The Undemocratic “Defender of Democracy”

Hello again, friends, readers and followers. Over the next couple of weeks, there will likely be a lack in posts with “meaty content”, i.e., discussing big issues in depth, as I am going to be in university doing studying and also making the preparations for starting the long rambled about video blog (namely, how the hell do I work my camera?). As I said before, I have a couple of topics lined up, such as the importance of promoting secularism within the state, the series on the currency of an independent Scotland and a couple of other things. However, before I begin my epic quest of Multi-variate Calculus and Linear Algebra, I thought I’d make a post about something that has really been niggling at me for the past couple of weeks.

Yes, you may have guessed it, climb aboard ladies und gentlemen, Jim’s hopping on the Royal Baby Train! Toot toot, peasants!

“Worship me, peasants!” Image credit – ‘Shrine of Dreams’ blog

As a Brit, you sort of become used to the Royal Family appearing in the news everyday for some new convoluted reason, “Harry flies a thing!”, “Phillip offends the entire Southern Hemisphere.”, “Charles cleans a hedge.” This list goes on, but it’s one wee story and we move on, drink some tea, complain about the weather and then tomorrow starts. However, once in a while, we get some huge thing that the entire country is obliged to celebrate and we are all informed that we are happy about; the Royal Wedding, the Diamond Jubilee and, most recently, the Royal Baby.

Even whilst I was away on holiday, in the land of no computers, no broadband and no television, the Royal Baby news flooded everywhere. The radio airwaves were full of it, I even began to miss the fucking cricket! The newspapers were covered with the stories and interviews and pictures and letters and pointless points of view from people who don’t seem to matter but do simply because they’re waving a Union flag and jumping for joy. My twitter feed via my phone, my only source of real news and way of keeping followers up to speed, was swamped with the BBC’s ludicrous coverage, the Guardian’s wall to wall spreading of it and the Americans who seem fixated with our damned royals. You know what? You can have them! It’s all too much, damn it!

Because every time one of these things comes up, either celebrating sixty years of having the same head of state or being told again which one we’re getting next, we are reminded more and more just how fundamentally undemocratic our system actually is. We are reminded more and more about how happy we should be to have such wonderful people at the top of our social system. The fact is that the United Kingdom prides itself on being a beacon of democracy in the world, yet the ultimate powers of our head of state are vested in those who attain it not by merit or by popular support, but by birthright and nothing more.

Many people step in to defend the monarchy, but the fact is that in this day and age, there really is no real defence for the monarchy retaining its position in British politics. There seem to be three arguments, all of which in one way or another end up contradicting themselves, but here we go.

I – The Monarchy is a Symbol of Stability

Bullshit. If history teaches us anything it is that monarchies are anything but stable, with countless different monarchs and houses claiming power through means of assassinations, wars, succession disputes, etc. Monarchies are not stable and ours is no exception, British history is really quite a bloody one where the monarchs are concerned. They also lead to heads of state whom the people often don’t trust or who are simply incapable. George III and George IV for example were both mad and utterly incapable, yet because there were monarchs, the people didn’t have a choice and were stuck with them in charge.

If you want stability as an argument, I suppose it can be used in one fashion, tradition. And by tradition I do not simply mean manners and customs, but this ludicrous desire to hold on to a past which exists no longer. The monarchy is a symbol of our inability to move on and progress as a modern nation in a modern world.

II – The Monarchy has no Real Power

This is a favourite line of the pro-monarchists when they seek to calm a frustrated republican, but fundamentally it is a false statement. The unfortunate thing about British politics is that it hasn’t got a constitution in the sense that most modern countries do; rather, it’s constitution is made up of bills and acts of parliament. The fact that there is no single document outlining British constitutional powers, makes deducing the exact laws and powers of various aspects of the state legislature a little difficult. However, it also leaves a few loopholes for our “powerless monarchs” to flex their muscles a little.

By British law, all power for law making is derived from the crown, i.e., the ability to make and pass laws happens solely at the discretion of the reigning monarch (after all, they were put there by God…) and the monarch alone. This can be seen every time a bill is passed by parliament, it must be granted “Royal Assent”, being approved and enacted by the monarch. The monarch also has power to dissolve parliament, which she does before every general election, however which can be done legally whenever the monarch wishes. It is also the monarch that Invites the leaders of political parties to form governments, and this does not even have to be the winning party. There have been instances where the Queen has refused to allow politicians in countries of which she is head of state to form governments.

In effect, she can dissolve parliament, select whomever she wishes to form her government, or choose not to form a government at all. Whilst these powers are rarely overtly exercised, as there would be merry hell if so done, they do exist and they are very real and quite legal.

III – I Don’t want a Politician in Charge Though!

Okay, yes, politicians are inherently untrustworthy people for the most part, however you forget two vital facts when using this argument. Number one is that unlike monarchs, politicians are democratically elected and are hence accountable to the people. The means that if you don’t like them, you can vote them out. Monarchs, and this is quite a big part of the principle of monarchy, are not democratically elected, cannot be held accountable and hence cannot be voted out when you don’t like them. When people say, “Oh, I don’t particularly like William, I’d much prefer Harry as King.” I find myself flabbergasted, that is not how a monarchy works! You don’t get a say, the clue’s in the name; Hereditary Rule!

The second point is, and this somewhat contradicts the previous argument of “she has no real power” as well, the politicians are already in charge. The Prime Minister, largely and at the discretion of our reigning monarch, is democratically elected and his government makes the laws. We already have the vast majority of our power in the politicians, it seems stupid to reserve other such powers as those held by the monarch for the monarchy.

The simple fact of the matter is, that until we can evolve beyond the monarchy, and indeed the non-elected upper house of our legislature that comes with that particular package, we shall not have that democracy that we preach to others about. We shall remain a fundamentally nondemocratic nation. But it isn’t just about the undemocratic nature of it, but about the class of it too. It creates another class as well, one that we are told we must look up to, we must worship and love and that, above all, we must accept as our natural superiors, even when they are quite clearly, as in the case of the two Georges (III and IV), they are quite clearly not.

But the class aspect of this argument is, I sense, a rant for another day. However, until then, please feel free to keep the debate going in the comments; ask questions, agree with me, disagree with me or perhaps touch upon something I missed out. Thanks for reading.

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