By Owen Buchan – Regular Contributor
To call the Monarch integral to the identity and culture of the United Kingdom would be a gross understatement. In every corner of the UK’s cultural and political history, the Monarchy has stood as a proud bastion. A long and detailed history has seen the monarchy weakened, destroyed, and restored over the course of hundreds of years, characterised by major events like Magna Carta, The English Reformation, The English Civil Wars, and the Acts of Union. This history should rightly be preserved, cherished, and celebrated for all in the UK and the world to appreciate and admire. However, whilst it is clear to acknowledge its historical importance; the monarchy has bluntly outlived its purpose and is no longer fit to function in 21st century Britain. The ideas the monarchy represents and symbolizes alone are problematic, but scratching below the surface reveals even more alarming issues regarding the power of the monarchy in the democratic system and the conduct of certain members of the Windsor’s. Therefore, the very simple solution to this problem would be to completely abolish the monarchy and thus fully realising the UK as a democratic state. Whilst there are obviously many major political barriers and implications; the focus of this article is the reasoning and potential future possibilities by abolishing the monarchy.
The monarchy is a dominating institution. In terms of appearance and aesthetics, it sits above all else in society. We, as the masses, are but subjects to the monarchy. Parliament and the government are Her/His majesty’s; with their bills requiring Royal assent. This all contributes to a culture of submission and subordination to a higher power. In a society that is very scarred by many dire issues of a culturally ingrained and institutionally enforced class system, the monarchy epitomises this system. Thus, any effort to create a more egalitarian society or culture requires the ending of structures and institutions like that of the monarchy.
One of the easier but no less valid issues with the monarchy is that of nepotism and hereditary power. Unlike an incapable or corrupt Prime Minister, a King or Queen cannot be voted out of power. Whether we like the people like or dislike a monarch, such as the case increasingly appears to be with Prince Charles, we have no ability to remove this person. Purely by the fact that they were born into the right family, the Windsor’s will enjoy a level of privilege and prestige unimaginable to most of the British public. This hereditary system is first and foremost undemocratic. It also insults any notion of the potential of meritocracy in society. There is no need to prove yourself as capable if no matter your skill, you are next in line for the throne.
While the symbolic issues of the Monarchy warrant its abolishment, the more pressing issue is the powers afforded to the monarchy and the conduct of the Royals. The first major argument one hears is that the reigning monarch and the royal family cannot be arrested and prosecuted for their crimes. Admittedly this privilege is often afforded to many other heads of state but that doesn’t justify it. The clue is in the name, ‘Crown’ Prosecution Service, they prosecute on behalf of the monarchy and state. Providing the monarchy does no wrong, this may not be an issue. This is sadly not the case, while no formal legal action has been taken against Prince Andrew regarding his relationship with Jeffery Epstein; any proper legal action that may have needed to be taken would unlikely occur. It is difficult to defend the notion of democracy and liberty if all are not equal under the law.
An issue under recent observation is the monarchy’s power with regards to government. While many are aware that the monarchy chooses the PM and signs laws; only being bound to do so by tradition and practicality, the idea of a Monarch refusing royal assent seems unlikely, but it is not impossible. Could a law wanting to reduce the amount of public money spent on the royals be denied? There are strong reasons that this may not even be needed to influence law. The monarch has an ability called the ‘Queen’s consent’, where the monarchy and their lawyers are able to view a draft version of a law before it is allowed to continue through the legislative process. This power is only granted for laws that firstly alter the prerogative powers of the monarch and secondly to laws around the asset of the crown such as revenue or more commonly property. The monarch is given 14 days to decide whether a draft can proceed, or it can be struck down. Thus, on laws regarding the monarchy, the monarchy has the ability to stop said laws from even being created.
Abolishing the monarchy would result in nothing short of an entire overhaul of the UK political system. A movement towards a republic system would then be inevitable but not impossible to achieve. A pragmatic solution could be to alter the PM and make it a presidential position with a clearly defined set of powers and having to be directly elected. We could look across to our European neighbours and employ a system of a PM and a President; both with defined areas and powers. With the monarch gone, the possibilities for a better system become a reality.
Despite the issues with the monarchy, understandable, it is still regarded as instrumental to British identity and still enjoys widespread public support. The idea of abolishing the monarchy is not politically viable. The Conservative Party would never even dream of abolishing the monarchy and whereas the Labour Party, while maybe having the potential to adopt such a position, is unlikely to commit perceived political suicide. Being anti-monarchy is sadly conflated with being anti-British or unpatriotic. For any real and meaningful progress to be made the monarchy must become more unpopular. The advent of Charles taking up the throne is a possible opportunity but ultimately unlikely. We will have to keep our fingers and observe very closely the tides of favour. Only then can any moves be made.