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The fatal flaws of British republicanism

Those who follow me on Twitter will know I’m often enlisted in arguments with republicans on all manner of topics. Almost invariably, however, over the nature of monarchy. Whilst it’s easy to scorn and berate Monarchy for being old fashioned, very little do we have the opportunity to compare Monarchy like-for-like with a republic.

I tend to look at the republican position from the position of the proposed alternative, rather than through the flaws of monarchy. It’s all very well and good to denigrate monarchy, but if you have nothing better to put in its place then there’s no point in having the debate in the first place.

When I’m allowed to debate this point (republicans are insatiably eager to discuss the pitfalls of a monarchy, but hardly ever the merits and mechanics of a republic), the debate never seems to get very far because quite frankly – the arguments are an insult to the intelligence.

What is the alternative? “An elected president,” they retort, chosen by the people. “Great,” I always respond, “but how is politicising the office of head of state and making the office part of the political establishment a better system than what we have now?”

The natural response I find to this splits into two parts. Firstly there are those who say ‘it’s the price we pay for democracy’ (though never care to explain why we should pay this price if it’s the difference between giving all the power to the politicians and having a neutral figure to prevent unconstitutional behaviour) and then there are those who, for some reason I can’t quite comprehend, seem to think that the president wouldn’t be a politician. “Oh no,” they say, “we’ll have a fair system where anyone can be Head of State – it won’t be a politician!”

It’s at this point that the basis of the argument collapses. Anyone, really? As anybody who’s thought it through can plainly see political parties are an integral part of any election, least of all for a president. And with political parties comes patronage. Why? Because candidates will always need funding for election campaigns, they will always need the backing of established organisations. Without this, the running for president would simply be an exercise in who could spend the most money, thus making it a plutocracy rather than democracy.

Another thing republicans don’t care to discuss is the divisive nature of presidents. Just by virtue of being elected for their views and principles, any president would inherently create division and disunity – there will after all always be opposition to a candidate.

It’s all well and good saying a president would give up their political allegiance when taking office, but this means nothing in practice. There will always be people who voted for other candidates and their opinions, views and allegiance don’t disappear when they win elections and alienate those who didn’t vote for them, something that cannot happen with Monarchy because party patronage and divisive candidates are not involved!

One particularly demonstrably ludicrous claim purported by those in favour of a British republic is the idea that an elected president would in some way be able to act as a barrier in politics to prevent and correct unconstitutional behaviour. Leaving aside the obvious problem with having a referee who is also one of the players and what that would mean for their independence from the Governmentthe obvious remedy for a malevolent parliament seeking to carry on doing as it pleases is to vote a president out as soon as he starts exercising powers. Political referee? More like the football.

No system is perfect, Monarchy certainly isn’t, and this is something I routinely acknowledge (much to the chagrin of republicans). Of course, it means the head of state isn’t elected, but there are patently legitimate reasons why this is a good idea and no amount of dogmatism from republicans about how presidencies are so inherently and infinitely divine and wonderful can change that.

Monarchy works because it offers everyone the same representation, regardless of politics. Whether you’d vote Labour, Lib Dem, UKIP, Conservative or for that matter Monster Raving Loony Party, the monarchy no more represents the supporters of one party than any other. Which goes to show how much worse off you’d be in a republic when you find your candidate loses out and you end up with some ostensibly “representative” party member, because “that’s democracy”.

There’s a lot to be said for having a Head of State who’s not party of the political establishment of the day. A position of independence, neutrality and objectivity which couldn’t be achieved by a politician in the office. Not to mention the ability for the sovereign to act to preserve democracy, should any government ‘go rogue’ and exceed their powers, without fear of being kicked out of office with the ease a president can be.

You can deride and revile Monarchy all you want, but when it comes to the alternatives, I know which side of the fence I’m on!

Republican? Challenge me on Twitter @CourtierUK.

photo credit: David Kracht via photopin cc

  • Giorgio Zanotto

    I fully agreee with the Editor. You still have sir, the best democracy in the world. I’ve had the opportunity to live and work in UK for a number of years and I still regret having returned to my home country.

  • Mark Jackaman

    While I heartily concur, as an Australian and a monarchist and having had to endure decades of idiocy from our politicians on this subject, I would like to say that given a choice, it seems to me that people prefer monarchy. Not just in our referendum but in general, through history. When monarchies fall, cabals are at work. As an Australian Monarchist, I have had to endure being called a racist by the “left” here. I am able now to refute that stupid accusation by recounting the story of the Australian, born in an Asian country, who (on being asked about his vote in an exit interview from the referendum) asked why he would vote for a republic in Australia as he had been born in one and knew all about them. Thank-you for your article. Your wise words will be recounted to other audiences.

  • carolina4321

    Excellent article!

  • Sam

    Agree entirely. The onus is on republicans to prove that they have a better alternative, and so far they have failed to do so.

  • Scott Moore

    This is a reasonable argument against having an elected head of state. It is NOT a convincing argument for that non-elected head of state inheriting the job through birth. The real insult to the intelligence is the idea that a republic must have an elected head of state, and so is inherently flawed.

    • Aidan Bynum

      How else are you going to get a Head of state/government? appointed?, appointed by whom?

  • Marcus Anderson

    This is a recyclable rubbish served up for general consumption by any Commonwealth country thinking of moving toward political Independence from Britain. Australian’s should not comment here – its a UK site (look at your location bar – see the ?) known as a “honeypot” or “troll”, designed to insult you, bait you, work you up, and waste your time. The purpose is to use your frequent posts to boost their ad revenue and search engine ranking. You will be promoting Monarchism by visiting/posting to this site.

    • Royal Central

      ? – serious article, argument for republic is indefensible – engage in debate if you feel otherwise.

    • UKSteve

      So you’re against free speech. Are you a Maoist, or a fan of the North Korean style of “democracy”?

    • Ricky

      “You will be promoting Monarchism by visiting/posting to this site.”

      What did you expect when you came to a site called “Royal Central?”

    • Sam

      “You will be promoting Monarchism by visiting/posting to this site.”

      That’s precisely what I want to do. I’m proud to be an Australian Monarchist.
      In case you haven’t noticed, Australia does have political independence from Britain. We make our own laws, Britain does not make laws for us; neither are British laws enforceable in Australia. Britain’s parliament has no power whatsoever over Australia.
      Her Majesty has reserved powers in our Constitution, but she always acts on the advice of parliament – a democratically elected, Australian parliament, elected by the people.

      Thank you, Royal Central, for your good work. Long live the Queen.

      • Ricky

        Excellent post, Sam! Those things needed to be said; thanks for pointing them out.

    • Audrey Bullen

      You said it, the Commonwealth! Why shouldn’t Australians have a say on a UK site? After all people from all nations around the world live in the UK now so its alright for any one of them to comment – get real!

  • Ricky

    When I see the way Her Majesty stays above political issues, I often wish we had a neutral head of state here in the USA.

    No matter who wins the presidential election, a large number of voters will be against him/her from the start. And in case you haven’t noticed, the American political scene is more polarized than ever in our history, and will probably worsen. The viciousness between conservatives and liberals has reached new heights, and I often see things written in online blogs that make my blood run cold. And the process starts anew every 4 years, when a president’s term expires.

    A neutral head of state can be a uniting factor, and act as a bridge when politicians cannot work together to conduct a nation’s business. Perhaps you in the UK have read about the government shutdown in Washington earlier this year when Republicans and Democrats couldn’t reach an agreement on how to fund government operations. Opposing sides in Congress played a game of political “chicken,” each demanding that the other side must back down or else everything would come to a halt. After a shutdown of about two weeks an agreement was hammered out, but our country’s prestige was badly damaged. And it will happen again when the present arrangement expires.

    If this kind of thing could be avoided by having a head of state that stays out of partisan politics, that would be a good thing. As the article states, the constitutional monarchy system isn’t perfect. But it’s better than many of the alternatives.

  • Jovan Weismiller

    Martin, excellent post! Your point re: plutocracy was well taken. When Ross Perot ran for president of the US, he was accused of trying to ‘buy the presidency’ since he refused all donations, financing the campaign with his own fortune. He answered, ‘Yes, I’m trying to buy the presidency for the American people. They can’t afford it!’

    • Anony Mouse

      What of the idea of putting spending limits on a presidential campaign? As we do already for all other elections…

  • Aidan Bynum

    The greatest argument against a republic is the USA.
    We prospered during the 19th century by conquering the west and the 20th by rebuilding Europe after WW1 and WW2. Now that we have stopped expanding and the rest of the world has caught up economically our crap political system is starting to break down

    • LANcashire lass

      Of South Africa

    • Tessedward Knight

      Do u see the USA breaking up into regional power over land, water, oil interest?

  • Roy waite

    I would fight for the monarchy I wouldn’t fight for Cameron or any other politicians who have brought our country to its knees

  • tony caldwell

    Absolutely concur. The thought of an odious President Blair type character does not bear contemplation

  • anonymouse


  • Fabiano Moacir Closs

    Just, watchful, the British people, who do not adopt the Republican Regime under any excuse or pretext. The monarchy is old, really, but it is the instrument that ensures the people, their freedom and respect. History is part of you, part of you … Take it, mutilate is the identity of a people and injure the history and achievements of what it once was, the Greatest Empire the World. And I’m proud of having a surname originating in the British Isles …

  • Fabiano Moacir Closs

    I leave here the alert, the monarchy ended in Brazil in 1889 and lived one hundred years of a lame Republic, full of vices and problems. It is difficult to monitor the political and constitutional guarantee compliments because they do whatever they want and a deaf ear to the protests of the people.

  • Fabiano Moacir Closs

    Although the Monarchy have problems it is guaranteed, that Britain and its community, maintain an identity, a unity and the fulfillment of the Law. It is clear that the system has its problems, but they ensure the tranquility of the citizens live in peace.

  • jovan66102

    Great article. Not going to challenge you, but I’ve started following you on Twitter. God save the Queen!

  • Dieu et mon droit

    You’ve won me: I’ll support monarchy! I just have one condition: I’ll have to be the King.

    • Ricky

      I’ll support you, and I’ll be the first to address you as Your Majesty, on the condition that you grant me the title Duke of London!

  • LANcashire lass

    Me too couldn’t agree more

  • President Thatcher. President Blair. I rest my case.

    A republic wouldn’t even save money.

  • sam

    Yeh. Just look how messed up the US political system is.

  • boyboy9797

    Living in peace is the most special gift a country can give to anyone & you’re right by saying that in Republican countries that’s not easy to achieve because of party affiliation is always a common problem. Long live the Queen!

  • Stanton

    This whole article does not argue concisely at all. Here’s an better alternative to monarchy if you want one: Nitrogen. Let’s just not have one. They don’t do anything other than use ‘inheritance’ to get paid abnormal profits unequal to work offered to society, and perpetuate nationalism, which is just as bad and stupid as racism in modern societies. When are we going to recognise, as painful as it is, that our ‘country’ is just a line in the stick, and our flag is just a bit of coloured cloth on a stick? The truth hurts, but it is still the truth: We are not special because we were born on this land mass. If the people knew their power, which theoretically they do, all your arguments on the reasons for keeping monarchy fall apart. The crown has no political power, and its social power wouldn’t last longer than a week if utilised, as the only reason it has any social power in the 21st century is due to it’s apparent impartiality.

  • Mike Roberts

    As an American, I dare say that, had Britain had the constitutional monarchy of today, two hundred and forty years ago, we would have found a reason to stay. I, for one, am ready to come home. The US is headed for regional strife that will weaken us and split our allegiances. I believe a modern monarchy would abate this trend.

  • Ann Rasmussen

    A Monarch is not supported by an established organization or political party. The Monarch is able to take a neutral position in regards to supporting a variety of issues and political parties.

  • Wynkin de Worde

    OK let’s keep the parasites, but how about rotating them every 5 years or so and choosing a different feckless family to enjoy the wealth and privilege. Plus why do we have to keep all the lazy hangers on?

  • Bill Morey

    I am a Canadian and Canada by extension has the Monarch as the Head of State. I have been in many discussions explaining why I prefer our system over the presidential system using many of the same points stated here. The fall back point of the republican argument is almost always, it’s more democratic with an elected president.

  • Anony Mouse

    Haha, as if the monarchy isn’t already an extremely politicised institution. There’s more to politics than political parties, you know. Black Spider memos, anyone?

  • RM

    “but how is politicising the office of head of state and making the office part of the political establishment a better system than what we have now?”

    Are you seriously claiming that the current monarch is not part of the political establishment?!

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