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Republicanism – its about democracy…

I was highly amused to read of the ‘threat’ posed by those dastardly union ‘barons’ to the Royal Wedding; it was correctly pointed out to me on Twitter when I tweeted my support that, given the fact that this event has already been deemed worthy of a Bank Holiday, this ‘threat’ is something of a hollow one. Copy writers for the right-wing press really need to be more assiduous in getting their facts straight before they pluck red scares out of of thin air. Having said all that I have to confess I wouldn’t have held against the unions if  they had disrupted this event in any case. In fact, mass strikes and republican street parties seem like a grand idea when it comes to marking the occasion.

You see, my gripe with the monarchy is not just the money it costs. Far more insidious (partially because it’s less immediately obvious) are the corrosive effects it has as an institution on democracy. Two examples of this are available ready to hand. The House of Lords and its hereditary and indeed ecclesiastical elements are linked directly to the settlement between Parliament and the Crown. Making the House of Lords wholly elected would go some way towards the eradication of this problem, but even then the Royal Prerogative would still exist. Royal Prerogative powers are the powers that the executive usually executes in the name of and using the authority of the Crown. This is true of the power to declare war, for example. In truth, there is no reason why a Prime Minister has to bother consulting Parliament before going to war at all; he or she can manage quite well on their own and any vote that Parliament takes on these matters is in no way binding in any form.

The Crown also holds reserve powers it could use to dissolve a Parliament not to its liking. Of course, as progressives, this should be of especial concern and it’s naive in the extreme to say that because these have not been used, they could not be. However, it is not just these powers which eat away like an acid at our democracy but also the inherent notion we are subjects, not citizens. This encourages an anti-democratic culture of deference to people who are supposedly ‘born better’. How people on the centre/right can support the monarchy and in the second breath say they believe in ‘meritocracy’ is simply beyond me given this. It takes an amazing and painful intellectual contortion to be consistently in favour of both things.

So, when people ask me why I am a republican, the answer is simple. I am a democrat and you cannot be a democrat and support the monarchy but you can be a republican and a democrat. Here’s to the happy couple; I hope their marriage is a happy one but that they don’t take it too unkindly if many of us do not celebrate but choose to mark the occasion by calling for a democratic end to the monarchy.

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