Why I am a republican..
I think this weekend, perhaps more than any other weekend, it is relevant and necessary to state the republican case, what it is and what it is not. Let’s start with what it is not; it is not a personal vendetta against the Queen or the actual person who happens to be the monarch. This is not about saying the monarch is necessarily a bad person, it’s a fundamental question about how this country is governed and what our value system actually is. I do, however, reject the argument that the Queen is this semi-mythic figure who, for example, is somehow ‘above politics’. Just because the monarch is bound not to express their own political views in public does not mean they don’t hold them, indeed it would be downright bizarre if they didn’t have them and consequentially, to assert that they do not act upon them or advocate them, within a limited framework is similarly bizarre and more than a little naive to be honest.
I do not also believe the Queen (or any other monarch) was born inherently better than me. I believe that every single citizen in this country was born equal and is entitled by right to the same opportunities as everybody else. This cuts to the heart of my first objection to the monarchy. It embeds in our society and our value system the belief that somehow, there are some amoung us who were born better, with a right to govern and an entitlement to wealth that has nothing to do with merit or achievement or downright sheer hard graft. Nobody can dispute that this is what monarchy implicitly argues and that it destroys the myth that Britain is any kind of meritocracy. The presence of a Head of State who is appointed by sheer accident of birth is offensive to the very concept of meritocracy and the notion of equality for all.
It is also offensive to democracy. The notion that the Queen is a titular head of state is again one of the many myths that surround the institution of the monarchy. Significant powers are reserved to the Crown under the system of Royal prerogative. Typically, it is true, these are exercised by the Prime Minister but they are a way of the executive undemocratically undermining the elected legislature. It is therefore possible for the Prime Minister to declare war without the consent of Parliament (as indeed Tony Blair did when Britain went into war with Iraq) but not possible for the President of the United States to technically declare war without recourse to Congress. Of course, this does not stop American Presidents trying to circumnavigate the War Powers Resolution but the distinction is an important one.
This is all before we get started on the House of Lords which is, of course, an integral part of the constitutional monarchy state. Indeed, if anything typifies the poisonous and pernicious culture of patronage and inherited, not earned, power then the House of Lords has to be it. This is (or at least it should be) the essence of republicanism, an unstinting, democratic opposition to the undemocratic constitutional monarchy state. It may well be true that the majority of the British people would wish the monarchy continue and indeed, in some form, even as a republican, I willing to assent too and recognise that wish. However, what I cannot accept, and I believe the clear majority of British people would not accept, is the damage the constitutional monarchy state does to our democracy and the civil list do to our public finances. Republicanism, for me, is about a faithfulness to democratic principles and a committment to the creed of social justice and that is why we must tear the decrepit, degenerate constitutional monarchy state down, brick-by-brick.