Saturday, July 17, 2010

Abolish The Monarchy

As a right of centre individual I'm supposed to support the monarchy I guess, however the only reasons I can think of for keeping it are:
  1. The Queen is pretty good, and Prince Phillip is awesome.
  2. It provides a link to the Commonwealth.
  3. It really pisses off dreary class warriors who make up most of the republican movement.
Those aren't strong reasons though. When I look at the downsides- the inevitability of a buffoon like Prince Charles becoming King, the lack of accountability, the minor & ex royals who milk their connections, the endless fodder to the tabloids and the democratic deficit- I just think those seem stronger than the positives.

We've had a republic before during the protectorate so it wouldn't be a wholly revolutionary concept.


Julius Whacket said...

But just imagined how horribly pissed off the bloody politicians would be at having King Charles and his delightful consort above them in the pecking order...

And personally I'd miss the trooping of the colour.

Robert said...

As a friendly outsider looking in, my first thought is if the UK becomes a republic, the country needs a new name.

That is probably also the end of the political union of the four "nations". The monarchy is really all that holds that together.

Constitutional monarchy itself is not an inherent problem: it can be a source of real pride. (Charles as king will be "muzzled" in a way he is not as Prince of Wales.) The real issue - if there is one - may be that the UK's spreads too wide and costs too much. A "smaller" monarchy (like those on the continent), with fewer family members involved and fewer palaces, might be a way to go: keep the tradition, but maybe scale it back somewhat.

An interesting side issue is this, giving Julius's mentioning the trooping of the colour. Technically, the army and the RAF take an oath of allegiance directly to the Sovereign, and the Royal Navy is actually the Monarch's navy - not the Government's.

We know members of the Commons take an oath of allegiance too; but unlike politicians soldiers tend to take their oaths deadly seriously. So one wonders how the military, given that British soldiers (especially officers) tend to be monarchists, would view attempted "abolition" of the monarchy by civilian politicians of usually NO military experience themselves. Would they go along with it quietly?

Mark Wadsworth said...

1. I like to look at these things in terms of 'value for taxpayers' money'.

Would a scaled down monarchy, replete with trooping of the colour etc offer the same value? Yes. Would it be cheaper than at present? Yes. Would it be cheaper than a presidency? I dunno - all we have to do is work out what a presidency would cost and reduce taxpayer-funding of royals down to that level, problem solved.

2. As to the UK dissolving, that seems like a good thing to me, not a bad thing.

3. The "new name" thing is a non-argument or else we would have been called the UQ for the past half a century.

4. The idea of a hereditary monarchy is relatively new (and one of the few things that we have in common with e.g. North Korea). Until 1688 or thereabouts, the king was just a successful politician who was chosen by and from a small group of relatively successful warlords/landowners.

5.As a proper small government free market liberal anti-NIMBY type, Prince Charles is just about the opposite of everything I stand for, and the Royals are of course the ultimate Home-Owner-ists.

Mark Wadsworth said...

To clarify my point 5, I am a small government etc type; and Prince Charles is the opposite of that. He is large state, big government, pro-NIMBY, pro-Home-Owner-ist etc.

Ross said...

"As a friendly outsider looking in, my first thought is if the UK becomes a republic, the country needs a new name. "

Reminds me of a joke that went around the last time Australia was thinking of becoming a republic:

The Australian Prime Minister, flies to England for a meeting with the Queen. So he asks her,

"Your Majesty, mate, we want to ditch you and become 'The Kingdom of Australia'"

The Queen shakes her head and replies, "One needs a king for a kingdom, and you are not a king."

"Okay" the PM asks "Would it be possible just to transform Australia into an empire then?"

"No, for an empire you need an emperor, and you are most certainly not an emperor."

He thinks for a bit and then asks if it is possible to turn Australia into a principality.

The Queen replies, "For a principality, you need a prince, and you aren't a prince."

"Oh right" says the crestfallen PM, "so what should we become?"

"I think you would be well suited as a country".

Ross said...

Julius- yes, putting politicians in their place is another plus point to the royals.

Ross said...

Mark- If we went for a really dull Swiss style president, that would be cheap wouldn't it?

Ross said...

Also I suppose the royal family are the only true home-ownerists, since technically the Queen owns land whereas everyone else is a mere freeholder.

Anonymous said...

If we didn't have a hereditary Head of State, we would get some superannuated politician. Not Tony Blair, he is too grand, but I would guess somone of the calibre of Roy Hattersley or John Major. Somehow Prince Charles starts to look like a good alternative.

Edwin Greenwood said...

I shouldn't worry about the prospect of a King Charles III, Caliph-in-waiting of the Britannic Ummah and Grand Lord of the Organic Rosebushes. Brenda's obviously quite aware of the danger and is trying her best to outlive him. Judging by her mother's performance she might well manage it too. The throne will then go direct to Wills, who seems marginally more sensible.

Ross said...

Perhaps Charles can be persuaded to take a ride in a Parisian underpass.

James Higham said...

As a right of centre individual I'm supposed to support the monarchy I guess ...

Not if you know their history as Welfs and their bloodline.

TDK said...

Your list of arguments is hardly exhaustive.

The traditional conservative defence is why change something that works - If you want to be cynical, call this suspicion of change.

That is to say that in Britain we have a system that evolved to where it is now and it works reasonably well. So why risk losing that?

The point here is that conservatives believed that man is a flawed creature and whilst we may flatter ourselves that we can plan a better system, too often the unforeseen consequences make the outcome worse.

A second related argument is that we do not give deference to the individual person so much as the institution. It has earned that respect through longevity. The initial opposition to King Charles the First was not because every Parliamentarian was republican but because Charles had taken actions that were thought to undermine the institution. Thus the personal quality of Charles III is not the relevant issue. His desire to change the monarchy may be.
ie. A defender of Faiths is breaking a rather long tradition.

Having said all that, I'm a republican. Having faith in existing institutions is all very well but when those institutions (and I'm thinking of things beside the monarchy) have been fundamentally changed in a short period, the logic of defending them on the basis of tradition is absurd. In particular, we think paper money is valuable even though it has no intrinsic worth. We create a social truth that the bits of paper and metal have a value for exchange. However confidence in a currency can go, and so too a belief in an institution like the monarchy.

As for the idea that Roy Hattersley would make a worse elected head of state than Charles would a king, I would point out that Roy's term of office would come to an end, Chuck's would not. Elections are not about electing the perfect politician so much as getting rid of the failed ones.

Ross said...

TDK- I know my list is limited.

I did think about the importance of historic continuity but most of the constitutional functions could be filled equally well by a replacement. I quite like the idea of being like England under the protectorate, Spain under Franco or the Klingon Empire and having a monarchy but no actual monarch. That way constitutional change is minimised.

TDK said...

You like the idea of being Spain under Franco?

Can't say I'm with you there.

And I'm not really sure that the fact that Cromwell refused the crown made him any less of a king. That's surely the reason they got rid of the commonwealth when he died. Charles I was moving towards the French divine-right-of-the-king system and that's what upset the parliamentarians (I simplify). That Cromwell effectively made himself dictator meant that they got what they feared. That's a key factor in what took place later on during the Glorious Revolution. Cromwell broke the spell of the monarchy and thereafter the British monarchy were always going to be constrained.

If we are debating the merits of monarchy then I think it best to define what kind of monarchy one is trying to defend.

My objection to the British monarchy is based upon the logic that there is no point defending institutions that endorse the Gramscian march. That's a particular stupidity of many conservatives.

I am also supportive of Mark W's point 5. The ruling classes in this country have always subscribed to the patricians view. They share with socialists the belief that salvation will come from philosopher kings.

Ross said...

Just to clarify, I'm only in favour of what Franco did with the monarchy, not the whole being a dictator thing.

TDK said...

But my point was the form remains even if the title has changed. Kim Il Sung (like Cromwell & Franco) wasn't called king but what difference did it make?

Peter Risdon said...

Glad to see you join the ranks of the republicans, Ross.
My main reason for wanting to become a republic is to get constitutionally limited govt. What we have now is absolute, monarchical power exercised through a series of institutions. That degree of power shouldn't exist at all.

I have no worries, or even interest in, keeping some trappings of monarchy such as the trooping of the colour. If anything, I worry what all those people in pacamacs who line royal processions might get up to if they couldn't do that. It's harmless. Just get it out of our constitutional arrangements.

Anonymous said...

Spanish history

Spain had a constitutional monarchy prior to 10 May 1931 when King Alfonso XIII went into exile. Thereafter the Second Republic began but this is often dated to the change in constitution in December.

There were a number of factions that wanted the restoration of the monarchy, the most influential being the Carlists.

The civil war broke out in 1936. Franco was not a noted Carlist. In fact he waited until his death was imminent, to restore the monarchy and even then he appoint Juan Carlos (not the Carlist choice).

The Fascist side was a coalition between various groups, some of whom were not monarchists. The Falange were the proto fascist group and were mainly republican. Franco was not the initial leader of the rebels and only emerged when several rivals died. However, his appeal was that he was not seen as tied to one particular part of the movement. Later, to cement his rule, Franco merged the main groups such as the Falange and the Carlists together under his control so that there was no opposition.

The point of all this is to question what you suppose Franco did with the monarchy. He inherited the republic and ruled it as a military dictator, albeit granting himself the title Regent. He restored the monarchy in the end to give continuity to Francoist Spain. I sincerely doubt that he intended to recreate constitutional monarchy.

So in sum, the Spanish republic predated him and he didn't change the status of the monarchy until the very end. What did he do vis-à-vis the monarchy that you found admirable?

Ross said...

What I think Franco did well was to keep both the Carlists and Alfonsists satisfied that the monarchy had been restored without actually letting a monarch take up the throne.

banned said...

The Monarchy 'costs' each of us about 60p pa. nuff said.

Anonymous said...

If the monarchy goes the affirmative action mob with have a pigmented , lesbian , cripple in place but will still want the trappings and the cash.

Weekend Yachtsman said...

1. The monarchy is dead cheap

2. HM the Q is a fabulous old dear, I am quite a fan.

3. The great thing is the separation of Head-of-State type stuff from politics. Tony Blair wasn't the Head of State - thank God.

4. The alternative, as some have pointed out, is one of Tony Blair's old flatmates - or the Tory party equivalent - or a one-legged homosexual lesbian black dwarf, as others have suggested. In short, all the alternatives are worse.

5. Even Prince Charles is not as bad as anyone the politicians would choose. And it would be them that would choose, wouldn't it? You just know it would.

Conclusion - leave well alone.