Category Archives: Monarchy

Extended debate over the validity of republican arguments

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:

https://norgroveblog.com/2015/11/20/serious-responses-to-silly-anti-monarchy-arguments/

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.

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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:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scottish_Militia_Bill

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:

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2012/12/07/presidential-campaign-spending/1753971/

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.

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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.

 


Serious responses to common anti-monarchy arguments

As a former republican, I am well-placed to counter some of the useless and misguided rhetoric surrounding the institution of monarchy (If anybody is interested in reading about my change of heart on the subject, please do so by clicking here). Quite frequently, the arguments made in favour of British republicanism are so poorly crafted that I can scarcely believe the confidence with which they are fronted.

Since my philosophical switch, I have remained firm in my assumption that those directing contempt towards the royals are, more often than not, doing so out of envy rather than to forward any substantive political agenda. It is, therefore, the duty of any intelligent person to point out such flaws and attempt to persuade those that make them otherwise.

The first and most popular stance you tend to meet when discussing the issue of our constitutional monarchy is the notion that the institution glaringly offends and negates basic democratic principles. Whilst I cannot deny that Britain’s head of state is unaccountable and cannot be removed, I should point out to people reading that she has never, in any way, harmed or intruded beyond her constitutional realm, and has never proposed harmful legislation upon the country.

But, in a more broad sense, what does democracy actually mean? Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for preserving it (hence my onslaught against both the House of Lords and the European Union) but it does seem to me to be highly overrated. It is worth mentioning that the politicians who are allegedly democratically elected are actually pre-selected. Politicians standing for office are only selected by their parties if they abide by the party’s rules and ideals.

So already, the system is exposed as flawed.

Secondly, there comes the issue of expense. The campaign group Republic (of which, and until recently, I was a member) recently exposed the yearly cost of monarchical maintenance as over £330m. This is a huge sum of money and undoubtedly induces tax-payer contributions, but I would take this opportunity to remind those angry about this that political campaigns (yes, including presidential ones) are also highly expensive.

Another argument used in favour of a British republic (one I was recently hit with on Twitter) which bewilders me beyond grief is the apparently worrisome fact that we have a person in the UK who is above the law, and cannot be charged with a crime. My dear friends, were a constitutional monarch to engage in criminal behaviour, the general public would unite in calling for his or her head.

It is in the best interests of the monarch concerned not to break laws which apply to subjects for the sake of preserving public opinion, and for the country to have stable government above the law composed of individuals uninterested in their own personal advancement.

So yes, in an ideal world, every child should indeed be born equally, and enjoy equal successes and equal opportunities, but within a capitalist state this is simply nothing more than a Utopian wish. Those born into royalty are robbed of the kind of private life that only subjects are allowed to enjoy, whilst having to engage in incessant public and political duty.

But even outside of royal spheres, children aren’t born equally. Capitalism, anyone? Richer parents can afford better education, facilities and healthcare for their children; ensuring better quality of life and long-term wealth retention. Equality, both in terms of rights and life chances, is a concept that no society or nation will ever circumscribe perfectly, so why whinge about it?

And as I finish up with this piece, I am reminded of that ever-relevant George Orwell quote. ‘All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others’.

 


My republican phase was a good thing – it vaccinated me against itself

There aren’t many things in my life that I wish I could take back, but my nauseating pursuit of republicanism would rank fairly high on the list. As I sit and think about the position I took so ignorantly, (and until fairly recently) I’m ashamed at the enormity of reason that I so fervently overlooked.

My stance against the institution of the monarchy was so stubborn and careless that I’m surprised that it took an entire year to see through it. I am grateful that I was able to pick apart my arguments so rigorously (it wasn’t particularly difficult) and see through the glaring errors of my ways.

I like challenging my own arguments and opinions. I find it to be extraordinarily useful. When I found myself re-thinking my approach to monarchy not too long ago, I realised the full extent to which my former opinions were so deeply flawed.

Perhaps the most significant catalyst behind my change of heart was a transformation in my perception of exactly what it means to be a royal. For the longest time, I found myself becoming consumed by its apparent disregard of basic equality and democracy.

How wrong I had it. I would now go as far as to say that I am ashamed of my own thoughtless and emotive stupidity.

Royalty is not privilege, it is slavery. To be royal is to be condemned to a life of public service, to the enforcement of etiquette and protocol and to the fulfilment of incessant diplomatic, national and political obligations.

To live a life without the security of privacy or social freedom is no privilege or life at all. To be within constant confinement of media speculation, public awareness and ambassadorial responsibility is a burden that only somebody who inherits such an esteemed position could be capable of undertaking successfully.

It is true, therefore, that only a human being who genetically inherits the burden of royalty can carry out its subsequent necessities both ethically and responsibly. It is thanks to a sensible hereditary format that royals are not familiar with the sort of freedom that the public are able to enjoy, and that the royal family know no lifestyle other than their own.

It is actually far easier to justify a much-maligned biological principle than perhaps originally thought. So few bother to take the time to consider these facts before cementing their own views in obstinate fashion. I’m so happy that I managed to.

I am now more apt than ever to expose petulant republican arguments that I am, in some strange way, very much grateful that I did once hold such illiterate views. I am now acutely aware of what republicans think, want and cherish, and because of this learning experience, I am placed in the unique position of being able to challenge such beliefs with stern and forceful reason.

After all, why shouldn’t the general public be glad that somewhere in this country’s political structure lies a monarch, to whom the Prime Minister must bow and explain himself, whilst at the same time contributing to Britain’s cultural and historical identity?

I should have looked at the facts months ago, instead of tweeting bitterly about an issue I clearly knew nothing about. Thank heavens I was a republican, even for a short period, and thank heavens I now more clearly understand the lack of substance behind such an emotive and pointless personal campaign.

I’ve been permanently vaccinated against ever again being infected by the disease we know only as republicanism, and that can only be a good thing.