Goodbye To Royalty
Monarchy is incompatible with democracy. It is time we elected our head of state.
Tomorrow is Republic Day. Hurrah! The Establishment call it Coronation Day, and celebrate the crowning of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953.
But we democrats celebrate 2 June with a vision of what Britain could be: a democratic republic with an elected Head of State, a representative of the nation who is chosen by us, the people.
Let's be clear about one thing: Monarchy is incompatible with democracy. It is based on inherited power, wealth, influence and status - not on merit or public consent.
According to the elitist values of the monarchical system, the most stupid, immoral royal is more fit to be Head of State than the wisest, most ethical commoner.
Monarchs get the job for life, no matter how appallingly they behave. Imagine having to put up with a king like the insensitive, gaffe-prone Prince Philip.
In 2007, we have a system of Monarchy that is not only shamelessly anti-democratic and elitist, but also sexist, racist and founded on religious intolerance.
Inheritance of the Crown passes to the Monarch's first born son, even if there is an older daughter. Princess Anne could never be Monarch because she is a woman with both older and younger brothers, who would always take precedence in any succession.
Non-Protestants are banned as our Head of State. No Judaists, no Muslims, no Hindus and no Catholics can inherit the British Throne. Specifically, anyone who has at any time proclaimed adherence to the Catholic faith, or has ever married a Catholic, is disbarred from royal succession.
Monarchy is also implicitly racist. A black Briton can never be Monarch or Head of State. The status of king or queen is reserved for the all-white Windsor family and their descendants. This automatically excludes Afro-Caribbean, African and Asian citizens from ever being the symbolic head of our nation.
This enshrinement of bigotry is not surprising. After all, the Monarchy is a relic of despotic feudal power - a left-over from an era of absolute power, where a supposed divinely-ordained ruler literally lorded it over the British people.
The Monarch still retains a number of anti-democratic reserve powers, including the powers to summon, prorogue and dissolve parliament. These powers could be crucial in sensitive or uncertain political circumstances.
The Prime Minister's exercise of royal prerogatives requires royal approval. Such approval has never been withheld in modern times, but why should royal authority be necessary in the first place?
Likewise, The Queen has to give her Royal Assent to every Bill passed by parliament, before it can become law. Even if this is only symbolic, why should the Monarch have this power at alI?
The Sovereign is one of three decision-making components of parliament; the other two being the House of Commons and the House of Lords. In the event of a hung parliament, which may be the result at the next general election, The Queen will make the crucial decision as to which party leader to call to form a government - a highly-charged decision with huge political ramifications.
The Monarch can also dismiss an elected government. In Australia in 1975 The Queen's representative, the Governor-General, sacked the country's democratically-elected Labor Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam - in effect, a Monarchist-dictated coup.
The defenders of Royalty often claim that our constitutional monarchy is preferable to an all-powerful, executive-style president. They point to George W Bush and the US presidency, where the title-holder has immense personal power, not dissimilar to the power once wielded by our kings and queens.
But a US-Style president is not what most republicans want. I favour a low-cost, purely ceremonial, elected president, like the Irish have.
This would ensure that the people are sovereign, not the royals. It would give us the most important safeguard of all: if we don't like our Head of State, we can elect a new one.
* More information about the Republic movement: www.republic.org.uk
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