Last week, I wrote a piece condemning what I thought to be rather lackluster arguments flouted against the institution of monarchy. The piece received a varied response, and for anybody interested, can be read here:
After receiving criticism (some misguided and some valid) from one Twitter user known as @sandpiper64 (also known as ‘JP’ and whom I must thank for what developed into an interesting discussion) I decided to take on the extended debate on this blog.
The actual conversation was a long one, and lasted a good 45 minutes, but I shall interject the most significant claims into this post for the sake of time.
JP begins by asking me a very fair and simple question. ‘Is having an unelected head of state who can impose/reject legislation fine on the basis that they haven’t done it yet?’
It is worth mentioning at this time that since the Act of Settlement, 1701, British monarchs have been consigned to a constitutional realm of power. The legislative power of a sovereign is a hotly-contested issue, as every law passed requires the signature of the UK’s Head of State, but the Queen is officially unable to propose any legislation of her kind.
Assuming that JP is frustrated with the Queen’s power to impose legislation, I would like to note that on a personal level, I find it very comforting that we have, in our midst, a person able and willing to place constraints onto politicians. It may sound anti-democratic (because it is) to ensure that such a prospect remains so, but I shall remind readers that democratically elected politicians have visited upon this country a myriad of destructive or harmful laws and regulations. Why shouldn’t one be glad that somewhere in our system we have an inherent power capable of overriding the actions of our politicians (who in many cases themselves have proven to be corrupt in many ways over the years).
JP also eludes to the fact that a constitutional monarch has yet to refuse the Sovereign’s Assent (act of law-passing) which, isn’t actually true. In 1707, post-Act of Settlement, Queen Anne withheld her assent over the Scottish Militia Bill, which can be researched here:
The act has not been carried out by Queen Elizabeth II, despite occasional pressures from ministers over the years. My advice to anybody, including JP, worried about the legislative power of an unelected head of state would be to focus your attention towards the European Commission and Jean-Claude Juncker; a man who is now our unofficial head of state, and who is responsible for legislative propositions and enforcement without any sort of mandate from the citizens of Europe.
On JP’s second point, concerning political campaigns and the democratic processes involved, I am equally sceptical. Political campaigns are immensely expensive, particularly leading up to General Election time, every five years. All of the UK’s major political parties are allotted tax-payers money in order to fund their respective campaigns, based on the number of parliamentary seats each one amasses. Exact cost increases as the number of seats increases, with UKIP being awarded £650,000 for attaining only one.
Presidential campaigns wouldn’t be much different, either, in all likelihood. The last presidential race in the United States (not including the ongoing one) back in 2012, recorded an astonishing $2bn combined expense for all who ran, on all sides of the political spectrum. Exact figures and references can be found, here:
In my previous article, I spoke about the democratic mandate of our politicians and the flaws which are exposed by democracy. Like when you are presented with a menu in a restaurant, a ballot paper on polling day provides voters with a list of pre-selected candidates, all of whom are only put up for selection if they adhere to their party’s rules and ideals. The idea that we actually have the choice over who represent us on the world stage is, therefore, a bit of a mistake.
Also in my last piece, I noted that the Queen, or any other constitutional monarch for that matter, is uninterested in personal advancement whilst sat atop the country’s political pyramid. JP responds by saying that the monarch already possesses immeasurable wealth, which is a slightly misleading statement, and that subjects are incapable of attaining such wealth.
Well, without sounding too pedantic, royal wealth is actually the property of the crown, not the individual who wears it. The Queen is legally unable to both sell the land she owns, and equally cannot buy it from the crown for personal use. On the issue of ‘living in a palace’, again on partially true. The Queen has residency in Scotland and at Windsor Castle, and so does not use Buckingham Palace as her personal, fixed abode.
On the face of it, it may seem easy to envisage and be envious of a palace, jewels and a golden carriage, but seldom do we focus on the things which royals sacrifice in order to carry out constant political, ambassadorial and national obligations. Things that we all take for granted; like privacy, freedom of speech and the ability to go on with our personal and social lives without judgement, hindrance or speculation.
Please remember these points before rushing to conclusions over an issue which should rightly be discussed. I’ll give @sandpiper64 credit for one thing he said to me: ‘Sometimes I wonder whether people see the monarchy as a good thing simply because this is the way we’ve always done it. We should question it and see if it really is the best thing for us.’
I couldn’t agree more.