a taboo subject, only that it can be boring for many. One point of disagreement: the Queen’s jubilee being ‘merely an achievement of longevity’ is palpably not true. One has to credit her with some skill. By the way, IMHO the biggest argument for an EHOS is Alan Titchmarsh.

  • Paul Walter Paul Walter 1st Jun '12 - 10:37pm

    oh and, by the way, Ireland has a thriving tourist industry.

  • toryboysnevergrowup 1st Jun '12 - 10:54pm

    Having been made to sit through the heir’s family video all I can say is the sooner the better!

  • Andrew Suffield

    Brenda is very good as a Queen and that is why not even an ardent republican such as me would suggest her removal. She fills the role superbly and would be my choice. That was not the case for a significant number of her predecessors and I have no confidence in her successors.

    We have no choice though do we and that is at the crux of the problem. If after 5 years Charles is a disaster – what would we do? I assume you would say ‘but his mum was Queen so he has to be King’

    Your comment on her being the most capable politician is a bit dodgy though. I thought one of the defenses for the monarchy is that the do not do politics. Also, what are her views on the big social and international issues of the day – if you know please enlighten us?

    I imagine they are all raving Tories with a streak of patronizing paternalism and a view of Britain that is at odds with the reality – my opinion but probably based on as many facts as yours – if not more

    As mentioned above, I find it surprising that the LD on this thread are supporting the monarchy. As said if a hereditary HoS is okay why are you so against and appointed HoL? The other problem is that is presumes that there in some special power that can be inherited which means that person is in someway ‘better’ than the rest of us.

    I assume no person is ‘better’ than me and I would never bow, wait to be spoken to or call someone sir or ma’am in those situations. Deference and respect has to be earned and I am sorry to say that the Royal Family, apart from Brenda, has done very little to deserve it.

  • and too add.

    I am British and proud of it. We are in many ways a great country and should be proud of ourselves. I find in unspeakably sad therefore, that the only time we celebrate Britishness is when it is linked to the monarchy and this one family. The National Anthem is all about God saving one person/family and nothing about the rest of us. Our Parliamentarians have to take an oath that mentions not the people whom they represent and we see the current brainwashing of our children in schools with the linking of Britishness to the monarchy.

    I have been accused of being unpatriotic this week as I will have nothing to do with this ‘jubilee’ – as LD do you agree that?

  • Agree with Dave Page. The real issue is disestablishing the Church of England. Then the British Monarch could be a defender of freedom of religion rather than a defender of a specific faith.

  • Stuart Mitchell 2nd Jun '12 - 10:46am

    I don’t see that it’s a big deal to be “out” as a republican. Willie Hamilton did it for decades and was never treated as anything other than a harmless figure of fun.

    I once heard (from a usually reliable broadcaster) that there was a Labour Party poster during the 1945 election campaign with the slogan: “Royalty – Who Needs Them?” But I can’t find any mention of this on the web so it may be apocryphal.

    I agree with those who say that the Queen has done a great job, and that her 60-year record is the best possible argument for leaving things exactly as they are. It’s one of those things where you can’t justify it on principle or ideological grounds, but from a pragmatic point of view the argument is irresistable. Of course this depends entirely on the incumbent. There may not be much enthusiasm for Charles but I think the people will be happy to tolerate him as a stopgap measure. Once William and Kate become King and Queen, you can forget about republicanism in our lifetimes.

  • Steven,

    It’s not about protesting celebrations we don’t like. It’s about offering a counterpoint to the prevailing, and I would argue false, narrative we’re being fed, and that is being presented to the outside world, that this jubilee represents some sort of spontaneous and universal outpouring of support for the monarchy. We’re not trying to spoil anyone else’s fun, just expressing dissent.

    I say “we” though I won’t personally be protesting, having better things to do than spend all weekend reminding myself how much I detest the conservative, sentimentalist character of this poxy country.

  • Tony Dawson 2nd Jun '12 - 12:00pm

    Is this posting part of a ‘cunning plan’ to find a new job for a certain Party leader? 🙂

  • William Jones 2nd Jun '12 - 1:24pm

    It’s quite simple for me. If it works don’t try and fix it. Calling for an elected head of state for the UK now is quite simply an idea that is not of its time. Something to file away until it is needed. I’d accept that hereditary heads of state are becoming archaic and many will disappear in future decades.

  • Stuart Mitchell 2nd Jun '12 - 1:38pm

    “Hang on, has she really done a great job?”


    “currently our Head of State is one of the most expensive in Europe”

    A good job then that the Crown Estate rakes in more than enough revenue to the Treasury each year to pay for it. There are many good arguments against the Royal Family, but the “cost” one is a complete non-starter.

  • William Jones

    Brenda is doing okay from what I can see and if she should for President I would probably vote for her. Not so sure I am keen on her son or grandson though.

    Who says that it will continue work in the future?

    Also, I am British and proud of it. I come from fine northern stock and none of my relatives were Nazis or Nazi sympathizers. They also fought in both wars but didn’t get awarded generalships or a plethora of medals for nothing. They would also not expect people to bow to them or shops them deference and would be polite.

    One of them would have made a pretty good HoS – pity they couldn’t have the opportunity but then again there seems to be a limit to equality of opportunity!

    A LD party which puts constitutional reform at the heart of its philosophy looks a little weak when the logical consequence (i.e. elected HoS) is put to one side for expedience sake. It would have to be agreed to by the people but saying this is something you would ideally like to see would be both brave and coherent

  • Andrew Suffield 2nd Jun '12 - 3:45pm

    Your comment on her being the most capable politician is a bit dodgy though. I thought one of the defenses for the monarchy is that the do not do politics.

    It takes a spectacular level of political talent to sit in that position and have people believe that you “do not do politics”. Keep in mind that the Prime Minister is obliged to have a weekly private audience with her about current issues (at which she has both a right and a duty to express her opinions), and she does a great deal of international diplomacy on behalf of the nation, and has once or twice been called upon as the decision maker of last resort when elections have failed to deliver a workable government.

    And throughout decades of all this stuff happening, she’s remained popular and in control. More than that, pretty near everybody thinks she’s doing a brilliant job, and she’s never accused of partisanship.

    That’s political skill at its highest. If we had people that talented in the Commons then the nation would run a lot more smoothly.

  • Andrew Suffield 2nd Jun '12 - 3:48pm

    That’s on top of the cost savings: currently our Head of State is one of the most expensive in Europe.

    This is misleading: it is simply the case that a large chunk of the UK’s diplomatic budget is processed through Buckingham Palace (most of those “tea parties” that people like to complain about are meetings of ambassadors and similar, which have been dressed up in the pomp and ceremony of royalty in order to impress other nations).

    If we didn’t have the monarchy, those things would still have to happen. They would just happen on some other department’s budget.

  • Keith Browning 2nd Jun '12 - 5:50pm

    We dress our military up in fancy dress and millions pay to come to this country to see them. No-one has rumbled us yet so just keep quiet about it. Walt Disney tried but hasn’t come close.

    Our system is also clever because it doesn’t have a sell-by date.

    Keep quiet – enjoy the spectacle and count the profits the monarchy brings to this country.

  • emsworthian 2nd Jun '12 - 6:45pm

    I’m enough of a political pragmatist to see If there was an idea that could finally finish off the Lib Dems this is it. The scandinavian model is probably the best that could be hoped for. Britan is utterly riven with snobbery and class divisions and it starts at birth and is kept going by people who are doing very nicely from it. Could is hark back to the Saxon and Normans.? Maybe, but then there’s the celts.

  • David Allen 3rd Jun '12 - 12:49am

    Once the Jubilee is over, this nation really does need to debate the future of the monarchy. If nothing else, it needs to resolve the “Who’s Next” question. Otherwise, one day the succession question will arise, and it will do nobody any good if that results in a long muddled wrangle between Charles and William!

  • For Goodness sake this is the sort of issue that makes us look so detached from ordinary voters…..before we even think about this …..shouldnt we start screaming about the fact most youngsters dont have a job and our government is about as radical as a tea pot , before we yet again show the voters that we are thinking about subjects which have about as much importance to them as the poulation of the capital of Mongolia!

  • Ruwan Uduwerage-Perera 3rd Jun '12 - 11:04am

    Are we as a Party supportive of inequality, whereby privilege is gained as a result of an accident of birth?

    Royalists are, Republicans are not!

  • Frankly I wonder why with a truly synchophantic media, filled with pro-monarchist propaganda there are still people who can campaign for an elected Head of State. .

  • Why would we want an elected head of state? Can you imagine a president Clegg, President Cameron, President Brown or PResident Blair?

    The royals have their faults but they actually seem to care about the country and do what they do out of a genuine sense of duty, I see no hint of that commitment and deceny in any of our politicians who are only interested in being elected.

  • nick corney 3rd Jun '12 - 11:20pm

    The only reason for a level ‘above’ a prime minister and the government is to provide checks and balances. This could be done by an elected upper chamber. It might seem really strange (and I’d be interested to know if anyone’s ever done it before elsewhere) but I really don’t see any need for a level above that. In other words, we don’t actually need a head of state at all – elected or otherwise. After all, what do they do? Bless chrysanthemums, as de Gaulle said, and then of course they greet other Heads of State, which could be done by any civil servant from the foreign office. Until such time, that is, that they took our lead and abandoned figureheads as well!

  • What Moggy said. Spot on.

    It is quite clear that the vast majority of the country want the Queen to remain as head of state and the established Church. I certainly do. In particular, I see on a recent BBC opinion poll 73% of England want the Queen to remain as head of the Church and “Defender of the Faith”.

    Tired of reading bizarre opinions that we should rip up the constitution of this country in favour of some new utopia.

    And I’m a Lib Dem voter and member. Goodness knows what the public who lined the river for the Queen would be thinking if they read this. Lost deposits, all round?

  • Paul McKeown 4th Jun '12 - 4:55pm

    I find the idea of an elected head of state entirely foolish as a policy for any political party seeking to govern the United Kingdom. The current monarchy does not rule by decree, instead serving as a figure head for a nation otherwise governed by democratic means. EIIR, is tremendously popular. Eventually she will pass on, leaving her eldest son, Charles to be our King. It might make sense then to hold a plebiscite confirming him as Monarch: I have no doubt that he will be accepted by a huge majority, 4 to 1 or better. The Liberal Democrats have far more pressing things to worry about. If they were fantastically popular they might have the space to adopt some stunningly unpopular policies, they are, however, currently fantastically unpopular. It would make more sense to promote some pro-monarchist policies, instead. Royal yacht, anyone?

  • Paul McKeown 4th Jun '12 - 5:11pm

    I note the use of the two Mary’s, Robinson and McAleese, wonderful recent Presidents for Ireland, as an indication that an elected British head of state could serve as a successful non-political office to the credit of our United Kingdom. Sorry to disappoint, though, but some of their predecessors were hopeless duffers, divisive party hacks or small-minded Little Irelanders. And they were all proposed and supported by established political parties. An elected head of state would more likely divide rather unite and would almost certainly be much less popular for prolonged periods than our current impartial monarchy.

  • Paul McKeown

    So principles are out then? LD should support pro-monarchist policies because there may be a few grubby votes in it. I personally do not see how a party that supports constitutional reform at the levels is spoken about can support a monarchy.

    There is no need to make it a high priority but it is incoherent to support a hereditary principle.

    You propose a vote to confirm Charles, this is unconstitutional and would require a Parliamentary Act setting aside the Act of Settlement which says that as soon as Brenda breathes her last then Charles is King from that moment on. Perhaps, if we are allowed a vote then perhaps other candidates could stand? In fact why not have a vote each time the previous incumbent dies but then we could set a fixed ten and hey presto we have an elected HoS. Simples.

    Public opinion is fickle and the current 20% republican level could increase. Remember being a republican is an active choice as is being a monarchist. There are a significant number who passively support the status quo but aren’t really monarchists in the sense of the word and could shift opinion.

  • Paul McKeown 4th Jun '12 - 6:20pm

    “Principles are out then?”

    I would prefer it if you didn’t put words in other people’s mouths, thank you.

    I thought the idea that an impartial head of state was more likely to unite than a partial political head of state was made clear from my two posts, but there you have it. People read what they want to read and disregard the rest.

    There is no geunine reason (but many dubious and unevidenced assertions) to believe that an elected head of state will lead to better governance, a higher profile on the international stage or more influence, more transparency in public life, better democratic accountability, a closer connection between public institutions and the public itself, or a more egalitarian society. There are however emotional beliefs, wrapped up high sounding statements regarding modernity and constitutional neatness. They won’t, however, solve any real world problem whatsoever.

    There is, however, an important aspect of practical politics, which apparently you sneer at. If you want to change anything in a democracy you must be elected in the first place. Associating a party with policies that are a popular anathema (even if “there is no need to make it a high priority”) is not the way to get elected. That might change with the changing popularity of the monarchy, but don’t hold your breath, at least for the next half century.

  • Paul McKeown


    The hereditary principle in any role is fundamentally wrong and should not be supported by any liberal party. Where it sits on the order of priorities in different but I think there should be some statement of intent

    You seem to be undermining the concept of democracy, perhaps we should make Brenda the PM as well, seeing all the sycophancy that surrounds her it is assumed probably that she would be some kind of superstar in the role.

    Why should the HoS be political? Surely if Charlie is so popular as you suggest he will win. Followed by a victory for William. If they are not popular enough to get elected then why should they be HoS based on their blood

    You also actually promoted the idea of taking pro-monarchy policies in order to grub some votes – that is where the lack of principles is most apparent

    At the end of the day I would like one of my children to have the chance of becoming the HoS of my country. They should have as much the right as someone who is the direct descendant of Electress Sophia of Hanover. I know it will not happen in my lifetime probably but in this day and age we should be at least be prepared to stand up for what is right.

    Using your approach we would not have votes for the poor, women and homosexuality would be illegal as they were not popular causes in the past.

  • Keith Browning 4th Jun '12 - 7:18pm

    I am a great believer in democracy but I would rather take my chances with the lottery of genetics than have people like Tony Blair and David Cameron deciding who enters the House of Lords. Jobs for the chums..!!

  • Keith Browning


    So you want the Queen to appoint the HoL or I suppose you could mean hereditary peers?

    Elections to the HoL would be an option but that seems to being kicked into the long grass again.

    I would suggest you read some books about the genes and the members of the Royal Family. We have a good Queen on the throne at the moment which makes finding support for the republican cause difficult – it has not always been thus and it will not always be thus in the future

  • Paul McKeown 4th Jun '12 - 7:42pm

    “perhaps we should make Brenda the PM as well”

    Don’t be silly. EIIR has no executive function. That is why it is a red herring to put the role up for election.

    “You also actually promoted the idea of taking pro-monarchy policies in order to grub some votes”

    Your lack of irony and humour shines through all.

  • Paul McKeown

    Well sorry to miss your attempts at humor – I think you need to work on that a bit more!

    Can you also not see the irony in your comment. You extol the virtues of Brenda, saying how much better a non-elected HoS compared to any of the other options – why not the same for the executive

    Can you also answer my question on why my kids can never be HoS – are they less worthy than the bloodline of the Electress of Hanover?

    My relations have never been Nazis, attended Nazi funerals, claimed that they had ‘inhibitions about the Jews’ or been casually racist on a number of occasions – but then again that is only fun isn’t it?

    I take this part of the constitutional framework of the UK as seriously as your party does PR and HoL reform – funny when you touch on this subject you get accused of being too serious.

  • Paul McKeown 4th Jun '12 - 8:10pm


    “You extol the virtues of Brenda”
    I have hardly extolled anyone’s virtues. You might like to quote that.

    “why not the same for the executive”
    Errr? So by your binary illogic, the state has the choice between an unelected figurehead with a democratically elected legislature, otherwise it should return to feudalism?

    I see no evident reason from your posts of abolishing the monarchy other than your dislike of toffs. That is not a persuasive argument. As for party allegiances, I wish to see the Lib Dems form a majority government sometime in my lifetime, as their values chime with mine much more than those of any other party do. For that reason, I would strongly oppose the Lib Dems adopting the policy of abolishing the monarchy at this point in time. Other political parties are welcome to promote such electoral strychnine.

  • Paul McKeown 4th Jun '12 - 8:12pm

    “My relations have never been Nazis…”

    Every family has black sheep, only most families escape the glare of the media.

  • Paul McKeown

    I agree but then those families are not treated as being special and that their genes are superior to the rest of us! If a politician’s spouse had 3 sisters that joined the Nazi Party do you think they would have had much success?

    The point I am making is not that these are necessarily bad people, just that the are not special either and so should not be treated as such

  • Paul Walter Paul Walter 5th Jun '12 - 4:17pm

    @Stuart Mitchell:””Hang on, has she really done a great job?”


    Oh well that’s OK then – thanks for such a convincing and elaborate argument.

    ““currently our Head of State is one of the most expensive in Europe”

    A good job then that the Crown Estate rakes in more than enough revenue to the Treasury each year to pay for it.””

    So land that really belongs to us, the people, is used by them to pay for themselves. Brilliant.

  • “If a politician’s spouse had 3 sisters that joined the Nazi Party do you think they would have had much success?”

    There is a Liberal Democrat peer who’s (non direct) family have pretty major links to both German and English Nazis (Lord Redesdale).

    “My relations have never been Nazis, attended Nazi funerals,”

    There are many criticsms that can be made of Phillip. Attacking him for attending the funeral of his sister when he was 16 seems a bit harsh – particularly as he did fight against the Nazis in WWII.

  • Hywel

    Prince Philip had three sisters who joined the Nazi Party. People fight in wars for many different reasons not only because they are ideologically opposed and Philip has a bit of history for casual racism.

    The reason why this is relevant is that we are supposed to treat them with deference as though they are better than us – those genes are so good that they justify abandoning all the arguments we have for equality. I know life is not equal but to have something so blatant undermines alternative arguments.

    My argument is that these are not particularly worthy people who are allowed to get away with doing and saying things that others wouldn’t – so why do we defer to them?

    As I said above the LD are passionate about PR, HoL reform etc. I support these but also take it the logical step further in calling for a change of appointment HoS. I repeat the question why are your or my children deemed less worthy than the descendants of a German aristocrat!

    To all those who claim the monarch is non-political – do you really believe that will always be the case and what would your response be if Charlie took on a more active role

  • “Prince Philip had three sisters who joined the Nazi Party. ”

    Doesn’t necessarily follow that he agreed with them. Or else where does that leave the Communist Mitford?

    How distant do Nazi relations have to have been for them to disbar you from public life then? Obviously it seems sisters do but great-nieces (or whatever the two Nazi Mitfords are to the current Lord Redesdale) are OK. So at what point between the two do you draw the line?

    “Are you seriously saying that in a country of 60m people, it is unlikely that even one of us could do a better job? I find that extremely hard to believe.”

    That happens with elected figures 🙂

    ” Ask anybody to name just one memorable speech, event or even quote in her 60 years on the throne and you will be met with blank stares (or “annus horribilus”!).”

    Addressing a state dinner on the Irish visit with the opening sentence in Gaelic.

  • David Allen 5th Jun '12 - 11:26pm

    We’re not being very imaginative here. Almost everybody posting is either dogmatically royalist or dogmatically anti. There are a lot more options which Britain should consider:

    1. If nothing else – Is it Charles or William next? As noted above, the consitutional experts think Charles is a shoo-in. The nation at large thinks William is the shoo-in. We have had rather a lot of succession disputes, Pretenders, Jacobite rebellions etc over the last 1000 years. If we don’t think about this properly, we could have another medieval civil war in the 21st century!

    2. Why not both? Why not elect a President whose job is to take over the “final backstop” governance functions such as deciding which party leader to invite to form the next government – While also keeping the monarch as titular head of state? This wouldn’t cost a significant amount, and it would get rid of the concern that we still have an element of hereditary government power, while keeping the monarch in place to please most Britons and please the tourist industry?

    3. In addition, why not make anyone who has ever been elected for a political party ineligible to stand for President? I’d quite like to see David Attenborough slug it out for President against Alex Ferguson and Trevor McDonald, with no politicians in sight. So I suspect would many others.

  • “Can you imagine a president Clegg”

    We don’t have to. Nicholas William Peter Clegg has been Lord President of the Council for the last two years.

  • Andrew Suffield 6th Jun '12 - 2:10am

    Are you seriously saying that in a country of 60m people, it is unlikely that even one of us could do a better job?

    Oh yes, definitely. Imagine the job advert:

    “Wanted: head of state. Must have at least 20 years experience in diplomacy, court protocol, and never doing anything that might embarrass the nation.”

    All qualified applicants are currently engaged elsewhere in the world.

    (You could easily make a good argument that just about anybody could do the job better than Charles)

  • Okay, can I have an answer to two questions please:

    i. Why in the UK should only the children of one family be considered for the throne? What makes them different or superior to my children?

    ii. Why do the same arguments not apply to politicians? Perhaps Euan Blair or one of the Cameron kids, or Mark Thatcher should be the next PM. Perhaps the latter is a good example of why hereditary monarchies are not a good idea.

  • Keith Browning 6th Jun '12 - 7:10am

    Anyone is still at liberty to raise an army and try to take the Tower, the Palace and the seats of government. Being monarch was always a risky business and many of the protagonists were killed in the process. The pageantry we have witnessed is just a continuation of that same process, which has been taking place in Britain since people arrived.

    As a blood descendent of the Grey family, one who tried and failed to take over the Crown, I feel that in different circumstances it could have been my lot waving from the balcony, but life is about winners and losers.

    The last few days has been a demonstration of the power of the state to control its own people and to send a message to the rest of the world. I’m not too sure there will be many dissendent groups meeting in taverns, contemplating the logistics of assembling an army of archers and pikemen, just at the moment.

  • LondonLiberal 6th Jun '12 - 4:06pm

    Will’s (entrely logical) position, if adopted and advocated by the party would simply add yet another nail to our coffin. How attractive a proposition would it be to say to the public ‘hey, not only do we want more immigrants and really love the EU, but we are also against the Queen.’

    Sorry Will, however principled your position, it is electoral suicide, and should not be touched with a bargepole.

  • Old Codger Chris 7th Jun '12 - 9:04am

    A republic isn’t going to happen unless / until the Queen’s successors make a complete mess of it (and there’s zero chance of Andrew or Edward becoming king).

    Get over it and campaign on issues that (a) actually matter and (b) have some chance of coming to pass.

  • LondonLiberal 7th Jun '12 - 12:17pm

    Will – i don’t think we should even unofficially call for it, and i think that the idea is really bad, let alone massively unpopular, however logical and principled. Of course individual members may believe in it and good luck to them, but i don’t think it is something that we should be overtly, covertly, explicitly, implicitly or any other way arguing for. More scrutiny, yes – that sounds fine. But as Old Codger Chris says, lets’s focus on things that really matter.

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