In defence of democracy

Sunday, January 12, 2014

This is my argument against the British monarchy. Regardless of your views on the matter, please read this article and hear my side of things. Feel free to comment and challenge anything that I say on the subject. My hope is that you, the reader, will read this with an open mind. I do not request that you change your views on the issue, please just observe them. 

Before I begin I would like to thank the Law Lords who, in 2003, made it possible for me to say this without fearing transportation to our loyal penal colony- Australia. 

 

To me, anyone who seeks to preserve the monarchy has a problem with democracy. So you will understand that I was moved to virtual apoplexy when I realised that eighty per cent of Britons support the monarchy’s continued existence in the UK. 

The lack of support for the republican movement is also tragic, with only one parliamentary party openly opposing the constitutional monarchy; I was practically moved to tears. I can’t fathom why this is the case exactly. The monarchy is the epitome of the bourgeoisie, where’s the Left when you need them? Lefties are more than happy to criticise a lack of social mobility when it makes the Tories look bad, but why do they turn a blind eye to the Crown? But more importantly for me, why does the Right actively defend or at least ignore the problem of monarchy? 

As a Conservative, I believe in democracy, freedom and small government, so it surprises me that so few of my fellow Tories support the establishment of a British republic. We should aim to move power away from the apex and closer to the people, especially when this power is held by someone whose only legitimacy comes from god (whose existence is questionable, to say the least). 

Small-c conservatives would argue, ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’. In which case, say goodbye to the monarchy because it is, always has been and always will be broken. Monarchy allows one unelected and unaccountable person to have a say in legislation, this is outrageous in this day and age and if this is not broken, I don’t know what is. 

Opponents might argue that the Queen would never refuse to pass a bill into law, but the fun thing about monarchy is that future rulers might not be as mature as the current monarch. Of course, if they did refuse to pass a bill, they would probably find their powers curbed and rightly so. But that raises the question, why keep a potential threat to democracy in the first place? Why keep someone who is merely ‘ceremonial’? It all seems like a waste of money. Why not just give the monarch’s powers to the Prime Minister? Or even better, why not give them to an elected individual who could pass or block a bill with the legitimacy a simple majority would grant him or her? 

Supporters of the monarchy love to point out how having a royal family adds considerably to tourism. By the sound of things, they seem to think all Americans who come to Britain have had tea with the Queen. Cameron Beavan-King points out in his splendid article that no royal residences appear on the UK’s top ten most visited places, but I would argue that any tourism debate is irrelevant on principle. If we decide to keep the monarchy in order to draw in tourists, we are essentially selling our democracy, our principles, for money we could get elsewhere. Forget about being the ‘sick man of Europe’ we will become the ‘prostitute of Europe’.

I also too often hear people argue that because monarchy is a British ‘tradition’ it must be preserved. Honestly, this makes my skin crawl. My revulsion isn’t because I am ashamed of being British, but because it is such a ridiculous argument. Why don’t we preserve slavery and imperialism? They were British ‘traditions’ but calls for their restoration and preservation would be considered preposterous and rightly so. 

But if both the royal family and Crown are truly part of being British, I think it would be much more appropriate to link them to the great tradition of British self-deprecation. Just listen to my favourite line in our national anthem, ‘Long to reign over us’, is it just me, or does that seem a tad inappropriate for a free country? We should not be obliged to serve anyone and no one should have the right to reign over us, especially when that right is not granted by the people, but a god.

Finally, I find that some royalists aggressively defend the monarchy, insulting and frowning upon those who so much as question it. Where does this blind loyalty come from? I blame education, or more specifically, lack of. We here in Britain are raised in schools where we are taught about monarchy at an early age, but we are not told about the pros and cons, something apparently too complex. What is most damaging is that we are not told of an alternative. I only came to oppose the monarchy about two years ago and that was after reading and coming to a conclusion in my own time. If we are not taught the alternative, we will forever refuse to question monarchy and, as a result, our country will be stuck in the past. 

Feudalism may be over, but the mindset seems to remain with us. It is time we realise that as long as we allow the preservation of monarchy, we will never be a modern democratic state. The Left needs to reclaim the courage of their convictions and call for a republic; the Right needs to prove that if they are truly advocates of freedom they will oppose the monarchy; and the people need to look at what they want, a nostalgic reminder of earlier times or a fair, modern and better Britain.

By George Lawlor

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