I hold the view that Britain would be better off as a republic. To my regret, that isn’t going to happen any time soon. This is because the British public hold the view that we are better off under a Monarchy than we would be as a fully democratic state. This is something the republican movement seems to be in denial about.
Ipsos MORI conduct regular polls concerning the popularity of the monarchy and it is pretty much unwavering. If people are given a straight choice between a Monarchy and a Republic, then only 22% regularly say they would prefer a republic. That this is roughly the level of support enjoyed by the Conservative Party at the moment is completely irrelevant to the media, as they continue to treat republican sentiment as if it did not exist at all. The fawning BBC is chief cheerleader for the Royals and all but ignores the legitimate expression of those who want a change to full democracy.
By way of contrast, and probably supported by the continued approval of the media, the Queen has a 65% approval rating – those that are given a straight choice between a republic and a monarchy overwhelmingly choose the latter.
Which is why I think republicans have to change the ground rules. People like the Queen, and although they are not that fond of Charles, that will soon change when he takes on the hereditary role of King. This will mostly be because the media will flock behind him and no alternative view will be given air.
One of the key characteristics of the British is a sense of loyalty. They don’t want to throw the Royal Family out on their ear, because that would be mean. They also like the pomp and circumstance surrounding the monarchy. The whole fairy princess thing appeals to many people, who are otherwise sensible in their approach to life. They don’t seem to get the principle, that no matter how aspirational they are, no matter how hard they work, they can NEVER, EVER get to the top of the tree, because that is reserved for one family…forever.
There is a bit of a change in attitudes though. In 1984, IPSOS asked if Britain would be worse off if the monarchy was abolished: 77% agreed it would be worse off. Today that figure is just 46%. This might be cause for celebration amongst hard-line republicans, but it’s not, because the movement is towards those who think it would make no difference. Republican sentiment has stayed at the same old 22% it has always been, but those who think “meh” now occupy 32% of the ground. The republicans’ job is to convince that 32% to make the bold step to a democratic alternative.
There are those who believe that winning the argument will win the day. They are wrong, wrong, wrong. It won’t, because they have the entire establishment, the media and all the power in the Kingdom reigned against them. That 32% needs an alternative to a full on democratic republic. Which is why I am proposing that we take a different route to democracy.
Britain likes its Royal Family, but it is clear to anyone with half a brain that we would benefit enormously by getting rid of the patronage and hereditary privilege wielded by the Royals. So, why not keep them for ceremonial purposes, but disestablish them from the state? We could keep the Royals in the manner to which they are accustomed by keeping a civil list, do all the parading of the colour and stuff, but take them out of the state arena and vest the power and authority of the state in a democratically elected figure. This is win, win people. We keep the thing that the British people see as being unique and characterising the quirkiness of the British, by having a monarchy, just one without any power. The Royals get to keep their castles and lifestyles, but can’t exercise any power or get involved in the political process in any way.
Obviously this will not please everyone. The hard liners on both sides of the argument will rail against it, but they should sit down and think about it for a moment, because they are both getting what they want. The Royalists get their pomp and circumstance and all the regalia of Royalty. The Queen gets relieved of the onerous duties of state, but can carry on breeding horses and walking the corgis, while living in a sumptuous palace on a whacking big state salary. The British people get to keep their beloved Royal Family in a very real way, opening supermarkets and waving from bulletproof cars (perhaps they would no longer need to be bulletproof if the Royals were truly non-political). And the republicans would get their elected head of state, who would have no more power than the Royals have now, but would have the legitimacy of being elected.
So, not a republic, but not a monarchy, the best of both… Problem solved. Next.