Why are we still supporting the Monarchy?


4:45 pm - June 22nd 2010

by Jennifer O'Mahony    


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Let us consider for a moment the first two lines of Canadian band Of Montreal’s ‘My British Tour Diary’.

On my trip to England I noticed something obscene
People there still actually give a shit about the Queen

This is the reaction of a band whose singles also include ‘Vegan in Furs’, ‘Cato as a Pun’, and ‘Fun Loving Nun’, and whose lead singer has been known to arrive onstage naked astride a white horse.

Basically, outside Europe even very weird people think we’re weird.

I can understand their perspective. Britain appears in some respects to be one of the more advanced societies in the world. I believe this and I’m proud of it, but I can’t be proud of the British schizophrenia that allowed us to pay £41.5 million in taxes last year to prop up an outdated and irrelevant family whose symbolism says something very harmful about our democracy.

Whenever I argue with Americans that their system has massive flaws, they just stop, smile, and say “but you still have a queen”. Knockout. End of debate.

The arguments for a monarchy in Britain today are as follows:

She’s our queen, and having a royal family has always been a part of Britain.

Untrue. We have been ruled by French, German and (much further back) Roman monarchs/emperors. The current set are more German than anything. There is nothing less fundamentally British than the Royal Family.

The Royal Family make money from tourism, and if they were gone we would lose the massive amounts of income it provides.

Tourists love the crown jewels, the palaces, and the exhibitions of royal paraphernalia. In a republic we could still maintain these items as historical anachronisms that can be viewed through a glass cage. Of course, we all know how terribly badly off our republican neighbours do without a monarch but with all the glitzy effects that they left behind. France’s income from tourism: 66 billion €, centred on chateaux, art collections previously owned by royalty, and palaces formerly inhabited by their unfortunate aristocracy.

The Queen doesn’t have any power anyway

Symbolism is important. Look at the Catholic church. The use of icons has allowed the Catholics to put a little piece of religion into homes, schools, and workplaces in religious countries. If symbolism doesn’t matter, then presumably the whole of Britain would be content if we put a copy of the Qu’ran in every classroom in the UK? There would be uproar, of course, because objects have a symbolic afterlife. The queen’s head on a coin says “you are my subject, whether I have any real power or not”. In modern Britain today, we do not need to be the subjects of anybody. The symbolism implies that British people agree with paying for and supporting a family who make Britain look laughable in an international context.

How would we go about getting rid of them? It would be impossible.

One of the perks or flaws of our democracy, depending on how you look at it, is that a simple Act of Parliament can change anything. In 1911, many powers of the House of Lords were removed by David Lloyd George. The Lords had to vote for the abolition of their own strength, or face even more stringent penalties. The monarchy will have to sign their own (metaphorical) death warrant, and just like all unemployed people the family can of course get Jobseekers allowance (at the time of writing), return to their jobs in the military, and get on the property ladder.

Finally, when the future monarch acts like this, there is little reason to hope our situation will do anything but deteriorate.

The Government’s Emergency Budget today hurt the people who most need their help. In their careful analysis, they seem to have forgotten to address the people receiving the best benefits package in the country. If Britain wants to maintain its reputation on an international level, wants to have respect for its own democracy, and wants to minimise that deficit, there is one choice: get them out.

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About the author
Jennifer is a regular contributor to LC. She blogs here and is on Twitter here.
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Reader comments


I understand that the royal family bring in funds by wining and dining prospective business interests for the UK – is there any truth in that?

Good piece but incredibly lazy, unnecessary and quite incorrect use of the word schizophrenia rather ruins it for me.

When monarchists brag about the Queen’s invaluable assistance to the tourism industry, I love pointing out that Versailles is actually the most visited palace in Europe.

And we all know what happened to the French monarcy!

If your argument is purely based on the cost, then don’t forget that the government earns vastly more from the Crown Estate than it pays for the existence of the Royal Family.

If you were to scrap the Monarchy, you would end up about £200 million a year worse off as the income from the Crown Estate legally belongs to the family and is only “swapped” for the Civil List as part of an old agreement signed when the Crown Estate was rather poorer than it is now.

Secondly, are you sure that a Presidential system would be any cheaper to run?

Basically, we have a system that works – doesn’t affect democratic politics at all, and is not just cheap, but actually profitable.

If it ain’t broke, don’t try to fix it.

Agree with @2 – this misuse of the language of mental illness has been mentioned before on LibCon and should be discouraged because it leads to an increase in stigma.

Overall a good piece, bar that slip.

Sadly, the government did address the Queen – Georgie boy confirmed that she’s a great little addition to life and may continue on.

Excellent piece, though. The bloody hell with that lot. NZ & Australia ought to chuck ’em out as well. We get all the rejects to NZ – Duchess of York will doubtless turn up in Wellington soon for a stint as governor general. What a rort.

Because the prospect of President Blair, Kinnock, Thatcher (fill in as required) would be infinitely worse.

@4 The Crown Estate?

Nah, I think we’ll keep that. Call it back pay for several generations of inheritance tax avoidance.

@cjcjc there’s nothing to stop Lizzie, Charles or William standing for President. If they’re so popular, they’ll win.

10. Jt Wheatley

I agree, a lazy article which presents a one-sided viewpoint. When I have these debates with American friends the “we have the NHS, you have a terrible welfare system” argument is normally what ends it, the Queen is hardly, if ever, mentioned. Also I have to say that the opinion of that particular Canadian band is really of no concern to me, my money says that inside Europe or outside people think they are weird. The royal family, if nothing else, acts as a public face and acceptable diplomatic service to other countries, such as Saudi Arabia, which also still have monarchies, and are used to the pomp and circumstance which comes with it.

Also it is worth noting that Lloyd George could not have passed the 1911 Parliament act without the support of the king, who threatened to create hundreds of new peers so that it could be voted through the Lords.

No compelling reason for ditching the monarchy as far as I can see.

What advantages would we obtain by getting rid of them? People won’t be won over by “it’s unfair and undemocratic” – the monarchy is popular, those sorts of ideological arguments are irrelevant.

12. Shatterface

The Royal family might qualify for contributions based JSA – I have no idea if they have been paying their full stamp – but I suspect their savings might prevent them claiming income based JSA.

13. Shatterface

‘The royal family, if nothing else, acts as a public face and acceptable diplomatic service to other countries, such as Saudi Arabia, which also still have monarchies, and are used to the pomp and circumstance which comes with it.’

I don’t find the argument that our Royal family is in a mutually supportive relationship with the Saudi royals any more of a compelling reason to retain them than if they got on well with Robert Mugabe.

14. Shatterface

‘The royal family, if nothing else, acts as a public face and acceptable diplomatic service to other countries, such as Saudi Arabia, which also still have monarchies, and are used to the pomp and circumstance which comes with it.’

I don’t find the argument that our Royal family is in a mutually supportive relationship with the Saudi royals any more compelling a reason to retain them than if they got on well with Robert Mugabe.

@10

The royal family, if nothing else, acts as a public face and acceptable diplomatic service to other countries, such as Saudi Arabia

Oh good, so we keep the Windors to placate a theocratic, pro-torture, anti-human rights regime. As arguments go I’ve heard better…

@11

No compelling reason for ditching the monarchy as far as I can see.

No compelling reason for keeping them, really. As for ditching them: ever hear of this little thing called democracy? As LO @9 says, if the Royals are that popular they could always stand for election.

Can’t we take them to the EU courts for flouting equal opps legislation ? 😉

She’s our queen, and having a royal family has always been a part of Britain.

Untrue.

Could you tell me a time during the history of Britain as a state that we did not have a royal family?

Even the constituent nations of Britain have all been near-continuous monarchies, with even the brief hiatus of the English Republic being characterised by a hereditary handover of the role of head of state.

Stupid Canuck musicians, she’s their Queen too. I remember being in Oz a few years back and some chippy republican was giving off about the Monarchy. A Canadian was there too and the Australian declared that he must agree with him.

The Canadian said that neither he nor anyone he knew, gave it much thought. They couldn’t care.

@16

I think the point was that the Royals aren’t “British” (although we have often welcomed immigrants to this scepter’d isle so maybe they could be seen as a glowing example of integration).

19. Jt Wheatley

“I don’t find the argument that our Royal family is in a mutually supportive relationship with the Saudi royals any more of a compelling reason to retain them than if they got on well with Robert Mugabe.”

This is not what I meant and I feel you know that. All I was establishing was that the royal family frequently act as ambassadors, receive important guests and perform other diplomatic services. They do this with the maximum of ceremony and respect, which is widely appreciated and helps to maintain our good relationships with many other countries.

20. Shatterface

Duplicate posts. Bugger.

‘Because the prospect of President Blair, Kinnock, Thatcher (fill in as required) would be infinitely worse.’

You could offer the Crown to any footballer who wins the World Cup on behalf of England, thus incentivising the team, restoring the country’s pride *and* pissing off the Scots.

21. Shatterface

‘They do this with the maximum of ceremony and respect, which is widely appreciated and helps to maintain our good relationships with many other countries.’

That was kind of my point. One archaic, undemocratic institution props up another. The fact that some despots are easily impressed by the Queen’s trinkets and bawbles, and are legitimated on the world stage by her patronage isn’t an argument in the Queen’s favour.

22. Jt Wheatley

Although I can see your point I still feel as though you are missing mine, look at it from a purely selfish, UK-centric point of view. The fact that “some despots [along with many other, elected, heads of state] are easily impressed by the Queen’s trinkets and bawbles” works hugely in our favour. And the face remains that even if we had an elected head of state the patronage for them would persist.

23. Shatterface

‘Can’t we take them to the EU courts for flouting equal opps legislation ?’

We could at least ask why black and Asian people are under-represented in the House of Windsor. Why, for instance, are *all* the Queen’s children white?

Also, Prince Charles is next in line for the Throne – and he’s the present Queen’s son. That looks suspiciously like nepotism to me. Was this position even advertised outside the Royal family?

@23

Exactly! It’s a blimmin disgrace.

I think the point was that the Royals aren’t “British”

Only in an extremely racist ‘Blut und Boden’ sense. The last truly ‘English’ king of England was, as I think was discussed on Lib Con before the election, King Aethelred. In other words, the tradition of having a royal family of foreign extraction is one that goes back in Britain for very nearly 1,000 years – which makes it about as British a tradition as you could wish to see.

And a particularly asinine debating point, but then we are dealing with an argument here apparently predicated on the opinion of a Canadian pop group.

@25

I agree, I particularly dislike the “they’re not even English line.”

People who say that about Ashley Cole or Diane Abbott are called racists… because they normally are. Its a bit different when its “our” Royals and the Germans, but its still a hypocrisy which is unnecessary. There are plenty of arguments against the Royals without childish jibes.

@25

Umm, yeah. Same was said for herediatory peers etc. (tradition and so on)… there are better arguments against the monarchy (the whole “democracy” thing being the main one in my opinion.)

As for Canadian pop groups, I’ve always prefered Arcade Fire and Godspeed You Black Emperor so can’t really comment 😉

They Royal family is a Conservative stitch up. We only keep them for the times when we have a non tory govt. It allows Air Vice Marshals , Crusty old Generals, Police Chiefs and all the other tory ass lickers to be able to put up a picture of the Queen instead of a Labour Prime Minister. These people would have no problem putting up a picture of a Tory Prime Minister ,but this way it gives the illusion of a so called ‘non political’ head of state.

This illusion is constantly revealed every time the Monarchy spout out some nonsense. As long as it is agreed by most tories there is never a problem. You hear it on phone ins every time Prince Charles makes some ludicrous point. The callers can’t wait to tell us that they are entitled to an opinion. Completely forgetting that the whole point of them is to be non political.

We have a very political head of state, which pretends to be non political. It is in some ways very appropriate for a country that is deeply Conservative and incredibly hypocritical.

29. Charlie 2

When looking at presidential systems , there tends to be two types ; those who are the supreme leader such as in the USA or France or where they act a titular but not political head of the country such as Germany or Ireland. Having a political head of the country does not appear to improve the government. If we remove the monarchy and have a titular hea of state such as in Germany or Ireland, what is the point? Japan, Belgium, The Netherlands , Denmark, Norway Sweden and spain all manage to cope with change while having a monarchy.

In the case of Juan Carlos, as head of the armed forces he ordered them back to barracks during the attempted coup of 1982, for which a number of socialists ,communists and liberals are grateful. The conduct of the Queen of The Netherlands during WW2 was far more impressive than the lack lustre conduct of the politicians. During WW2 , George VI helped in a stable transition from Chamberlain to Churchill: many Tories supported Halifax.

In Belgium , it would appear the monarch is a source of stability compared to the rather childish actions of many politicians.

An aspect of the monarch is that they often have a wealth of experience beyond that of the PM and can caution and advise. It was the Queen who helped to restore relations with many Commonwealth Nations after the ructions casued by Mrs Thatcher. The ability to assist in restoring relations if damaged by politicians, to act as a sounding board to the PM ,to be able to advise and caution the PM in perfect privacy is a source of stability , which may be very important in times of tension and conflict.

Looking at the costs of presidents in Italy and France it seems we get a pretty good deal with the royal family, so I don’t think economics is a good argument. I haven’t seen a good reason why, in practical terms, a president would be better.

The other main argument against seems to be that it ‘isn’t democratic’, except that it is. The Monarch rules by the will of the people expressed in Parliament. If there was a democratic desire to replace the monarchy with an elected head of state, the opportunity is always there. The reality is that the democratic will seems to be to retain the monarchy.

31. Jennifer O'Mahony

OK

Schizorphrenia – prob insensitive, could have just used a better word.

@10 If our own Queen would only read this article, agree, and gently move on in life I’d be very grateful. Lots of the aristocracy have disgreed with the monarch, famously e.g. Lord Byron.

@14 great. Wahabi Islam nutjobs have good chats about yachts and jewellry with our monarch. I’m so glad.

@21 lol. Completely agree. Where’s the enquiry?

As for me being xenophobic, my whole point is that she is held up as the ultimate symbol of ‘Britishness’, when this is in fact a complete lie. She’s as much of a mongrel as the rest of us in blood terms, so why the crown and all the money?

@27 If the Arcade Fire write a song with some kind of republican streak, I will be on to it like THAT.

@30

Oh really? Name one major political party that has advocated getting rid of the monarchy. It’s hardly a democratic mandate for keeping an archaic institution if the question is never, ever, raised.

“As for me being xenophobic, my whole point is that she is held up as the ultimate symbol of ‘Britishness’, when this is in fact a complete lie. She’s as much of a mongrel as the rest of us in blood terms, so why the crown and all the money?”

This is exactly the point.

Why are you defining Britishness in blood terms by referring to her forebears? If she’s a mongrel then this is exactly what would make her British. Its an utterly self defeating line of argument for a Republican.

I agree with pretty much everything except the final paragraph. The cost of maintaining the royal family is a non-issue. A presidential head of state would cost about the same, it’s really not what’s important. What’s important is that this is undemocratic, and the sooner people realise it the better.

But is this something we should be doing now? I think a semi-parliamentary system, combined with a two-party system, could be considerably worse. Maybe we should leave it for a bit, wait for electoral reform first. Charles is considerably less popular than the Queen, that might be a better time for a republican movement.

Brenda seems OK. Brian will fuck up, then let the tumbrils roll and vive la republique!

Scargill for titular pres? He’s got the experience.

Oh really? Name one major political party that has advocated getting rid of the monarchy. It’s hardly a democratic mandate for keeping an archaic institution if the question is never, ever, raised.

Surely the fact that it’s “never, ever raised” indicates that there isn’t significant popular support for it.

Jennifer, what problems would getting rid of the monarchy solve? (And what problems will be caused by getting rid of it?)

Or do you merely dislike the monarchy and that is enough for you to get rid of it?

@36

Well, that or we’re governed by spineless career politicians who have to pledge alliegence to the Queen to enter Parliament in the first place…

Well, that or we’re governed by spineless career politicians who have to pledge alliegence to the Queen to enter Parliament in the first place…

You mean there is huge public support for this but we don’t hear about it because politicians are afraid of breaking their promises?

Er…

40. Hodge Podge

I find living in a pseudo-dictatorship amusing. In this day and age, anyone can make as nasty a joke about the monarch as they want. I also think having a CURRENT monarchy is much more entertaining for tourists then having museums about one.

Left Outside is spot on. This ‘German’ jibe needs to be binned. She didn’t ask for the job and she’s put the work in and fair play to her.

But in due course, do we really need a replacement? And Charles?

Even when I’m feeling well-inclined to the world at large, the best career I can see for Charles is dreamily tickling the ear of a Gloucester Old Spot and murmuring to organic pear trees while flunkeys tell him how right he is. That shouldn’t cost much, and the biscuits are OK. But Head of State? No disrepect to the disturbed, but he’s barely this side of barking.

There is no rush, but we need to lose the hereditary principle before we install the next generation.

@39

lol, no I mean that the debate hasn’t even been had because no-one in the House wants to rock the boat and risk incurring the wrath of the establishment.

And yeah I know the majority of people still oddly want a monarchy. (not exactly sure of the current figures though). and I wonder how much that’ll change when Charlie becomes King…

@ Jennifer – thank you. It’s a beautiful language and I’m glad you see that the word you used was a mistake, especially when there are so many better (and more correct) words you could have used.

@25. Tim, tradition is never a good reason for anything and I could give dozens of examples of traditions that we would all agree it’s best were not traditions anymore. I mean you could use the tradition argument against anything, like, say universal suffrage…

I’d just like to point out that Of Montreal are from Athens, Georgia (in the USA…) not Montreal, as their name would imply and therefore are not Canadian and subjects of the Queen.

The rest of the lyrics …

On our trip to England I noticed something obscene
People still actually give a shit about the Queen
Though London girls aren’t snobs at all
And Brighton’s lovely in the fall
Left alone to drive ourselves on the opposite side
Man, it was a miracle that nobody died
Hanging out with Steven, Drew, Theo, Paul, and Sorrel, too
Eating at Welcome Breaks daily
We danced in Leeds with Brit Pop Haley

Performing with the Apples
And then crashing at the Wrights
Bitching because Steven booked us
On such early flights
Always in a foggy haze
Because we hadn’t slept for days
Every single one of our London cabbies played
The most truly repellent techno music ever made
But they’ll drop you without hesitation
If you try changing the station

Up to our necks in crisps and litter
In the van we dubbed the Gary Glitter

I’d just like to point out that Of Montreal are from Athens, Georgia (in the USA…) not Montreal, as their name would imply and therefore are not Canadian and subjects of the Queen

You beat me to it, Matt – I was going to put that in this post.

47. George W. Potter

You’re also missing:

The monarchy provides a necessary constitutional function by counterbalancing the power of parliament.

@Will Rhodes – thanks. Love the sing even more in full.

“Every single one of our London cabbies played
The most truly repellent techno music ever made”

Amusingly, it’s a Canadian site that gives us, as the first result for “cost of Italian Presidency” this:

“Third, the monarchy cost every Briton 66p. The Italian presidency costs each Italian almost double at £1.24. ”

And as to this:

“French, German and (much further back) Roman monarchs/emperors. The current set are more German than anything. There is nothing less fundamentally British than the Royal Family. ”

Given that the Brits are some stew of various Germanic and Romance tribes, Latins, Celts and so on they sound about right for us.

If we got rid of the Monarchy then we’d also lose pointless whining blog posts like this, and we’d be much poorer for it, no?

The Queen does have power, most of it given to the PM for his own personal use (by which I mean he doesn’t need parliament’s approval to use it).

Anyone who thinks the monarchy provides a balance against the power of parliament is deluding themselves. On the whole, for most of the time, the Queen is constitutionally pointless. Where she may be able to exercise any power the argument falls down because to exercise power in a democracy you must be directly or indirectly accountable for its use. Either way you cut it the Queen’s position can’t be justified constitutionally.

Republic has answered pretty much every monarchist argument, and I’ve still not seen any reason for keeping the monarchy.

“The Queen does have power, most of it given to the PM for his own personal use (by which I mean he doesn’t need parliament’s approval to use it).”

And that is set to change (if not adequately, but still…power is moving to parliament).

“Republic has answered pretty much every monarchist argument, and I’ve still not seen any reason for keeping the monarchy.”

And yet you (and others) have not given any real reason for scrapping it either, other than “it’s pointless” which, while as long as it’s also harmless, is no reason at all.

You’re going to have to come up with more than just ideological arguments if you want this discussion to be worth anything, because pro-monarchists have more deep rooted ideological arguments than you do.

@49

What’s your point? “Cheaper” doesn’t mean “better” and I’d rather my tax pennies went to someone democratically elected than not, cheers. A one-party state would probably be cheaper to run, it doesn’t make it better than a pluralist state.

@52

Ideological monarchist arguments boil down to one rather quaint theory that a certain family’s sperm has a God-given right to rule.

No monarchist ever answers the question: what the blazes is wrong with saying “Hey, Liz, why not stand for election this time?”

What is so terrible about democracy that we can’t have an elected Head of State?

55. Sunder Katwala

There is a very easy answer to the question. A Monarchy essentially survives in a constitutional democracy if it retains public legitimacy, and can not endure without it.

The central problem for anti-Monarchists is very simple: support for a Republic is just about the most stable indicator of British public opinion one can find. It was just under one in five at the end of the 1960s, it was just under one in five when Charles married Diana in 1981 and, after the most turbulent 25-30 years for the Royals imaginable, it remains pretty much exactly where it was, usually at between 19 and 21 per cent across. Given the trouble and controversy the Monarchy has been in, this is perhaps the most dramatic political failure of any cause.

Some MORI data here, not the whole period
http://www.ipsos-mori.com/researchpublications/researcharchive/poll.aspx?oItemId=2423

How you would get rid of the Monarchy is quite straightforward. If Republicans were to convince a majority of people that Britain would be better off without them, and a significant number of those that it was a priority issue, it would be perfectly possible to bring about a change. If there was consistently 40% support for removing the Monarchy, there would be a real and constant sense of a legitimacy crisis for an institution whose raison d’etre is an ability to unite and be above politics. If 50% of people wanted a change, you would see backbench and then frontbench politicians want to appeal to that majority, perhaps saying “let’s have a referendum to end the uncertainty”. Republicans would simply have to secure and win that vote.

But if support for a Republic remains steady at 20%, with pretty low salience among many of those, then it isn’t going to become a major public issue. If there were a referendum it is almost impossible to see how that would not result in a clear endorsement of the status quo.

Perhaps all of this will change dramatically after the reign of the Queen. But I see no particular reason to anticipate that happening. Anybody who did think pursuing a Republic was an important priority issue needs an account of this failure of the anti-Monarchist cause (which means that the Monarchy does, at present, effectively have democratic legitimacy in our society), and a focus on identifying issues or arguments which do more than preach to the converted minority.

“What is so terrible about democracy that we can’t have an elected Head of State?”

What’s so terrible (and even influential) about the Monarchy that we need to elect a head of state?

All these questions against the Monarchy can be turned on their head and put right back at you…I’m amazed that people persist in such a base way of trying to argue for a change.

I personally couldn’t give a shit what we have, either way, because I can see that it ultimately won’t make *any* difference to the way I live my life, how the country is governed, or how the country develops…and I’d never support any change that took power away from parliament to more greatly affect those things, I posit that no-one else would either. It seems as though (thanks Sunder) up to 80% of people probably feel about the same.

@56

All these questions against Democracy can be turned on their head and put right back at you…I’m amazed that people persist in such a base way of trying to argue for the status quo.

😉

OK, an argument in favour of the Monarchy then.

We do need someone to pin on the VCs and GCs….someone to embody, however quaint or archaic this may sound, “the nation”.

I’d far rather have it be a member of the lucky sperm club than some gurning second rate politician at the end of their career.

“All these questions against Democracy ”

Monarchists aren’t against democracy, they’re against the need to appoint a head of state democratically rather than just let bloodline decide.

But yes, I know what you’re getting at because *that’s precisely my point*, both sides are purely ideological which is why I’m saying republicans need to do more than just put their ideology forward…it’s clearly not the most popular type.

57 – since we’ve had so many spurious methods of argument on this thread, shall we try one more? Quoting someone else:

‘If it is not necessary to change, it is necessary not to change’.

And there’s a bloody good pub by his house, which says a great deal.

The Royal Family make money from tourism, and if they were gone we would lose the massive amounts of income it provides

The fucking Loch Ness Monster brings in a lot of tourists too, but we don’t have her open Parliament.

Of course, we don’t actually need to get rid of the monarchy entirely – just strip them of the Crown Estate, get rid of the Civil List, and eliminate their constitutional role. I’m sure they’ll manage just fine off engagement fees. Hell, I’m sure Lizzy could get a fantastic job at Alton Towers, wearing a giant foam costume of herself…

The Queen doesn’t have any power anyway

Then getting rid of her constitutional role won’t make any fucking difference, will it? If the Head of State doesn’t actually do anything beyond acting as a stage prop, then we don’t really need one at all.

Sunder, that’s the most dreadful and vacuous argument I’ve ever heard. I do hope that’s not an indication of the intellectual weight of the Fabian movement.

Nothing has legitimacy because of opinion polling. On that basis we wouldn’t have elections unless the polls pointed in favour of the opposition.

It is a circular argument: “the monarchy should be supported because the monarchy is supported.”

The arguments for a republic are very clear and trump monarchist arguments every time, whether its on legitimacy (monarchy has none), costs (monarchy is scandalously wasteful), constitutional reform (monarchy is the bedrock of our undemocratic constitution that makes parliament sovereign rather than the people and gives the executive excessive power), principle (democracy has to be based on the fundamental principle of equality and expressed consent, therefore the monarchy and hereditary public office has no place in a democracy).

So rather than making circular arguments in an attempt to avoid any controversy, try defending one position or the other.

Do you genuinely thing inheritance is the best method of choosing our head of state?

Do you really believe our constitution is worth keeping?

Do you oppose the idea of popular sovereignty expressed through democratic institutions?

63. Sunder Katwala

Graham

It was analysis, not advocacy. I’d almost certainly vote for your side in a referendum, which I’m pretty sure you would lose it, and, as a democrat, I would accept the result. I would be in favour of such a referendum on a 25-50 year rolling basis, to establish that whatever system we have has explicit democratic consent.

The monarchy does have broad democratic legitimacy at present, which I would suggest is pretty much a matter of fact, and I suggest you may have to accept that is the starting point if you want to change it. (It probably doesn’t have such legitimacy in Australia, where it is probably only a matter of time before there is a change, if the next campaign isn’t divided).

You have a perfectly legitimate position which a significant minority (one-fifth) agree with and about three-quarters oppose you. you probably have a handful of “out” MPs and the sympathy of about (what do you reckon?) a quarter of Labour and LibDem MPs? How big is the Republic membership?

I am saying that you will advance your case for popular sovereignty involving an elected head of state only if you focus on that problem of converting people to your cause, rather than assuming the only moral or legitimate position is for everybody to accept that you have a divine right to be right!

I find it interesting that nobody has addressed the elephant in the corner …. class.

Monarchism is a class thing. Whether it’s the instinctive cringe and forelock tugging of the salt of the earth “know our place” little Englanders, or the self assured country shires establishment, the monarchy seems to have a quasi-mystical appeal to large sections of English (if not British) society.

The brittle nature of that support may have been exposed in the aftermath of Diana’s funeral, altho even then there seemed almost to be an element of the public (or at least the monarchists amongst them) being more Royal than the Queen in their negative response to the Royal family’s behaviour.

Sadly, the monarchy is likely to be with us as long as the class system. With luck, support will wither away… and the prospect of Charles III should give republicans cause for hope. I read recently that support for the monarchy in Sweden had hit new lows – with luck we will follow our scandinavian cousins!

The argument that we allegedly need the Royal Family in order to attract tourists is possibly one of the lamest I’ve ever heard.

The biggest two queues I ever joined in my life were both in Paris. One for the Eiffel Tower and the other to get in the Versailles Palace. Words cannot describe the amount of people who wanted to visit. The place has been a republic for 221 years.

“The argument that we allegedly need the Royal Family in order to attract tourists is possibly one of the lamest I’ve ever heard.”

No. It is the single lamest argument ever. No monarchist (as opposed to old person with no interest in change but no strong views) would see this as an argument, possibly for the reasons you state. In fact, arguably removing the monarchy would increase tourism – you could get into more buildings and more parts of them…

“The arguments for a republic are very clear and trump monarchist arguments every time, whether its on legitimacy (monarchy has none)”

It doesn’t need any, it doesn’t hold any meaningful or practically applicable power.

“costs (monarchy is scandalously wasteful)”

And fruitful, through the various assets of the crown. Not entirely sure how putting money towards a head of state that does bugger all is less wasteful of course, for those that advocate replacement rather than just removal.

“constitutional reform (monarchy is the bedrock of our undemocratic constitution that makes parliament sovereign rather than the people and gives the executive excessive power)”

The queen is absolutely no barrier to reform, except to those that wish to oust the monarchy, so they misrepresent the practicalities of what we’re able to do with reform.

“principle (democracy has to be based on the fundamental principle of equality and expressed consent, therefore the monarchy and hereditary public office has no place in a democracy).”

But, again, the Queen is not involved (bar some token events) in politics so “democracies principle” is not undermined or improved by the monarchy’s state of being.

Seriously, these arguments are all terrible and vacuous, based on a singular desire and padded out to try and gain a legitimacy that doesn’t exist.

And I say this as someone, like Sunder, that would probably vote for republic over monarchy.

“The monarchy provides a necessary constitutional function by counterbalancing the power of parliament.”

You really don’t believe that old nosense do you?


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    Why are we still supporting the Monarchy? http://bit.ly/9AE3C4

  2. Jae Kay

    RT @libcon Why are we still supporting the Monarchy? http://bit.ly/9AE3C4 – So full of rubbish, I may have to write a rebuttal.

  3. Mark Best

    RT @libcon: Why are we still supporting the Monarchy? http://bit.ly/9AE3C4

  4. Jackie

    RT @libcon: Why are we still supporting the Monarchy? http://bit.ly/9AE3C4

  5. Jennifer O'Mahony

    Me @libcon RT @libcon Why are we still supporting the Monarchy? http://bit.ly/cVgSoG

  6. Daniel Selwood

    RT @libcon: Why are we still supporting the monarchy? http://bit.ly/9AE3C4

  7. Liberal Conspiracy

    Why are we still supporting the Monarchy? http://bit.ly/9AE3C4

  8. burdinho

    RT @libcon Why are we still supporting the Monarchy? http://bit.ly/9AE3C4 <<<couldnt agree more, embarassment

  9. Revisting the Republican Question « Jennifer O'Mahony : Journalism & Opinion

    […] Published on Liberal Conspiracy here […]

  10. Andrew Roche

    RT @libcon: Why are we still supporting the Monarchy? http://bit.ly/9AE3C4

  11. Building a dream « ten minutes hate

    […] in fact.  While the Queen struggles to get by on £7.9m, while the banks cough up an estimated £2bn per year in return for the £850bn they were gifted, […]

  12. Lee Griffin

    RT @libcon Why are we still supporting the Monarchy? http://bit.ly/9AE3C4 <– uh, because changing it won't make any difference?

  13. Republic Staff

    Sunder Katwala of Fabians defends monarchy with circular argument "it should be supported because it is supported" http://bit.ly/baYS12

  14. Tom Griffin

    RT @libcon Why are we still supporting the Monarchy? http://bit.ly/cVgSoG

  15. Jennifer O'Mahony

    @davidwearing – I wrote about this for Liberal Conspiracy (more generally). http://t.co/LcWY9Ua – Go British republicans!





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