Opinion: Liberal Democrats should support abolishing the Monarchy – and it is the right time to do so

I am a keen student of history, and have no shortage of fascination with the British Monarchy, its colourful progress, and its chequered evolution. And I do believe it has evolved, as often with grace as with indignity. In that sense, I have a certain level of ‘respect’ for the Monarchy, and certainly for some of the figures who constitute it at present. Yet, as far back as I can remember, I have though it should be abolished. Why?

Rather than lay out all the old arguments, I will focus solely on one argument for Abolition. I will do this, because it is (I believe) a liberal principle, and because I think it is hugely persuasive, and rarely aired. It is this: for the fair treatment of the Royal Family themselves, current and yet unborn, that we must abolish the Monarchy.

The British Royal Family, whatever it may once have been, is now a captive family. The institution consists at its peak of a household who are held, for our perceived benefit, in the gaze of the public eye and a web of constitutional precedent.  The Windsor family consists of real individuals, and we should never forget that. I know many will sneer at my concern for a very rich household, with all life’s advantages… but is that really their position?

Imagine for idiosyncratic historical reasons, we had decreed that the Windsors had to be…. toilet cleaners. If we encouraged them, expected them, and bred them to be toilet cleaners, from childhood.  And if one of them ever decided to ‘abdicate’ that vocational destiny, it would make international news, with half our press arrayed against them, in outrage. Would that system be correct, or liberal? Would that not be a national disgrace, if uncovered? And would you personally be happy with living with that ‘birthright’?

It doesn’t matter what work we set them to, and whether we decide it benefits us collectively, or constitutionally. I leave all other arguments about stability and tourist revenues on the moral scrap-heap where they belong. Perceived benefits for wider society do not in themselves make a policy right. I believe that you may support the Monarchy, but only if you are willing to admit that (for often persuasive reasons) you are defending a system of inherited, coercive servitude. If you still want to keep it after accepting that, I cannot argue with you, but I also cannot agree with you.

Less idealistically, here’s why I believe the Liberal Democrats should support this policy, and why I would probably vote for a leadership candidate backing the idea. I believe that we are at the rock-bottom of our support, and after the coming General Election should embrace bold and controversial policies. I believe that the Fixed-Term Parliament Act, whatever its faults, has removed another constitutional impediment against the Monarchy’s dismantling. I believe the Green Party are about to air it anyway, and will gain considerable support for it, especially over the coming years.

I expect many arguments against this, but one of them, of course, will be that the Monarchy is still hugely popular in the UK. An Ipsos Mori poll in 2013 [http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2013/jul/19/there-is-now-republican-movement] showed that only 17% of British people want a Republic. To that I would reply, that’s a good start! A base (if you will) for the Party or Parties that  decide to take it on, to make the arguments and to grow the movement. If Abolition is a minority public interest at present, when did we start shying away from justified, progressive causes because of that? Others will say ‘why now?’ If not now, when? When’s our cue? We need to take a lead. Abolition doesn’t need to define us, but who we are demands that we say it.

I believe Abolition of the Monarchy is neither a right-wing or left-wing policy, but a truly liberal policy. And I believe that it is our moral duty to ensure that we don’t have to explain to another young Royal generation why their future path is already laid out for them.

* David Faggiani is a young-ish Liberal living in London, ex-smoker and co-founder of 'Game of Seats' political discussion group on Facebook and Twitter.

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62 Comments

  • matt (Bristol) 23rd Feb '15 - 2:50pm

    Thanks Daniel, I can see new and telling arguments here and yyou have made me pause, but I personally feel that while the future of meaningful constitutional reform as a whole is still in the balance and needing to have as wide a coalition as possible rally round it, sticking an arsenic-flavoured cherry on the top of our recipe for reform is not going to make the hwole slip down any quicker or easier.

    Any LibDem policy that went further on the monarchy than a consultation and possibly maybe raising having a referendum at some ill-defined point would be suicide. Even that much would still, at this stage in the progression of the debate, be violent self-harm.

  • I agree that the monarchy is an anachronism, but it is one the vast majority of the country is comfortable with and some of the most progressive, advanced countries in the world e.g. the Netherlands and Denmark are monarchies.

    I think STV for local elections, as a step towards finally achieving electoral reform for Westminster, is far more important and urgent.

  • Rabi Martins 23rd Feb '15 - 3:54pm

    Getting rid of the Monarchy would be akin to killing the goose that lays the golden egg I do not have the precise figures but I do know that the Monarchy and all the pomp and ceremony which goes with them attracts thousands and thousands of tourists to London I understand the amount we generate on the back of the Royals far outweighs the cost of keeping them in the style we need to. For that reason alone I do not think we can afford to replace them with an elected President or some other head of state

  • jedibeeftrix 23rd Feb '15 - 3:59pm

    “Abolition is a minority public interest at present, when did we start shying away from justified, progressive causes because of that?”

    Hopefully, around about the same time as the party decides it wants to start winning elections, and recognises it needs broad common ground positions from which to do so.

    There was an article here some months back about words and phrases you hated seeing in discussion. Mine submission was; ” as a liberal…” Because it usually precedes an eloquently described exercise in electoral navel gazing.

  • It’s obscene that we have an unlected head of state and an unelected house of parliament and they need to be got rid of as soon as possible.

    And it’s a myth that they bring in any great tourist revenue – not that it should matter. The French get a lot more tourist visits to their royal palaces with no royals getting in the way.

  • paul barker 23rd Feb '15 - 4:25pm

    The central point is that we have been proposing a Constitutional Convention to look at the whole picture, it makes no sense to seperate out one bit of reform for special attention, especially when its so contraversial. The Convention should look at the whole state with nothing ruled in or out.

  • stuart moran 23rd Feb '15 - 4:31pm

    Chris

    I agree totally!

    The issue with the argument that they are popular is that it doesn’t go deep enough

    I would say that we have 20% monarchist, 20% republicans and the rest are pretty much in favour of the status quo…..not really that pro but will tolerate it and see no reason to change

    One of the reasons for that is that the current descendent of the House of Hanover is actually pretty good at her job (despite her reactionary and racist husband…but that is just a bit of a laugh isn’t it!).

    As we saw in the recent past, that support is very fickle and can change quickly…..I can foresee some problems when the current incumbent dies and is replaced by a far less popular descendent of Electress Sophia

    Imagine a clamour (egged on by the media) for William to replace Elizabeth Windsor…..perhaps the people will then realise that it is not up to us!

    I would hope all the Liberal Democrats on here support the campaign for the release of the ‘black spider’ letters seeing that the FoI commissioner says they should be….will be interesting to see what is in them and what influence he has tried to exert.

    Then again seeing the current members seem to be indistinguishable from Tories, I will not hold my breath

  • They monarchy makes money for the government in two ways: Tourism and land. Why get rid of something profitable?

  • Until it is possible to remove the House of Lords or replace it with a proportionally elected body, until knighthoods and honours are done away with, until it is possible to disestablish the Church of England, I see no possibility of the abolition of the monarchy being even seriously discussed. When there is a secular state in which no person is elevated above another with antiquated titles, when there is a democracy in which the equality of all persons is a given, when there is no favour given to any religion, then the monarchy may legitimately be seen as an outdated anachronism. As of now, however, it is simply part and parcel of the mediæval costume that clothes the entire state.

  • Julian Tisi 23rd Feb '15 - 5:50pm

    A very good article, particularly as it’s one of the few anti-monarchy articles I’ve seen which doesn’t castigate the royal family themselves and indeed does the opposite by looking at it from their point of view. I would agree that if the monarch or heir ever begged to be allowed to escape from their allotted role and become ordinary citizens, we should certainly listen.

    I agree too with Cllr Mark Wright that “no one would create a monarchy if they were starting the state from scratch now”. However, I support our constitutional settlement, based principally on the role that they play in the UK. It’s not just the pomp and ceremony, it’s the unifying role they have over and above party politics. It’s a very small example, but some months ago my brother was awarded a police medal by the Prince of Wales. There was something majical about the event that would simply not have been there had it been David Cameron or some other politician. Internationally they can have an influence no politician can match. There are many things in our constitution that do need fixing – the House of Lords, the voting system, devolution. But I’m not convinced that alternatives to the role the monarchy currently plays in the UK are better than the monarchy we have.

  • mike clements 23rd Feb '15 - 6:05pm

    I’m no fan of this anachronism but at the same time I believe in the adage `if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it`

  • Eddie Sammon 23rd Feb '15 - 6:45pm

    I get concerned about people sleeping on the streets in the freezing cold, about whether the government is going to treat me fairly, I don’t see the moral thing to do is to start in your words: “bold and controversial policies” and in my words: that will probably be rejected by the electorate and achieve zero change.

    I have wanted to get rid of the monarchy since I was a child and I still do, but pragmatism and prioritising should be moral virtues and this is where “liberals” sometimes lose the moral high ground.

  • Ruth Bright 23rd Feb '15 - 6:45pm

    Good for you David. The “Truman Show” argument is rarely made but is well worth considering.

  • It is always much much easier to demolish things than it is to build. Until the abolitionists can give a clear picture of what it is they wish to replace ‘the monarchy’ with, they are going to go nowhere. The monarchy, like other political reforms aren’t like buildings where you can demolish them and then leave the ground bare (ie. brownfield) until such time as someone comes up with a use and submits a planning application.

  • stuart moran 23rd Feb '15 - 7:25pm

    Have I just walked onto a conservative reactionary website?

    Whatever happened to radicalism!!!

    Abolish the monarchy: whinge, moan, howl….what do we replace it with, if not broke don’t need to fix if, they bring in the tourists

    MPs second jobs: whinge, moan, howl….what about the midwives (yes go figure), and the doctors, shopkeepers – just waiting for butcher, baker and candlestick maker!

    What a sad and sorry spectacle this party has become!

  • Richard Church 23rd Feb '15 - 7:33pm

    One step at a time.

    First, tackle the use of the Royal prerogative, by which the government of the day acts outside parliament in the name of the sovereign. Next, take away the monarch’s involvement in government and ministerial decisions and disestablish the Church of England. These are the issues which really impact on our constitutional democracy. You then have a monarchy akin to that in Holland or Belgium.

    You have then dealt with the really important democratic issues and the continuance of a monarchy remains a less potent issue. On the tourism point, the French chopped the heads off their monarchs over 200 years ago (not that I am suggesting we follow suit), but Versailles remains a great tourist attraction.

  • One useful thing that could be done even under the present system would be to drastically reduce the scope of what is considered the “Royal Family.” Right now we have a lot of uselessly excrescent Dukes, Earls, and HRHs. I suggest that the Royal Family be limited to 1. the monarch, 2. the first three persons in the line of succession 3. their spouses and minor children. Once a person falls out of that list (through being pushed down the line of succession, through divorce, or through attaining majority) they should no longer be considered Royals but simply be commoners. That would dispose of the Yorks and Wessexes and Princesses Royal, not to mention more distant cousins.

    Furthermore, while it would be of no direct use to any but a tiny number of people, it would be salutary and instructive to the whole nation to see the abolition of the last vestiges of gender and religious discrimination embedded in the various succession Acts permanently done away with.

  • There is zero evidence that the monarchy brings in tourism revenue, indeed Visit Britain, when taken to task over their assertion that the monarchy brings in £500million per annum were forced to admit that there is no evidence. Besides, even if it were true, tourism is no basis for deciding any country’s constitutional arrangement. As for those who proffer the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” argument, where have you been? Politics is in disrepute, politicians too, and nothing of any merit by way of constitutional reform can ever be done that threatens the position of the monarch. It (the Monarchy) is a millstone around the neck of any meaningful much needed reform and it should go.

  • I would also suggest that the succession be limited by law in such a way that, should the current line fail, the Parliament would have the option of terminating the monarchy rather than see it go to some line of distant cousins. I suggest that the only persons in the line of succession be the descendants of the royal parent of whoever the current monarch is; currently, the descendants of George VI, but after Elizabeth’s death, only her descendants, and so forth. Popular opinion may tolerate keeping the crown in the hands of a family whom they have followed through the years, but a reversion to some little-known Linleys, Chattos, Gloucesters, Lewises, or Gilmans is another affair entirely.

  • Stephen Hesketh 23rd Feb '15 - 9:08pm

    @ David Faggiani

    Thanks for raising this topic. It is a question aired far too infrequently in a country which laughingly believes itself to be a modern democracy. As others have pointed out an hereditary monarchy really is a complete anachronism in a true democracy. With there being so many people living today with a far better claim to the actual hereditary title than the ‘Windsors’, they don’t even qualify by that means either!

    That said, I would still rather proceed with some caution on this if only because so much of the power in our unwritten constitution involves this ‘institution’.

    Like other contributors I think we should target the removal of their anti-democratic and arcane powers – particularly as identified by Richard Church: “tackle the use of the Royal prerogative, by which the government of the day acts outside parliament in the name of the sovereign. Next, take away the monarch’s involvement in government and ministerial decisions and disestablish the Church of England. These are the issues which really impact on our constitutional democracy. You then have a monarchy akin to that in Holland or Belgium.”

    David-1 also makes other excellent points.

    Once we have replaced the completely out-dated, undemocratic, patronage-reinforcing elements (not to mention the bizarre time-locked titles, traditions and dressing up) and developed a written constitution complete with checks and balances, then would be the time to ask the electorate if the time had come for us to become a true republican state.

    I am certain the elements mentioned by David-1 and Richard Church would find much electoral support as ‘common ground’ policies.

    A much smaller Dutch or Danish-style monarchy would benefit everyone – including the present Queen’s family and their descendants.

  • Stephen Hesketh 23rd Feb '15 - 9:12pm

    Further excellent comments and suggestions from David-1 🙂

  • William Summers 23rd Feb '15 - 9:14pm

    I was going to say it but Bob Wiggin above beat me to it… can anybody else who wants to trot out the tourism myth please at least attempt to evidence it? (clue: you won’t be able to, at least not without mixing up historical royal sites with the existence of a present-day monarchy).

    And even if it DID bring in loads of tourist cash, is this really more important than a fully functioning democracy? The whole argument infantilises our democracy and freedoms down to (almost literally) Mickey Mouse arguments.

  • To me, this is one of those issues that proves why pragmatism is sometimes better than principle.

    It’s impossible to justify the existence of the monarchy, other than by reference to the fact that most people seem to prefer it to any alternative that has been suggested.

    It’s much the same with the House of Lords. People don’t mind these institutions because, ultimately, they don’t actually wield much (if any) real power. If they did, it would be very different, and impossible to argue for their retention.

  • I am a republican and back in the 1970’s had some official grief for having an article published espousing those views. I don’t buy the tourism rubbish; France and Italy do fine. But you know actually the current monarch does a fine job of being Head of State. And it could be a case of being careful what you wish for; imagine President Thatcher, she’d have loved it. So have a vote and even some dyed in the wool republicans like me would vote QE2. Charles is another matter and I suspect many of the remaining Commonwealth Realms will use the transition to opt out. That would be the right timing for me too. The Queen commands popular support in remaining in post – whether I / we like it or not no vote is needed, it’s at least 70% if not 80%+ and so democratic.

    The House of Lords is something else, a carbuncle, and I am disgusted that Lib Dems actively participate and even defend it.

  • The Victoria League still has some members spread around the globe.

  • David Faggiani 24th Feb '15 - 10:04am

    Thanks all for commenting. I appreciate the feedback.

    However, with a couple of exceptions, it seems like not many people are engaging with my argument, or even my premise. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. I am arguing that it is broke. Surely things can be valid functionally but invalid morally? I’m trying very hard not to invoke the ‘s’ word here, which goes so nicely with the word ‘Abolition’…..

    Ruth Bright is correct when she says I am essentially making the ‘Truman Show’ argument. In this analogy, the weight of public opinion, need for stability and political lack of imagination would basically be Ed Harris’ producer character Christof.

    For several who have voiced it, I also think the ‘tourist revenue’ argument for Monarchy is shaky, even in terms of ‘bottom line’. But, even if I’m wrong, so what? I am arguing that some things matter more than money. One of you asks “Why get rid of something profitable?” Is that really now all we’re discussing in politics?

    Some people were asking what I would put in its place. Well, I’m not a constitutional expert of course, but I have two initial suggestions, both as jumping-off points:
    1) Nothing. In other words, all ‘Head-of-State’ duties are diffused between the ‘Executive’ (the PM/Cabinet) and Parliament. Either the ‘Father/Mother of the House’ or the Speaker could act as ‘appointing’ figure after a General Election.
    2) A President, directly elected every, say, 10-15 years? With, approximately, the powers and duties of the current Monarch. The difference is, this man or woman has chosen, as an adult, to be there, without childhood grooming. Let us imagine Stephen Fry, as an easy, likeable, uniting example!

    Happy to have the faults in either of these ideas pointed out, I’m sure there are many. But they do, for me, fix the main problem.

  • Michael Seymour 24th Feb '15 - 10:12am

    If we do away with the Monarchy we’ll then have to vote in a President. Can you imagine President Blair! President Brown! President ‘Whoever’! What a nightmare!, I’d far rather have the Queen, at least she keeps her self distant from politics, and all the rubbish that goes with it.

  • peter tyzack 24th Feb '15 - 10:17am

    without a Monarchy we would have all those palaces, currently off-limits and guarded by the military, open for viewing by tourists, and their private gardens opened as public parks. But I am with Richard Church, one step at a time..

  • A Democratic, Constitutional Monarchy with an unwritten constitution is self contradictory on multiple levels.

    However, given that the only part of our constitutional arrangements which has popular support and legitimacy is the monarchy, abolishing it seems to be a very odd place to start sorting things out.

    I think a proportional voting system would be a much better place to start, and (if the polls are to be believed), post the election it may be much more easier to win the argument (as more people are likely to feel that they have not had full value for their vote).

  • Sorry, should have read “much easier” (oh for an edit button on this forum).

  • David Faggiani 24th Feb '15 - 11:04am

    In an earlier draft of this piece, I also tactfully tried to suggest more explicitly (without being morbid) that we’re probably in the last decade of the ‘Elizabethan Age’, and therefore, of the remarkable ‘Elizabethan Consensus’, which I think will probably seem outdated very soon afterwards. Public opinion at the approach, coronation of and first stages of the reign of our next monarch will be very dynamic and fluid. I think Abolition will become greatly more popular. I don’t even mean this as an attack on Prince Charles (although many would) but just that any change will now seem seismic, after seven decades of symbolic stasis. This is just a prediction, but in so far as my argument has practical considerations, it is that we (the Lib Dems) should get on a wave that will only grow, whilst we can do so with dignity and principle. If this policy happens to be right, and abolishes inherited servitude/privilege (however you choose to see it) so much the better!

    And yes, I also support reforming other elements of our system! I don’t believe we should become the ‘Abolish the Monarchy’ Party, to the detriment of other reform, but I believe this should be a logical, consistent part of our platform, to be emphasised when the time is right for it.

  • Ah, the President Blair argument. You know it could just as easily be President Elizabeth Windsor. And never mind the fact that the monarchical powers readily appropriated by any over-ambitious PM anyway leave us with President-Generalissimo Blair in all but name now.

    Still, setting that to one side, the monarchy is unlikely to be the next constitutional change we’ll have to deal with. It is far more likely that we’ll be stuck negotiating the process of Scottish independence. At which point I would suggest that Scotland makes more sense as a Scandinavian-Dutch style bicycle monarchy and that England should move forwards as a modern republic capable of restoring its self-confidence rather than clinging to the trappings of its past. Call it the Second English Commonwealth if historical precedent matters, but the opportunity for a reinvention and renewal would be immense.

  • Matt (Bristol) 24th Feb '15 - 11:26am

    David (sorry for calling you Daniel earlier) — I don’t know if there is a Liberal Democrats for a Republic group, but you might find enough people to form one. I won’t be joining — yet. The question for me is what reforms should we be campaigning for – now. Yes, there is an element in theory in the current system, by which the monarch’s human rights are contravened. Yet I would rather have a Lib Dem party that is able to rally monarchists and republicans both around – say – retaining the Human Rights Act in UK law, than one which alienated key supporters by proposing abolition of the monarchy.

    Purely hypothetically, in a world where you could evidence there was genuine support for this idea that could be mobilised, If you feel that the novel principle of ‘monarchic servitude’ should be central to arguing for a reform of the monarchy, then the methodology which suggests itself as following from your principle is a campaign and a petition calling on members of the Royal Family to self-deny and rule themselves out of the succession. That would be a way of abolishing the monarchy that might (theoretically) gain grassroots support, would be non party-political and wouldn’t involve changing the law, just changing someone’s mind.

    It might also challenge all those grandmothers etc currently engaging in Prince-George-Porn with the help of the tabloids, Hello, etc to think about the life their darling boy might grow up to lead.

    But I wouldn’t get my hopes up.

  • In reply to Simon Shaw – an ornamental head of state has her or his uses on great occasions. A more than ornamental head of state can help untangle damaging political logjams – not unlikely if we get some form of proportional representation – and can sometimes intervene when a government is risking undermining the basic values of the democracy, as the West German President did when under Chancellor Kiesinger there were signs Germany’s responsibilities arising out of the Nazi period might be downgraded. One of the arguments for a republic is that a hereditary monarch is now unable to intervene except in the most extreme cases.

  • The UK has been fortunate in having the Queen’s wisdom and continuity since 1952 – would any single person be in any way more free by abolishing the Monarchy? It would be a purely cosmetic exercise for those more energised by symbols than reality.

  • Stephen Hesketh 24th Feb '15 - 12:19pm

    Michael Seymour24th Feb ’15 – 10:12am
    “I’d far rather have the Queen, at least she keeps her self distant from politics …”

    In that case, over her reign, she has wasted an awful lot of time in her weekly meetings with prime ministers of the day and giving the ‘Royal Assent’ to legislation!

    http://www.royal.gov.uk/MonarchUK/QueenandGovernment/QueenandPrimeMinister.aspx

    Do please sit down before clicking on the link – you might find the reality somewhat different to what you appear to believe.

  • There is no hope for a revival of Liberalism if the party is going to waste time and effort debating the abolition of the Monarchy. There are so many far more important things to debate. In any case if members of the Royal Family wish to give up their status they are free to do so. What next a campaign to stop it raining during day light hours ?

  • William Summers 24th Feb '15 - 5:29pm

    Liberal Democrats for a Republic group: https://www.facebook.com/LibDemsForaRepublic?fref=ts

    It is a group of Republic, the campaign for an elected head of state. http://www.republic.org.uk

    I would suggest those in favour of scrapping the monarchy visit Republic and join up.

  • Shirley Campbell 24th Feb '15 - 8:15pm

    Thank you Stuart Moran for your pointed observation that is quoted thus:

    “Have I just walked onto a conservative reactionary website?

    Whatever happened to radicalism!!!

    Abolish the monarchy: whinge, moan, howl….what do we replace it with, if not broke don’t need to fix if, they bring in the tourists

    MPs second jobs: whinge, moan, howl….what about the midwives (yes go figure), and the doctors, shopkeepers – just waiting for butcher, baker and candlestick maker!

    What a sad and sorry spectacle this party has become!”

  • Stephen W: “Monarchs, judges, civil servants, quango heads, EU commissioners, Lords, party officials etc. ”

    All those groups are appointed supposedly on merit except monarchs and the remaining hereditary peers. You can argue how much merit and how much patronage is involved but no-one is excluded from the position by virtue of their parentage. It is utter madness for a society to select its leaders based on them being the eldest child of the previous leader. The current monarch, by sheer chance and longevity is probably the right person on merit for the job at this precise moment in history. But that doesn’t make the appointment process itself any less ludicrous. And it will change with Charles because unlike QE2 he isn’t the right person on merit to hold the top spot. The replacement is easy. You need someone who can ultimately transcend party politics, even if previously politically active. We have something to learn from the Commonwealth Realms in the way Governor Generals are appointed. Like the judges their positions are earned these days not inherited.

    Here is an alternative suggestion. The UK itself should have a Governor General appointed on merit to transcend party politics but performing the remaining constitutional functions. The monarch’s role becomes purely ceremonial and on a par across the remaining Realms.

  • Jayne Mansfield 24th Feb '15 - 10:58pm

    @ Matt Bristol,
    What is all this , ‘grandmothers etc, engaging in Prince George Porn….’?

    Is there any evidence that grandmothers prefer a system that ensures that their own grandchildren, whatever their talents, will never have the opportunity to be Head of State?

  • @Steven Rose: Your comment has me imagining moving the Commonwealth capital, and the monarch with it, to Ottawa or some such place.

  • David Faggiani 25th Feb '15 - 11:53am

    A colleague of mine has just pointed out to me this article by Richard Ridyard from a few months ago, from the LSE’s ongoing ‘Constitution UK’ blog….
    http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/constitutionuk/2014/12/08/abolishing-the-monarchy-would-remove-an-obstacle-to-genuine-democracy-in-britain/

  • “moving the Commonwealth capital, and the monarch with it, to Ottawa or some such place.”

    I was thinking more Belmopan in Belize or better still Funafuti in Tuvalu. The latter could do with more tourist income so we’d be doing everyone a favour. In fact, in preparation, perhaps Charles and Camilla could relocate immediately.

  • “the advantage of a hereditary head of state is that they cannot be easily usurped”

    Thailand in the here and now, the King being a puppet, but Greece, Portugal, Spain all replaced Kings with right wing dictatorship.

    “albania at one point & norway”

    Newly independent? Do me a favour. Their monarchies were established in a different era entirely.

    “Watergate would never have happened here– the monarch would just sack a tainted PM”

    You have a very odd view of what the Queen can actually do. In reality she can’t sack a PM but precedent from Edward VIII shows PMs can dispose of monarchs.

  • Martin Land 26th Feb '15 - 7:44am

    Frankly who cares?

  • Matt (Bristol) 26th Feb '15 - 10:35am

    Jayne Mansfield … you’re right, my comment was a bit sneery with elements of ageism and sexism. Let me rephrase.

    There is a culture in this country which likes to plaster images of the more telegenic royals and their ‘cute’ children everywhere at any given opportunity. (I suspect the journalists involved are stockpiling cute pictures to contrast with the drunk and disorderly ones they long for when the subject(s) disgrace themselves / do something mildly titilative in future).

    At this point (well, in the past year or so) Prince George is the object of this par excellence. I’m not sure what those engaging in / consuming the celebritisation of the monarchy (who, yes, may or may not be grandmothers) think in constitutional-political terms about the monarchy as an institution, but there would seem to be tacit acceptance of it. It might be good to provoke such people to think again. But as I said earlier, abolition or reformation of the monarchy would be a long way down my list of priorities right now.

    The fudge / bodge / compromise that is an elected dynastic monarchy hasn’t been mentioned here yet ….

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elective_monarchy

  • Be careful what you wish for. In almost every case where a long established monarchy has been abolished it has been followed by about 30 + years of political and social upheaval. France, Russia, Germany, Austria-Hungary, Portugal, Spain, Greece – just check out what happened when they became republics. You will say chaos and civil war of the most terrible kind. The Italian Republic established in 1946 produced about 50 years of political chaos until things settled down. I guess only Liberal Democrats would find that exciting or interesting. The establishment of the Norwegian monarchy about 100 years ago was followed by a long period of stability, disrupted only by the Nazis who succeeded the chaotic Weimar republic following the end of the German monarchies.

  • Jayne Mansfield 27th Feb '15 - 1:36pm

    @ Matt ( Bristol)
    I don’t think for one minute after reading so many of your comments that you were being consciously sneery or ageist. I just like to remind people from time to time that some of us old timers were once young radicals. It is something that some people of similar age to myself like to keep quiet about!

  • David Faggiani 27th Feb '15 - 5:43pm

    Martin Land’s comment made me laugh (above) for its directness, even though I, of course, disagree with it.

    As I mentioned before, Ruth Bright in this thread invoked ‘The Truman Show’ as a fictional analogue for the issue. I would also suggest the 2010 Dr Who episode ‘The Beast Below’, which even some non-fanatical-Whovians might remember as the ‘Starship UK/Star Whale’ episode from the Smith/Gillan era.

    Here is an essay about it, by the brilliant and idiosyncratic Philip Sandifer http://www.philipsandifer.com/2014/03/the-alchemists-of-middle-ages-made.html

    I can actually see the episode’s moral as being a conservative one, albeit one in favour of a constitutional, ‘unshackled’ monarchy, although I think most people see the Whale as a metaphor for the repressed proletariat of Society. Very interesting for our purposes that (SPOILERS!!) a character in the episode called ‘Liz 10’ turns out halfway through to be Elizabeth X, descendant of our current queen, whose role in decision making in the events of the episode is complex, and worthy of analysis.

    Anyone on LDV who didn’t think I was mad now probably does 🙂

  • David Cooper 1st Mar '15 - 9:59am

    @David Faggiani
    Passing on inherited high social status to one’s progeny is a human characteristic (indeed one that is shared by other primate species). Your example of “inherited toilet cleaner” is irrelevant, since toilet cleaning is not a high status position in UK society. The liberal position is to allow individuals to act on their wishes, compatible with the rights of other members of society. So our default position should be to allow inherited wealth and status to be inherited unless it deprives others of their rights.
    A better example would be the caste system in India, where Brahmins rule the roost and untouchables are not even allowed to change their status. However the UK is not so rigid.
    Your premise is deeply illiberal and based on the idea that the Royals are oppressed without realizing it, while you know what is best for them. A classic statist position.

  • MATTHEW HAWLEY 1st Mar '15 - 12:33pm

    David Faggiani writes: ” ………here’s why I believe the Liberal Democrats should support this policy, and why I would probably vote for a leadership candidate backing the idea. I believe that we are at the rock-bottom of our support, and after the coming General Election should embrace bold and controversial policies……..”

    My comments on this view:-
    “Progress for progress’ sake” should not be the motto of any political party. “Liberalism” is historically rooted in the culture of British life; it is a part of our tradition. By proposing public debate about the abolition of the monarchy as a consequence of “Liberal Democrat” success in the coming general election many liberals who count the preservation of cultural tradition as structurally important to their way of life will feel alienated from the current “Liberal Democrat” party. They will turn to a party that they believe will be patriotic (in terms of historical tradition) the “Conservatives”. That won’t be the only consequence of calling into public debate a possible abolition of the monarchy; those “liberals” who currently vote “Conservative” or/and are members of the “Conservative party” will be discouraged from either voting or joining the “Liberal Democrats” it won’t be a natural home for them, they won’t have a natural home.

  • Although the royal family may appear popular through the media the system of hereditary monarchy is undemocratic and unconstitutional in the 22nd century. a member of the royal family could still become the head of state for a fixed term, providing they are chosen in an election by the people. the royal family would itself gain as it would be granted the right to vote and something that it does not have now, which in itself is undemocratic, how can a HOS be truly chosen if the office is inherited like a legacy in a will, that is the absurdity of the present system and how can they truly say ‘my government’ when the royals themselves are not allowed the right to vote. As Thomas Paine put it on his overview of the French & American revolutions – everyone has to be equal under the law and the sovereign has to be the nation as a whole with constitutional democracy being the underlying principle and not one person or family having the right to lord it over the rest without the consent of the people while at the same time not fully having the same basic rights as an ordinary citizen

  • George Kendall 4th Oct '15 - 1:07am

    What I like about the Monarchy is the living link with our history. I rather like our history of the gradual evolution of an hereditary military dictatorship to a constitutional monarchy, though I know some people really dislike it.

    If, of course, the heir to the throne wanted to give way to someone else, we should allow that. So how about making this change? A constitutional provision that allows, with as little fuss as the press will allow, for an heir to give up their right to the throne.

    (David cc Ewen – probably just you and me reading this, though. I saw your comment and wrote a reply, before realising that the article was from last February)

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