Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Why I am a convert to republicanism

On this blog, I once published a transcript of a speech I delivered at a debating competition. I was told to write for the motion, "There is still a place for an unelected head of state in 21st Century Britain", and I did so, obligingly. I was later asked if I actually agreed with what I was writing (which is, of course, unimportant in debating) and I replied "Well, yes...kind of".

For most of my life, when I was asked if we should abolish the monarchy, I have said "No, we should retain it." More recently, I've started to feel unsure about that position, having read around the subject and given it a great deal of thought. This was evidenced by my uncertainty when it came to my debate. Now, I can say and be quite confident in saying that if asked again if we should abolish the monarchy, I would reply, "Yes, we should do away with the royals." In short, I am a covert to republicanism.

There are only a few of us. In a 2007 poll, 78% of respondents said Britain should keep its monarchy. So why have I decided to join this rather small portion of the population who believe quite strongly that there's no place for hereditary heads of state in modern Britain? Well...

Firstly, I believe that democracy and monarchy are fundamentally incompatible. The two do not work together; they are diametric opposites and can therefore only result in discord. Johann Hari puts this perfectly in his brilliant article on the topic, saying, "The US head of state grew up with a mother on food stamps. The British head of state grew up with a mother on postage stamps. Is that a contrast that fills you with pride?" 
Well in answer to Hari's question, no, it isn't. Of course, the monarchy has no actual power and we are beyond the days of our majestic rulers being unquestioned, Pope-like tyrants. However, growing up and living in a country where the person above and beyond all else, the person whom all must respect and bow down to, the person who is the nation's ultimate representative, has serious effects. It maintains and strengthens a rigid and medieval class system and undermines meritocratic principles, suggesting that there is also someone better than you, at a height impossible for you to achieve. I, personally, do not want to be represented by someone completely distant from the real world, who is in their place solely and purely due to the accident of birth.

What is more, it is impossible for me to support an overtly sexist and discriminatory institution. It astounds me that even today, in the modern, liberal, Western world, the UK still maintains barbaric laws when it comes to the monarchy. These come in two forms. Firstly the law that favours male heirs over female ones and secondly, the one that forbids anyone of a faith other than the Church of England becoming king or queen (or Prime Minister for that matter). To have these rules still in place and still active is, quite frankly, stupid.

Since I became politically engaged, I have always called for a secular and socialist society. The royal family can play no part in such a place. Secularism calls for a total separation of church and state, where people have religious freedom but where religion plays no part in politics or the law.  This is in straight opposition with the monarchy, who is also the head of the CofE and Defender of the Faith. I have come to the conclusion that it's just as easy to be both pro-secularism and pro-monarchy as it is to be pro-intelligence and pro-Daily-Mail.

What is more, I am also a firm believer in fundamental constitutional and electoral change - including a proportional representation voting system, a fully elected, bishop-free second chamber, a UK bill of rights and proper constitution (at present we don't have one) and, as afore said, the establishment of secularism. To have such views, one must also accept the royals have got to go - they can play no part in any of the above.

Moreover, the monarchy costs Britain £37 million every year, money that could be so better spent on hospitals, education and the arts, to name but three. Yes, I concede, we do indeed make lots of sterling through tourism and such, but I feel the scrapping of the monarchy wouldn't necessarily end this. Tourists would still flock to these isles to see the uninhabited palaces and gardens, to admire the jewels no longer in use, to marvel at the traditions of yesterday.

Many argue that the monarchy is a hallmark of essential British-ness and a tradition too sacred to do away with. I don't accept that viewpoint. When I see all the ceremony and ritual etc I just think it looks a bit, well...silly. We're meant to be a progressive, modern county, and yet we remain a semi-theocracy and every now and then all our officials dress up and play games like school-children in over-the-top, outdated, vulgar affairs we call "traditions". Traditions evolve and they also die out. The monarchy is one worthy of the latter; it has been with us a for a long time, but I feel it's starting to outstay its welcome. A natural end is in sight.

This issue isn't the biggest one facing us. However, it is one worth discussing. Especially now, when the Royal Wedding is constantly in the media glare, making me for one feel a little sick. Everywhere I turn it's there, and every day I come across some other putrid result of it - Royal Wedding mugs, Royal Wedding T-shirts, Kate and Wills' inside story in various glossy magazines, more vacuous nonsense about a toff and his "commoner" bride-to-be. I'm sick of it, and I'm sick of the royals. I guess in the past I defended monarchy as I liked Queen Elizabeth II, who has reigned with dignity and courage. She is a woman to be admired. However, I find the rest of them loathsome, and I think after Lizzie passes away, it will be time to have them abolished. What we definitely need to do is start a proper debate around the issue, allowing MPs to discuss it without fearing charges of treason. I would much rather be a citizen than a "subject". That is why I feel the disestablishment of the royal family would be good for 21st Century Britain and should be our next step. And so I wish William and Katherine all the best and hope they have a happy, loving marriage together, but on the 29th April, I'll be wearing this:


CellarDoor said...

I thought this was very interesting and brilliantly written. I've been a supporter of our constitutional monarchy all my life too, but I also have been reading Johann Hari and feeling sick whenever I catch sight of some "Kate & Wills" loving shite. I, too, admire The Queen but can't imagine having Prince Charles as King. In fact, and this may seem sexist, but I'm sceptical about having a King at all as I feel they'd be less .. I don't know. Un-interfering.
One thing however - I do object to the assertion that MPs would fear accusations of treason. Surely under parliamentary privilege this does not hold true?
I know this sounds rubbish, but keep up the writing! I'll try and read your blog regularly from now on.

Lovkyn─Ť said...

though i live across the ocean and my lands are involved in completely different struggles, i can recognize intelligent ideas when i hear them. it's nice to hear what people are debating about in other places, and i appreciate your posts.

Anonymous said...

Was this debating competition Debating Matters?

Also, just a note that might make you chuckle (or be angry, although I hope not). When I first saw the URL to your blog my brain immediately registered 'penis observer'!

Bob Wiggin said...

Excellent read, I hope you have joined Republic if you really do wish to see change.