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Comments

david

Agree, but think on the Queens death, a referendum, the question, 'Do you wish Charles Wales to be head of state' yes or no. The Head of State, should be endorsed by the electorate.

Tartan Tory

ABSOLUTELY should we care! The monarchy is the guardian of our constitution, our democracy, our freedom, it is the protection against over powerful politicians, it is the binding glue that unites our nation and provides a connection to our past.

Ken Stevens

With one possible reservation, I very much support Andrew Lilico's views. My query relates to the role of the Upper House in selecting a new monarch. If the Upper House is reformed so as to be an elected chamber then, in effect, it would be the dominant political party choosing the Sovereign - not a lot of difference then from the mucky process of political wrangling for selecting a PM. Whether reformed or unreformed, I would see the role of the Upper House as more of a longstop safety device, i.e. a presumption of hereditary succession unless in exceptional circumstances there is a national mood apparent that the designated heir would not be an acceptable successor, in which case the Upper Chamber would activate its reserve power.

As well as the domestic aspect there is also the incompatibility between having a constitutional monarchy and ever deeper absorption into a Eurostate. How can we have a monarch and a president in our political chain of command?

chrisblore

I agree with the majority of what you say Andrew, but surely the Monarch needs to have some kind of defined process whereby it is clear who (under normal circumstances) would become Monarch in order to provide continuity? In my opinion, a selected Monarch would leave to much room for abuse (cash for Monarchies anyone?!) and would perhaps even further undermine the stature of the position itself.

Steve

We should leave well alone. This discredited and corrupt government has no mandate for constitutional reform.

Andrew Lilico

I intend to write in a later column (probably next week) about how I would envisage the Upper Chamber (House of Selectors) being made up. You can get a taster from my earlier YourPlatform on Lords Reform (http://conservativehome.blogs.com/platform/2007/03/andrew_lilico_w.html). Suffice it to say that I am opposed to election of the Upper Chamber and hence the scenario that rightly concerns Ken Stevens should not arise.

Trevor

What a sop. Pandering to fools who want to pick and choose the right personality to be Monarch. The implicit suggestion that the Prince of Wales won't do, but we could maybe have someone else instead.

A central tenant of being a Conservative, is showing loyalty to the institution of monarchy. Let's not get pre-occupied with the actors like show biz obsessed and fleckless teenagers.

malcolm

Not a chance.The monarchy stands well above party politics and 'selection' by the upper house however it is constituted will compromise that and therefore the institution of monarchy itself.
I cannot believe this idea will resonate with any but a tiny proportion of Britons and am stunned that it should emanate from a Conservative.

Ken Stevens

"opposed to election of the Upper Chamber"

So glad about that!

It may seem very undemocratic to be unelected but by & large it has served us well, so if it ain't broke, don't fix it - except for undoing the damage done by 'peerages for cash'. One should gain appointment by demonstrated eminence, not generosity.

Blue Boy

What a mixture of the hypotehtical and just plain nonsense!

We have not yet seen any legislation and until then we will not know whether the crown will still have the authority to dismiss Parliament etc but only in exceptional circumstances, only regularly decided by Parliament.

The separation between crown and Parliament is of overwhelming importance. Government does two things; a governing role and a representing role. We can see throughout the world - US, France, Zimbabwe - that if you merge these two roles, if you give too much authority to policians, it is bad for democracy. it shouldn't be, on paper, perhaps it isn't logical, but in practice that's how the human mind and behaviour works.

Therefore to give Parliament the responsibilty of electing a monarch just turns the whole thing into one of minor celebrities, populist politicians and cronyism. The current monarchy is above all that. It represents all the people, and it serves all the people.

Power has a corrupting influence. Any system that stems its flow to politicians seeking votes should be applauded

The Huntsman

There may be situations in which the interests of the nation require that an election be held.

Suppose that Party A is in power but as a minority government. The PM, leader of Party A, rightly concludes that it is in the vital interest of the country to have a dissolution and an election. Party B, the next largest party has no funds with which to fight an election, the last election having been but six months ago. In addition they have a party leader whom they have just realised is a complete duffer who could not win election to a parish council if he tried and there is no time to dump him. Party C has read the polls and believes that, if an election is held, it will be obliterated and it needs time to restore its position in the country. On the vote Party A is outvoted by B & C who do not want a dissolution for reasons that are wholly to do with their own positions and ignore completely the national interest. Result: no election and enormous damage to UK vital interests.

Only HMQ could have resolved this in a non-partisan way.

EG 1974: opposition parties then might well have voted against a dissolution, hoping to keep an emasculated Harold Wilson wielding only minority power.

I believe that we should oppose this.

The Huntsman

There may be situations in which the interests of the nation require that an election be held.

Suppose that Party A is in power but as a minority government. The PM, leader of Party A, rightly concludes that it is in the vital interest of the country to have a dissolution and an election. Party B, the next largest party has no funds with which to fight an election, the last election having been but six months ago. In addition they have a party leader whom they have just realised is a complete duffer who could not win election to a parish council if he tried and there is no time to dump him. Party C has read the polls and believes that, if an election is held, it will be obliterated and it needs time to restore its position in the country. On the vote Party A is outvoted by B & C who do not want a dissolution for reasons that are wholly to do with their own positions and ignore completely the national interest. Result: no election and enormous damage to UK vital interests.

Only HMQ could have resolved this in a non-partisan way.

EG 1974: opposition parties then might well have voted against a dissolution, hoping to keep an emasculated Harold Wilson wielding only minority power.

I believe that we should oppose this.

Constitutional bore

While I am sure elements of the left would like to chip away at our monarchy the damage they have actually succeeded in inflicting is as nothing compared to the wreckage that would come if we followed the bizzare innovations suggested above. There is no great problem with the appointment of our judges or selection of our Monarch (proclaimed by the Privy Council) so why on earth would we want to be taking steps which read like a move to a presidential system?

As for Brown's changes most of them are fine. The proposals to give Parliament a right to have a say on treaties, war etc. represent a welcome rebalancing of the power between executive and Parliament. As the Monarch has no say on these matters currently and they are merely carried out in her name it marks no diminuition in her role. What would be welcome is if the form of the Royal Prerogative is kept, so that Parliament acts in her name rather than the PM. Indications are that this is what Brown is considering (ie that a new convention should be made, so that it becomes as unthinkable for the government to raitfy treaties without Parliament as it is for the Monarch to do so without the advice of her government), rather than the alternative, which is to pass the powers via statute to Parliament.

I don't understand the point that is partly made about the recall of Parliament. Again, the Monarch has no influence in this currently. The Speaker recalls Parliament, normally on the advice of the government. Brown is proposing some mechanism where MPs would be able to trigger it (and why not?)

The Monarch's personal prerogatives are really only two: the power to appoint a Prime Minister, and the power to dissolve Parliament or perhaps just the power to refuse a Prime Minister's request to dissolve Parliament. The former is unaffected and can be used to resolve deadlocks (for example, where parties previously had no internal methods for selecting a leader and some conceivable situations in a hung parliament). The latter may be reduced by Brown's proposal because it would be harder for the Monarch to refuse a request coming from a majority of MPs than one just from the PM. But this may be outweighed by a really positive development. If MPs have control over dissolution this could (depending on how it is done) weaken the ability of the government to blackmail their backbenchers by making issues (eg Maastricht) ones of confidence in the government.

The fundamental point in all this is that the governemnt is led by the Prime Minister who commands a majority of the House of Commons. This determines who has power. If the Monarch decided to block this majority (and there may be extreme circumstances where this is right) then this would mean dissolution or deadlock, as the writer says. But he misses the point, which is that the Government of the day would want to dissolve in such a circumstance if they couldn't get their way, and if the Commons did turn against them (because the government had just turned crazy) support could transfer to a new government whose PM would of course be appointed by the Monarch. A more relevant line of attack would be that this proposal could increase the ability of a Government (by gaining the support of all its MPs) to call elections when it most suits them but as they have an almost unfettered ability to do so anyway this is of limited import.

It is easy to be cyncial about whatever the other side proposes. But it is just as possible that Brown is alarmed by the Prime Ministerial dominance of the country between 1997-2007 as many outside Labour have been. He didn't tackle the EU or West Lothian problems but he has proposed a historic shift in the balance between Parliament and executive which will hopefully go a small way to reversing the tide of the last 140 years.

Yet Another Anon

It is a key feature of the Monarch’s ability to resolve constitutional crises
Or cause one perhaps, a monarch could start using the power to dissolve parliament whenever they felt like it, this could actually trigger a constitutional crisis and possibly result in a General Election when one wasn't needed. As things stand the House of Commons have the power to replace the monarch anyway, so they might as well have the power to decide if there should be an election at a particular time.

So far as going to war goes, I think that this is something on which decisions have to be taken too quickly for it to be left to a group of people, rather the next person down the chain of authority has to be the one to take such a decision.

Frank McGarry

At the same time that Brown is talking of handing powers back to parliament, he is also supporting the new EU constitutional treaty, which takes more powers away from parliament.

It may be true, as Lilico says, that no-one is talking of abolishing the Monarchy , just as no-one is talking of abolishing our parliamentary democratic self-government - but that does not mean that it is not happening.

As we tinker with the remaining fragments of our sovereignty, the Empire-builders in Brussels are smugly getting on with their plans on how we will be governed.

Tim Roll-Pickering

Trevor: A central tenant of being a Conservative, is showing loyalty to the institution of monarchy.

Really? Where does it say that on my membership card?

And why are so many conservative parties in other countries not pressing the creation/restoration of a monarchy?

Andrew Lilico

Constitutional bore@10:46

The proposal as currently stated is not that the role of official advisor as to the exercise of the Royal Prerogative should pass from the Prime Minister to Parliament. Rather it is that "in twelve areas important to our national life, the Prime Minister and executive should surrender or limit their powers". The Prime Minster and executive - i.e. including the Monarch. The proposal is that the Royal Prerogatives be surrendered, not re-delegated.

Bagehot

Andrew Lilico is a conceited fool. I can imagine him sitting at his desk thinking "I've got a clever idea." Hence this drivel:

"On the death of our Queen, let us have the Upper House of Parliament select a new Monarch — perhaps the hereditary heir at the time; perhaps not. An explicitly selected Monarchy would show that our commitment is the correct one: to the institution of the Constitutional Monarchy, and not a sentimental attachment to any particular family’s "right to rule"."

You simply don't understand monarchy, Andrew, do you? What you are describing is a presidency similar to ones found in many parliamentary democracies. The hereditary principle is what distinguishes the two systems. You may not like it but that makes you a republican, not a constitutional monarchist.

PS - if you don't support the British Monarchy you're not a British Conservative.

A H Matlock

Parliament to 'select' the Monarch? I am frankly appalled by this suggestion. The Monarchy is supposed to be above politics, and that cannot be achieved if the Monarch owes his or her place to politicians. The beauty of the current system is that our Queen owes her position to nobody but God and her ancestors, and that is the way a Monarchy should work. Is this system an anachronism? Yes. Would anyone in their right mind today invent a Constitutional Monarchy? Certainly not. However, if I were invited to recast the machinery of government and come up with something totally new, I would be jolly hard pressed to think of something that worked better. Has it served his country well and does it still work for us today? Emphatically, yes. Let us remember that we are Conservatives - we do not embrace and advocate change for its own sake or the lack of anything else to say. I believe that the Monarchy is part of the fundamental fabric of this country and I will vigorously oppose all attempts to change that. The Crown is a sacred institution - and you do not put sacred institutions to a vote.

Chris Richards

Bagehot has just made you look pretty silly, 'Dr' Lilico.

You want a president elected by Parliament but with the title of 'king'. What a crap idea.

Ash Faulkner

"Really? Where does it say that on my membership card?

And why are so many conservative parties in other countries not pressing the creation/restoration of a monarchy?"

Conservatism values order and tradition, and consequently it favours evolution rather than revolution, change only when necessary, and supports established institutions.

Other conservative parties are not pushing for a monarchy because they either a) aren't really conservative, or b) their countries haven't had monarchies for a long time - or, even, ever.

Support for the monarchy is not universally conservative, because there is no such thing as universal conservatism. You seem to think there is which, in itself, is unconservative.

As for this suggestion of the Lords electing the monarch. Did you just get bored? You might as well do away with the monarchy entirely...would this new 'mandated' monarch be styled 'Excellency', by any chance?

Michael Davidson

If we are to have a Monarchy, then it should be hereditary as it is now. I would not agree with the idea that any upper house should appoint the monarch.

But when Charles does take over, my support for the monarchy will drop substantially and we may as well scrap the whole thing altogether.

Andrew Lilico

Bagehot and others. There is nothing essential to the concept of monarchy that the monarch be hereditary. The English kings were selected by the Witan; The English monarchy has regularly not proceeded according to hereditary succession - let's just take a few examples: George VI; George I; William III; Elizabeth I; Henry VII; Henry IV; Stephen. The Act of Succession curtails the rights of succession of the monarch - it is Parliament that determines who is monarch, and (after some centuries of struggle) this is a point that is now amply established. We do not have a hereditary monarchy. We have a selected monarchy.

Having a selected monarchy is not at all the same as having a Presidency. Was William III a President? Will George W Bush rule until his death? Declaring me an ignorant republican does not constitute an argument. I am a believer in the Constitutional Monarchy. I believe that no change is no longer an option. We failed to propose our own reform of the House of Lords for so long, and for so long rested on the "it ain't broke, so don't bother fixing it" argument, that we were impotent of argument when New Labour's foolish half-baked nonsense was proposed. If we do not propose our own reforms of the Constitutional Monarchy, along Conservative lines that believe in the value of the institution and strengthen its exercise and credibility, then Labour will mangle it and then strangle it (as with the Lords).

Leaving things as they are is not an option.

Bagehot

"Having a selected monarchy is not at all the same as having a Presidency. Was William III a President?"

Why waste your time writing such disingenuous rubbish, Andrew? Who was William married to? The daughter of the King.

In extreme circumstances the heir to the throne can always be pushed aside because we don't believe in the Divine Right of Kings. In such a situation then next in line to the Throne becomes the Monarch. That's a Constitutional Monarchy.

A very different proposition to your 'idea' - the election of a president-for-life by the Lords.

Nigel

My reading of Brown's proposal was that the Parliamentary vote be on the Prime Minister's REQUEST for a dissolution - not on the dissolution itself. The Monarch could theoretically exercise the prerogative to say no, but as now, they would be bound by their minister's advice. In Parliamentary terms, I would guess the motion before the House would be "That an Humble Address be presented to Her Majesty asking that She do graciously assent to dissolve this Present Parliament..". I think this actually formalises the constitutional position of the Monarch.

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