Tag Archives: republicanism

An MP calls Commons staff ‘servants’ – what a pantomime our parliament is | Ally Fogg | CiF | guardian.co.uk

The governance of our nation is conducted through a time tunnel from a rarefied ancient era. The Palace of Westminster still presents itself as one part Downton Abbey to three parts Hogwarts. We should probably be grateful that Chope didn’t refer to the house elves before deciding his place in the division lobby by donning the Sorting Hat. The physical environment was constructed in the 19th century, according to the designs of the late middle ages. Our democracy has 650 members of parliament and enough seats on the benches for 427. The oppositional arrangement cannot naturally accommodate more than two parties. In purely practical terms, the building is entirely unfit for purpose, but actually this is the least of our problems.

via An MP calls Commons staff ‘servants’ – what a pantomime our parliament is | Ally Fogg | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk.

Only the other week I forced myself not to rant about the bizarre way that MPs can be allowed to resign their seat. Essentially, they’re not allowed to resign their seat. Instead, there is some arcane system whereby they become a steward and bailiff of some non-existent manor while a bye-election is arranged. The other arcane method used is stewardship of the Chiltern Hundreds. Honestly, you couldn’t make this stuff up.

While I think tradition is a good thing, there is a time and a place. The adherence to mediaeval “traditions” in a so-called modern democracy is no longer that place. Time to look at replacing the whole thing, from monarch down, with a proper democratic republic.

Jubilee

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My parents recently celebrated their fiftieth wedding anniversary. They married in March 1962, almost a decade to the month after Elizabeth II ascended to the throne of the United Kingdom and Commonwealth in 1952.

It’s easy to pretend people like my parents lived in more deferential times. After all, everyone went to church on Sundays, everyone stood for the national anthem at the end of a film showing at the flicks, everyone adored the Royal Family and so on.

My mother tells a slightly different tale, however. In her younger days she was an usherette at a local cinema. It was the norm for the auditorium exit doors to be opened wide as the credits rolled, and for the staff to stand well clear to avoid the stampede as everyone made a quick exit before the national anthem was played. To many it was a matter of pride to be out of the building and heading home before you got caught and had to stand while the anthem staggered to a close.

I was a naïve thirteen year old at the time of the Queen’s silver jubilee in 1977. We all got caught up in the pomp and glamour, made fancy dress and organised bunting and so on. I don’t think we had a street party, but I’m sure there was a do of some kind in the village hall. I still have my commemorative crown coin, worthless though it is. Like most people, my family were monarchist. They were proud of having a monarchy, proud of the traditions and all the flummery that accompanied it. It was something that was just there, like the sky, and you felt it was part of your identity.

That sense of pride I think stemmed from the Queen’s father, George VI, who had led the country through the dark years of the Second World War. He had done much to rebuild the family firm after his older brother had abdicated in 1936, and Elizabeth carried on the tradition. A beautiful young woman, with a young family, seemed to hold much promise for the future. In many ways, it was a fairytale affair.

As I get older, I find I have become a republican. I find the notion of a hereditary post of head of state out of step with the modern world. Why should who holds a position of power be down to an accident of birth? I find all the tradition—much of which was invented in more recent times than many realise—very much a hangover from less enlightened times. I also find there is an active and growing republican movement in the UK. 

Today, as the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee is marked by a drizzle-sodden motley selection of boats floating down the Thames, and the media goes into a union flag-bedecked frenzy about everything royal, a few dissenting voices can be heard. Take Jack of Kent, for example. He wrote “A Jubilee Letter from a Republican” this morning, and I found it chimed with my overall feelings exactly:

 

Sixty years of public service is something to be celebrated.  And the way the queen has done it also should be cheered: her self-control and lack of personal showiness is a model of what a monarch should be like, if we are to have a monarchy at all.

There are somethings to be said for the crown in domestic politics and law.

First, it is less important for the power it has than for the power it prevents others having.

Second, it provides the most general concept of the state we have in (at least) English law – almost all executive, legislative and judicial power is exercised in the name of the crown, one way or another.

And third, it provides a superficial sense of continuity from medieval times (if one ignores that in 1640, 1660, 1688, 1714, and 1936, the fate of the crown was determined by others).

All that said, there is a basic principle: supreme executive power in any modern polity really should be in the hands of someone who is accountable and capable of removal by some formal process.

 

 

The thing is, I don’t hold any particular malice towards the Royal Family. It can be argued that Elizabeth didn’t really have any choice in taking on the rôle, and she has carried the burden well for six decades. What sticks in my craw is being told I must celebrate such things, that if I wish to gainsay the “jollity” I am committing some kind of treason. 

I went out for a photographic location scouting mission earlier today, partly to get away from the hoo-hah. As I drove around various villages and towns of north Kent, the numbers of houses and buildings with bunting and flags could be counted on the fingers of one hand. It struck me that the national mood being portrayed by our media wasn’t quite matching up to the reality I was seeing. A long weekend, yes, but not one of marked celebration that I could see.

I choose not to celebrate the jubilee. It doesn’t matter to me, as long as I am not forced to take part. I do happen to think it’s time we, as a country, began to rationally discuss the alternatives to a hereditary monarchy as head of state. I fully realise I may never see a Republic of Great Britain in my lifetime, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be grown-up enough to talk about it.

 

Does the BBC have to be quite so craven? | Yvonne Roberts | Comment is free | The Observer

Andrew Marr has just concluded three weeks of presenting The Diamond Queen on BBC One celebrating, and then some, the Queen‘s 60 years. Next to come, also on BBC One, is The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Song, warbled by Gary Barlow. The coverage so far appears determined to ensure that the colour du jour of the coming celebrations is not red, white and blue but a rather drab shade of fawn that does no good at all for the national visage.

So profound is the lilt to Liz that the BBC, normally (and erroneously) clobbered for a being signed-up member of the glorious Commonwealth (as in the 17th century), now stands charged with treason. In an era of alleged “balance”, the coverage of Her Majesty’s six decades on the throne, a crest of cringe, has been sharply criticised for being short of a republican or several. Or, come to that, even a mildly reformist royalist.

Censorship apparently rules OK. According to a leaked email, a producer for The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Song has written to someone in Australia called David, requesting access to Australian royalists, about as fruitful a task as seeking out nudists in Windsor Great Park.

The writer of the email, clearly no longer destined to become the BBC’s director-general, explains that an interview with Julia Gillard, the country’s prime minister, will not be suitable because she is “pro-republican”. This will not fit the programme’s “positive angle”. The producer adds: “We are not interested in hearing a personal bad word against the Queen.”

I have become more republican in outlook as I get older. I find I grumble at the TV over the grovelling attitude they seem to adopt to our monarch and retinue.

Johann Hari: This royal frenzy should embarrass us all

In most countries, parents can tell their kids that if they work hard and do
everything right, they could grow up to be the head of state and symbol of
their nation. Not us. Our head of state is decided by one factor, and one
factor alone: did he pass through the womb of one aristocratic Windsor woman
living in a golden palace? The US head of state grew up with a mother on
food stamps. The British head of state grew up with a mother on postage
stamps. Is that a contrast that fills you with pride?

A genuine belly laugh from the Independent today.

Signed, A Republican.

Republic | In the News

Camden Council has been accused of discrimination on the grounds of political belief after seeking to ban a republican street party, despite previous confirmation that the event could go ahead. The campaign group Republic, who have organised the party, have vowed to fight the decision.

Camden initially gave the go ahead in March for Earlham Street in Covent Garden to be the site of Republic’s party. But with just three weeks to go the Council has refused to provide a temporary traffic order to close Earlham Street, effectively banning the event altogether.

Bad Camden Council. I think I’d organise a flash mob on the day anyway.