This House would abolish the monarchy.

A monarchy is “a form of government in which supreme authority is vested in a single and usually hereditary figure, such as a king, and whose powers can vary from those of an absolute despot to those of a figurehead”.[1] The core question that this debate will examine is whether Monarchies should be abolished in favour of a Republic. This is an issue which is hotly debated within the United Kingdom, with the Republic supporters actively campaigning for a democratic alternative to the Monarchy. During William and Kate’s royal wedding the media picked up on the 'Not a Royal Wedding' street parties which took place in London. While this debate focuses on the United Kingdom the same question is also one which applies world-wide, within Europe for example; Denmark, Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands, Belgium and Spain also function as constitutional monarchies, as do Japan and Thailand within Asia. Hereditary rulers in Africa and the Middle East, such as; Morocco, Lesotho, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, still retain a great deal of real power. The focus of this debate will be to discuss whether theses Heads of States are anachronisms, that is to say out-dated, or whether they in fact have much to commend them at a time when the leaders of many new republics still struggle to find popular legitimacy. The propositional argument will argue for the abolition of the Monarchy while the oppositional argument will oppose this.

[1] Collins English Dictionary, ‘Monarchy’, 2003, http://www.thefreedictionary.com/monarchy (accessed 9/9/2011)

 

Title 
Monarchies, no matter how vestigal, are undemocratic
Point 

The concept of Monarchy is undemocratic. If the monarch retains any significant political powers, as they do in Belgium and the U.K. for example, these are unjustifiable. Why should the opinion of just one person, in office purely by accident of birth, be able to influence the outcome of elections or call a government. Legally, in the UK the Monarch has the power to; choose the Prime Minister, dismiss ministers and governments, dissolve parliament, refuse to agree to legislation passed by parliament, pardon convicted criminals, declare a state of emergency and raise a personal militia.[1] And in some countries like Saudi Arabia they have much more absolute power. A recent example where the Monarch had a role in the United Kingdom was within the 2010 elections where no party achieved an overall majority, the Queen therefore had to sign her approval for the Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition.

[1]The Monarchy in Britain, What power do they have? Available at http://www.centreforcitizenship.org/monarchy/mon2.html  (accessed 31/05/2011)

Counterpoint 

While the Monarchy has legal rights, the real powers of European Monarchs are negligible. For example, while the Monarch legally has the power to dissolve parliament, no Monarch has done this since William IV in 1834. Technically the Monarchy also has the power to veto any legislation that comes through Parliament, however, this power has not been exercised since Queen Anne in 1708[1]. To the point of the concept of the Monarchy, Canadian historian Jacques Monet has suggested that ''in choosing to leave the selection of their head of state to this most common denominator in the world -- the accident of birth -- Canadians implicitly proclaim their faith in human equality; their hope for the triumph of nature over political manoeuvre, over social and financial interest; for the victory of the human person."[2]

[1]Republic Organisation UK available at http://www.republic.org.uk (accessed 31/05/2011)

[2]Canadian Monarchist Online http://pages.interlog.com/~rakhshan/pmain.html (accessed 31/05/2011)

Title 
Supervising and protecting a monarchy is an unjustifiable public expense
Point 

The costs of monarchy are unjustifiable. Typically monarchs and their immediate family receive substantial amounts of money from the state to maintain luxurious lifestyles, complete with servants, expensive holidays and hobbies.  The state also spends a great deal to maintain and run palaces and other royal residences, which are seldom accessible to the general public who support them through their taxes. In the UK what is officially termed as 'Head of State Expenditure' amounted to £40 million in the 2007-8 financial year. However, this excludes the cost of security for the numerous family members and residences. Although the security costs have not been confirmed, it is estimated that it exceeds £50 million a year[1].

[1]The Monarchy in Britain, How much do they take from our pockets, available at http://www.centreforcitizenship.org/monarchy/mon5.html  (accessed 31/05/2011).

Counterpoint 

There are three counter-points that can be used to challenge the proposition. Firstly, the opposition maintain that the Monarchy is highly cost-effective when compared to the expense of maintaining a Presidency with a large staff and equally stringent security requirements. Secondly, Royal residences are held in trust for the nation, and would require the same upkeep costs whether they were inhabited by a monarch or not. Thirdly, and possibly most importantly, the Monarchy more than pays its way through its generation of tourist revenue as millions visit sites associated with royalty, and through its role in promoting trade and industry abroad on royal visits. There is also evidence to suggest that the nation actually benefits financially from the Crown Estate. Figures suggested by Professor David Flint[1] are that in 2009/10 all payments to the Crown came to about £30 million. But the British government received £211 million from the Crown Estate. So the government made a very substantial profit from The Queen – about £181 million.

[1]    Professor David Flint, Australians for Constitutional Monarchy, available at http://www.norepublic.com.au (accessed 31/05/2011)

Title 
There is no divine right to leadership or privilege
Point 

Monarchs no longer have divine right to rule. For centuries the main justification of royal authority was a religious one. Catholic rulers had their legitimacy supported by the Papacy, Protestants rulers often headed their own state churches; in both the monarch’s rightful authority was preached in church every Sunday, while the ruler in turn protected a single national church. Currently, the Monarch is termed 'the defender of the Protestant faith'. She or he is required to be a member of the Church of England and is not allowed to marry a Catholic.  Today societies are increasingly multi-faith, indeed, fewer than 5% of adults in the United Kingdom are practising Anglicans, and many people have no religion at all; hardly anyone believes the monarch has a spiritual right to exercise authority. Indeed, those whose religion differs from that of the monarch (often ethnic minorities) may be actively alienated by the way in which a particular faith seems to be privileged.[1]

[1]Centre for citizenship, The Monarchy in Britain, Religion and Race, available at http://www.centreforcitizenship.org/monarchy/mon6.html (accessed 31/05/2011)

Counterpoint 

On the other hand, the Monarchy could instead be seen as an institution that retains an important symbolic role as a focus for national unity. The Monarch has a less formal role as 'Head of Nation'. The Sovereign acts as a focus for national identity, unity and pride; gives a sense of stability and continuity; officially recognises success and excellence; and supports the ideal of voluntary service.[1] Since they are unelected figures which are above political conflict and can therefore help countries to avoid the political gridlock that can result from conflict between two differently elected bodies, for example within the U.S.A. between the Republicans and the Democrats. Not only does the Monarch provide a symbol of National unity but also a symbol of world-wide unity. Queen Elizabeth II is the Monarch of 16 independent countries and the Head of the Commonwealth of 54 nations across the globe.

[1]The official website of the British Monarchy, The Role of the Monarchy, available at http://www.royal.gov.uk/MonarchUK/HowtheMonarchyworks/HowtheMonarchyworks.aspx  (accessed 31/05/2011)

Title 
A presidential position enable the democratic selection of a head-of-state
Point 

The alternative to the monarch is obvious. Many states around the world have Presidential systems, either like the United States where the President fulfils both the role of the Head of State and the Head of Government combining the two roles. Or as in Italy or Germany where there is both a head of state (usually president) and a head of government (usually Prime Minister, although Germany’s is Chancellor) where the head of state is respected but is mostly a ceremonial role. Finally there may be both a head of state and head of government where both are powerful as in France. Therefore the head of state can still be in whatever role the state requires. Most importantly in all these cases the head of state is elected rather than simply gaining the position on account of birth. 

Counterpoint 

The head of government will already be elected. There is no need to create a competing centre of power that has the same popular legitimacy. Just as there are worries that an elected house of lords would want more powers due to its new found legitimacy an elected head of state could demand the same. Such a change would be disruptive and is not necessary.

Title 
The head of state should be a position that is separate and distinct from politics
Point 

Monarchy is preferable to the alternative; an elected Presidency. It avoids the partisan nature of a Presidency, inevitably associated with one of the political parties, and thus incapable of uniting the nation as monarchy can. For example in the United States there has been a campaign against President Barak Obama with the most extreme views in the ‘birther’ movement who deny he was even born in the United States. It would be impossible for him to unite the nation while one in four Americans think their President was not born in the USA.[1]  In all countries public trust of politicians is sinking to new lows, another reason why an elected Presidency fails to provide a focus for national feeling. Constitutional monarchy is also a more effective system of government, vesting real power clearly in the hands of democratically accountable leaders with a mandate to govern, without all the dangers of political gridlock that can result from conflict between two differently elected bodies (e.g. in the USA or France).

[1] Condon, Stephanie, ‘Poll: One in four Americans think Obama was not born in the U.S.’, CBS News, 21 April 2011, http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-20056061-503544.html (accessed 9/9/11)

Counterpoint 

Monarchs are not always above politics either and often become national embarrassments who also cannot act as a unifier for the nation. In an age of mass-media monarchies are no longer able to maintain the mystique which once set them apart from the common man. Instead kings, queens, princes and princesses are revealed to be mortal, fallible and sometimes foolish creatures. As their wardrobes, squabbles and failing marriages have become constant sources of media scrutiny, so any remaining respect for monarchy as an institution has waned.

Title 
Separating the positions of the head-of-state and prime minister of the government makes great practical sense
Point 

The Monarchy undertakes much of the ceremonial work at home and abroad that would be necessary whether there was a monarch or not, leaving the Prime Minister free to focus more effectively upon governing. Since The Queen's first official overseas visit to South Africa in 1947, overseas visits have become one of her most important duties. The Queen pays two outward State visits each year, accompanied by The Duke of Edinburgh. She also regularly tours her other realms and member countries of the Commonwealth, so far the Queen has paid over 60 State visits to foreign governments. As well as overseas state visits, each year the Queen and other members of the Royal Family pay nearly 3,000 visits throughout the United Kingdom. Official functions often feature prominently in such visits, including opening new buildings, meeting local dignitaries and visiting businesses, schools, hospitals and other public buildings as well as community schemes, military units and charities.[1]

[1]The Official website of the British Monarchy, Queen and Royal Visits, available at http://www.royal.gov.uk/MonarchUK/RoyalVisits/Royalvisits.aspx  (accessed 31/05/2011)

Counterpoint 

There are others who could carry out these duties apart from the Prime Minister, for example, Deputy Prime-ministers for this exact purpose. Some of the key responsibilities of a Deputy Prime Minister involve both home and foreign affairs. The Deputy Prime Minister has significant responsibilities in other key Cabinet Sub-Committees, notably chairing the Home Affairs Committee which coordinates domestic policy issues including those relating to constitutional and political reform, migration, health, schools and welfare. The Deputy Prime Minister has an important foreign policy role, with responsibility for building a range of strategic relationships in Europe and across the world and for championing the Government’s commitment to the Millennium Development Goals. He is also Deputy Chair of the National Security Council which oversees all aspects of the nation’s security.[1] Those in favour of a Republic also argue that Britain has a professional diplomatic corps to represent the interests of the country both at home and abroad.

[1]Deputy Prime Minister, Role and Responsibilities, available at http://www.dpm.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/deputy-prime-minister/role-and-responsibilities (accessed 31/05/2011)

Title 
The monarchy is an important preserver of a nation's cultural heritage
Point 

The Monarchy acts as a guardian of a nation’s heritage, a living reminder of the events and personalities that have shaped it. The Monarchy is the oldest institution of government. Queen Elizabeth II is directly descended from King Egbert, who united England under his rule in 829. As such it is a powerful focus for loyalty, the Queen's title in Britain is 'Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of Her other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith'.[1] The Monarchy provides a source of strength in times of crisis, for example World War II, and a reminder of enduring values and traditions. Royal traditions such as the changing of the guard are still carried out today.

[1]The official magazine for Britain, The Monarchy, available at http://www.britain-magazine.com/categories/monarchy (accessed 31/05/2011).

Counterpoint 

Conversely, it could be argued that instead of protecting the Nation's heritage, the Monarchy has largely become an embarrassment. In an age of mass-media monarchies are no longer able to maintain the mystique which once set them apart from the common man. Instead kings, queens, princes and princesses are revealed to be mortal, fallible and sometimes foolish creatures. As their wardrobes, squabbles and failing marriages have become constant sources of media scrutiny, so any remaining respect for monarchy as an institution has waned. One key example from the U.K. member of the Monarchy Prince Harry, was his decision to attend a fancy-dress party dressed as a Nazi. Not only was this a horrific lack of judgement but it also under-minded the fact that opposing the Nazis was arguably one of the finest moments of British National Heritage.

Title 
The monarchy can serve as public role models.
Point 

Although above party politics, modern monarchs have proved able to raise important and sometimes unpopular issues that would otherwise have been ignored. For example, in the U.K. Prince Charles has legitimised discussion of environmental issues and stimulated a lively debate about the purpose of architecture, while Princess Diana’s work with Aids sufferers helped shift public opinion. Charities are an important part of the Royal family's work, About 3,000 organisations list a member of the Royal Family as patron or president. The Queen has over 600 patronages and The Duke of Edinburgh over 700.[1]

[1]The official website of the British Monarchy, Charities and patronages, available at http://www.royal.gov.uk/CharitiesandPatronages/Overview.aspx (accessed 31/05/2011)

Counterpoint 

This could be contested due to the fact that these issues and many more like them were being campaigned for long before the Royal family was involved. While they did provide a focal point for the eye of the media, the media prefer to focus on celebrities fighting for causes. Prime examples are campaigns such as Comic Relief with involves a great deal of celebrity involvement to promote a cause. For example, in the 2011 Comic Relief which raised £102 million, a series of high profile challenges took place including Chris Moyles and Comedy Dave’s 52 hour non-stop radio marathon which raised over £2.6 million and won a Guinness World Record. While nine celebrities took part in the BT Red Nose Desert Trek across the Kasuit Desert in Kenya and raised over £1.3 million in the process. The official Comic Relief mentions that the government contributed £16 million and that the public raised £86 million, however, nowhere does it mention any contribution made by the Royal family.[1] Supporters of the Republic UK also make the point that the Royals could continue to do charity work in a republic. They do not need the official 'royal' statute to raise money for charity. The Republic UK also points out that there is a big difference between simply turning up at engagements and being an engaged patron.

[1]Comic Relief, News: Record breaking £102 million total, available at http://www.comicrelief.com/news/2011-05/record-breaking-%C2%A3102-million-total  (accessed 31/05/2011).

Bibliography 

Canadian Monarchist Online http://pages.interlog.com/~rakhshan/pmain.html (accessed 31/05/2011)

Centre for citizenship, The Monarchy in Britain, Religion and Race, available at http://www.centreforcitizenship.org/monarchy/mon6.html (accessed 31/05/2011)

Comic Relief, News: Record breaking £102 million total, available at http://www.comicrelief.com/news/2011-05/record-breaking-%C2%A3102-million-total  (accessed 31/05/2011).

Deputy Prime Minister, Role and Responsibilities, available at http://www.dpm.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/deputy-prime-minister/role-and-responsibilities (accessed 31/05/2011)

Condon, Stephanie, ‘Poll: One in four Americans think Obama was not born in the U.S.’, CBS News, 21 April 2011, http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-20056061-503544.html (accessed 9/9/11)

Collins English Dictionary, ‘Monarchy’, 2003, http://www.thefreedictionary.com/monarchy (accessed 9/9/2011)

Flint, David, Australians for Constitutional Monarchy, available at http://www.norepublic.com.au (accessed 31/05/2011)

The Monarchy in Britain, What power do they have? Available at http://www.centreforcitizenship.org/monarchy/mon2.html  (accessed 31/05/2011)

The official website of the British Monarchy, The Role of the Monarchy, available at http://www.royal.gov.uk/MonarchUK/HowtheMonarchyworks/HowtheMonarchyworks.aspx  (accessed 31/05/2011)

The official magazine for Britain, The Monarchy, available at http://www.britain-magazine.com/categories/monarchy (accessed 31/05/2011).

Republic Organisation UK available at http://www.republic.org.uk (accessed 31/05/2011)

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