Republic vs. Monarchy


Just read about the group called “Republic”. Apparently they believe the Monarchy is so bad, and the Prime Minister so corruptable, that they wish us to elect a President. This will somehow resolve all the ills of the United Kingdom.

Sounds great in principle – fully elected officials, head of state to ensure our rights, parliament being restricted as to its law making powers… My question is how or why would having a President help? One more politician. What makes a person so noble through the virtue of them being elected? In short, nothing. Being born in to a profession, on the other hand, and inheriting responsibilities without a choice – having power thrust upon you – now there is some nobility in that at least.

I don’t understand where the issue is around Parliament being able to enact any law. Parliament’s power derives from the people. Although theoretically they could pass a law outlawing all critical comment of politicians, in practice this will never happen. Not everyone in Parliament will agree. You will not get a popular majority in Parliament to enact such a law. In the unlikely event that the next national socialist party is elected, do the people of the Republic really think Britons will sit idly by and just let it happen? Of course they won’t.

To argue for limits on Parliament’s law making powers is to argue for a codified Constitution. I would argue that the United Kingdom’s Constitution, which is the collective body of acts of Parliament and Common Law decisions, is a much better system. In the UK we do not have arguments about whether the right to bear arms allows a single flint lock rifle or a grenade launcher. We do not suffer from evangelical Christians who believe in unlimited religious privilige because a we’re “One nation under God”. Our lack of a codified document, and the ability for Parliament to enact new laws and amend any of the existing body of legislation gives us flexibility. It allows us to make our nation reflect the times we are living in. It removes the instinct of blindly sticking to dogma because “that’s what the founders intended”.

The vast majority of the powers the Monarchy have are not used “by Convention”. In other words if they were used there would be such a backlash as to threaten the very existence of the institution of the Monarchy itself. Such a self preservation argument does not apply to the heads of state of republics. They are voted in for terms, and short of a convoluted impeachment process are very unlikely to be overthrown through a lack of support from the public. Indeed many sitting US Presidents have had approval ratings well below 50% and still go on governing.

It is true that the Prime Minister can declare war without a vote of Parliament – but do republicans really believe that if a Prime Minister went on a fancy flier of modern day empire building that anyone in their own party, or in the Ministry of Defence, would go along with it? Of course they wouldn’t. When has a Prime Minister ever sent the country to war against a majority of its elected representatives? What does a vote matter if you are only ever to call it if you know you will win? Conversely, why need a vote if no one would ever follow a Prime Minister who did not command a majority of supporters for military action in Parliament? The answer is it’s purely a technicality, and only been an issue since the second Iraq war, not that it would have helped there either as at the time Parliament did support military action – despite the new history people have tried to write since.

The Privy Council having the ability to introduce legislation without Parliamentary approval is a non issue too. The Monarch will never sign off on such legislation because to do so would threaten their own existence for the same reasons as mentioned above.

Why do people believe that the solution to a Parliament riddled with self interest and nepotism will be solved by more politicians as either head of state or in the house of lords? Of course it won’t, it’ll just introduce more people that need watching by a mindful electorate. The House of Lords is purely for reviewing legislation. It is and remains the most effective legislative review body in the world. It consists of experts and people with experience in their fields whose job it is to review – not write or amend without a commons vote – new legislation. If it were full of career politicians only rather than experts in business and science it will never be as effective. Personally I’d limit the amount of political appointees each parliamentary session and remove all the Bishops who lets face it are not experts in anything other than pure self serving interest. Why can’t we start by reforming that instead.

The cost argument is wholly fallacious too. The Royal Family pull in a lot more money than they cost. No one will buy mugs and towels for elected politicians, or go and take tours of their constituency homes! Also most of the money for the Monarchy is used as upkeep Royal Palaces which the nation would pay for without the Royal Family anyway. The Queen uses the allowance assigned to just her to pay for the rest f the royal family anyway, and pays the rest back to the Treasury.

I remember John Major the former Prime Minister telling a story about being pre-occupied one week whilst visiting the Queen. He told her he was worried about a call he had to make to convince an African leader to help with something. She suggested he mention fishing as a means to get a congenial conversation going. He did this and with friendly relations established went on to convince the leader to help him out. An elected head of state with a limit on their experience would not be able to offer such advice. Likely there is more good done by the Royal Family that goes unnoticed. After all the press only relates their flaws, never their successes.

I will never vote for a republic, or an elected House of Lords. It’s just another excuse to give more people the chance to vaunt their power over others. Its just another cult of personality, of political patronage and self interest. At least with a system whereby the monarchy’s survival depends upon their actions we have the ultimate level of accountability. What other jobs would they be able to get in civvie street?

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About adamfowleruk
I'm a Principal Sales Engineer with MarkLogic in the UK. Big NoSQL geek, but not a mindless fanboi! Author of the upcoming 'NoSQL for Dummies' book from Wiley. Also love Node.js, particularly for real time situational awareness application stacks where timely information is a must. Love Node.js packages to run http servers, supporting WebSockets on HTML5 apps, and linking to IM platforms like Jabber. I'm the creator of MLJS and MLDotNet, wrappers in JavaScript and .NET, respectively, for the MarkLogic REST API.

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