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Londoner

Do we believe in a constitutional monarchy? Yes

Is such belief a key tenet of British Conservatism? Yes

Would it help if the Monarch were elected by the House of Lords? No, certainly not, particularly as, althought the author might not favour an elected House of Lords, it's much more likely that that happens than that there is no monarchy.

Individually some of Brown's proposals are OK, such as a parliamentary vote on going to war, but the overall impression was deeply discourteous to the Monarchy. I distrust his motives totally. Further, no-one has mentioned the effective disestablishment of the Church of England by the back door - hardly a surprising ambition for one of Brown's denominational and national background.

I would be a lot happier if our present Party Leadership did a lot more emplicit defending of our national institutions. It's one thing I miss John Major on, notwithstanding the deeply regrettable Maistrich (spelling - oh well never mind!) Treaty that he agreed. But at least his opt-0uts did not dissolve in dust within a month as the Blair/Brown ones have with the current one.

Andrew Lilico

Any of you continuing to labour under the delusion that monarchy and hereditary monarchy are the same thing might fancy consulting the following: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elective_monarchy

Tim Williamson

When you have corrupt/incompetent prime ministers, the solution isn't to scrap the office of Prime Minister. Equally, problematic monarchs are no reason to abolish the monarchy.
One problem the monarchy has is that at least half the country has no understanding of its history or of its role in the constitution. We can thank an inadequate education system sheltering many inadequate practitioners for that. Quite apart from its role as the "glue" holding the different parts of our constitution together, it has strong emotional and historical resonance a sort of linked hands across the past thousand years or more. It reinforces the sense of continuity and belonging, for all its warts and convulsions -- we're all still here! British constitution used to be taught. It put things in context -- it helped to understand why things were as they were so that you could understand the implications of change.

Ash Faulkner

Andrew, of course you're right to say that by no means are all monarchies hereditary.

Our constitutional settlement is enigmatic, illogical and downright weird. But it works. Our constitution is the perfect example of what Burke called the contract between the living, the dead, and the yet to be born.

If I were creating a new country from scratch, I'd have a codified constitution, and there'd be no hereditary head of state. But our country has not been created from scratch, it has one thousand years of history behind it, and the family tree of our royal family is one of the clearest examples of that.

Your suggestions sound to be like reform for reform's sake. I don't believe it's necessary, and I don't believe there's much impetus for it in the country - the monarchy is generally very popular.

If we do away with the hereditary principle and have an elected monarchy, I simply ask you this: why? What is the point? Why not just have a ceremonial presidency? What is the point in having an elected monarch, when you can just as easily have an elected president?

Andrew Lilico

[email protected]:52

In my view, if the Constitutional Monarchy is to survive, it needs a period of activism. I would suggest that we start off with the Monarch choosing judges and bishops without the Prime Minister's advice, and proceed from there. In due course I would propose more specific constitutional arrangements (e.g. having withholding of Assent by the Monarch only available when there is not a 2/3 majority in each House of Parliament, and having the withholding of such assent trigger a referendum). But first we would need to get the public used to the idea of an activist monarch.

Now I believe that an activist monarch would be much more acceptable to the public, in our current culture, if there were an explicit process of selection. In addition, I would myself prefer a selected monarch if the monarch is to be activist.

The alternative to a period of constitutional activism is, quite simply, the end of the constitutional monarchy. A number of commenters here would appear to prefer a hereditary ritual monarchy to a selected constitutional monarchy. Fine - that's their call, and that's what they are likely to get. But I believe in the Constitutional Monarchy and offer my proposal as a Conservative way to strengthen and enhance it.

Tim Williamson

A major cause of the surge in republican sentiment is Rupert Murdoch. Australian, Oxford-educated & a fervent promoter of republican status for Australia, he advances the same proposition for the UK. He controls a large section of the UK media, from his flagship "newspaper of record" to the leading Sunday broadsheet, several mass-circulation tabloids and his predatory television interests. Not, of course, that he tells editors what to write. No, he just makes sure that people with the "right" opinions are appointed editor: then, nature will take its course. Andrew Neil is a good example. Also Oxford-educated , this ardent republican became Sunday Times editor. My memory may be selective but didn't a lot of the damaging "scoops" and "leaks" appear in Murdoch press? Didn't the Sun hack into Charles' papers? Consider his US journey: barred from owning Fox TV because he wasn't American, he acquired US citizenship, presumably forswearing allegiance to all others! Yeah.

Patsy Sergeant

Andrew Lilico has put forward a proposal, but it is at the moment just a proposal perhaps to see what sort of reaction it will get. In various areas it would seem to be rather loose in its concept, we already have a government which has spent a fair amount of time constructing new laws which are loose in their construction, as has been found, in practice.

Quite a lot of comment is made about the House of Lords - the role it might play, but perhaps not enough emphasis is placed on the construction of the HoL at the moment, for example the number of people who have been elevated to the place because they could afford to be, and/or for the title, and also who have little or no knowledge (and maybe even interest in) constitutional affairs, but this is the place you seem to be suggesting could be the arbiter in any change to the Monarchy. If the HoL is not adequate at the moment - which you also seem to suggest, then surely it would be better to concentrate on designing a really representative HoL (or whatever title PC obssessives decide is more appropriate) BEFORE reconstructing the Monarchy or so-called election thereof.

It is JUST POSSIBLE that Charles when crowned will become less apparently frivolous in some aspects of his personal life, after-all although many people hate to admit it (I suppose it is SO much less interesting), Charles does do a lot of good work for a lot of disadvantaged people. As I said it is just possible that Charles will become the very model of a constitutional monarch, as boring as can be.

By the way some other European countries do have Monarchy's, although how constitutional they are I don't know, but THEY seem to be tolerated perfectly well by their various citizens.

At the moment we have NO idea EXACTLY what plans this current PM has for this country, its constitution or anything else, only little snippets are released at the moment, and it is quite possible that 'thinking' people might be quite shocked if they knew what his real agenda is - one can be wrong of course!

Richard

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

Good point. Seeing as the Tory Party was traditionally the party of the Monarchy it's a pity this isn't emphasised more. Was support for the Monarchy explicit in Built to Last? If not it should have been.

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

Because unfortunately in Europe (which is where most of these conservative parties are) history has conspired to make the idea untenable. In the UK we still have a popular monarchy which we should therefore aim to preserve.

Ken Adams

With such a profound question I hesitate to put my point of view, but here goes; to the question posed, Should we care about the demise of the constitutional monarchy?
Really as the Queen has not protected her powers, the sovereignty of the people or the sovereignty of the state, but instead allowed us to be made citizens of the EU and allowed the majority of our laws to be made outside of this sovereign nation state, there is now no need to retain the monarchy, other than as a quaint tourist attraction.

If we are to retain the monarchy what would be the reason if not to form part of our system of government, a backstop aginst an over reaching government, a final appeal for the people against their government and a final residue of our powers to hold our government to account.

If any monarch is not prepared to stand by their own coronation oaths then it could be reasonable argued that they have in fact abdicated.


"Will you solemnly promise and swear to govern the Peoples of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the Union of South Africa, Pakistan and Ceylon, and of your Possessions and other Territories to any of them belonging or pertaining, according to their respective laws and customs?"
The Queen: "I solemnly promise so to do."

At the time of her Coronation the Queen entered into a contract with the people. She took a sacred oath, not to rule us, not to reign over us, but to govern us, according to our laws and customs.

The sovereignty of this nation belongs to the people, and the queen, the official 'governor' of the nation and sovereign head of state, is the physical embodiment of the people's sovereignty.

Any attempt to reduce, usurp or suborn, the sovereign powers of the queen, powers vested in her by the people at the time of her Coronation, is an act of treason.

Justice Morgan presiding at the Steve Thoburn, made it clear that in 1972 parliament surrendered national sovereignty to the European Community, and that EU Law is now the supreme law in this land.
Morgan was claiming that the crown had no legitimacy in that court. Thus he dismissed the supremacy of the Queen as sovereign Head of State.

If this was so, it follows that in 1972 either the Queen abdicated or she was deposed, for you cannot have a sovereign Head of State of a country that is not sovereign.

Tim Roll-Pickering

In reply to Ash Faulkner at 12:03 PM: To take one random example, many conservatives in Australia support a republic and the last referendum was supported by both the previous and the likely next Coalition Prime Ministers. The Nationals may have explicit policy opposing a republic but the Liberals don't. But John Howard, who must have some inkling of how to remain popular (replacing 13 years of Labor rule and talk of Labor as the natural party of government with at least 11 years of Howard isn't done by magic), has been consistently opposed.

In this country both Conservatives and Tories have not always been ardent hereditary monarchists. There were Tories who supported the William and Hanoverian successions and, most damningly, it was a Conservative Prime Minister who pushed through the Abdication. What was that if not a choice of head of state?

Andrew Lilico at 02:00 PM: Whilst it's true that not all monarchies are hereditary, it's hard to deny that in present conventional usage a "monarch" is foisted upon the people by accident of birth whilst a head of state selected by either people or Parliament (or just one chamber of a Parliament) is a "president", whatever title may be used. Other than semantics of wording, just how would an activist selected head of state not be a president?

Richard at 02:54 PM: The Tory Party may have traditionally been the party of monarchy, but a large part of its replacement by the Conservative Party involved the breaking of this automatic loyalty. William IV's support for reform and Victoria's preference for Melbourne both served to mark the Conservatives as a party in its own right, not a collection of "King's men". And conservatism has evolved ever since.

The existance of the monarchy has never really been an issue in UK politics (give or take the use of "republican" by the Irish independence movements, but independence was the key point) - indeed Labour has always marginalised republicans within its own ranks. Consequently I think it's wrong to say that monarchism is in any way a tennet of British Conservatism when it hasn't been a partisan issue at all. How many Conservatives have an "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" attitude rather than any positive support for the monarchy? And what happens when they decide it is broke? How many would defend it above all else? (For instance if it came down to being able to retain only one of the monarchy and the established Church, would every single conservative save the former?)

And if the end of the monarchy seemed inevitable, would not a better stance be to participate in shaping its replacement, rather than fight a losing last ditch battle? Many of the conservative grievances in the current constitutional arrangements - particularly the West Lothian Question - stem from changes that the Conservative Party just said "No, No, No" to at the time. Could we afford to let that happen again?

Andrew Lilico

Ken [email protected]:04

I think you slightly misunderstand the Thoburn ruling to which you refer. The European Communities Act 1972 can be repealed by the Crown in Parliament. It merely cannot be impliedly repealed (partially repealed, as it were "by accident" through other legislation). There is no loss of sovereignty...for now.

Thus the Queen still reigns. Long may it be so!

Andrew Lilico

[email protected]:27

I would call a "life president" a "king" (whether the president were selected, elected, or the leader of a coup), but of course the difference is just words.

I thoroughly endorse your last paragraph, which I think is very important. The Peelite/Ultra debate is a key one.

bill

"Aren’t I"?

Alan T

There is the argument that the UK is a republic, in all but name. I have some sympathy with this idea and with Gordon Brown's proposals. Whether the author (of above proposal) likes it or not he is advocating a form of republic.

This isn't as atonishing as it may first seem, if you buy into the idea that the UK already has a largely republican form of government and has had so for some time, rendering the above dicourse not much more than a sentimental verbal quibble.

I received an email from the Downing Street petition people yesterday, affirming the Government's committment to the continuance of the Monarchy, having signed a petition calling for its abolition. The response read:

"The Monarchy is a vital element of our constitution, and personifies both national and commonwealth unity. As a result of a long process of evolution, during which the Monarch's absolute power has been progressively reduced, The Sovereign acts on the advice of Her Ministers. Britain is governed by Her Majesty's government in the name of The Queen.

The Government fully supports the Monarchy and the continuation of the Crown."

So much for Gordon Brown being a closet republican (as I once heard a Guardian journalist say he was, at least, in said journalist's fantasy)!

Although maybe he is and the erosion of monarchy, will be as stealthy as his taxes.

I hope not. I'd rather the UK or it's constituent parts reached full republic-hood as a democratic choice and not by hook and by crook.

Bagehot

Tim Roll-Pickering is a bit of an idiot. He says: "And if the end of the monarchy seemed inevitable, would not a better stance be to participate in shaping its replacement, rather than fight a losing last ditch battle?"

But, of course, there's not the remotest prospect of the Monarchy being abolished. And Tim gave the game away in an earlier post when he objected to the idea that support for the Monarchy is a core Tory principle. A case of the wish being father to the thought, eh Tim?

The fatuous nature of Tim's question-begging becomes more obvious when we change one word:

"And if the end of democracy seemed inevitable, would not a better stance be to participate in shaping its replacement, rather than fight a losing last ditch battle?"

And as for Andrew 'closet republican' Lilico, how does he respond to Tim 'it's all over for the Monarchy' Roll-Pickering?

"I thoroughly endorse your last paragraph, which I think is very important."

Bill

"Aren’t I"?

Andrew Lilico

[email protected]:22

Beyond your views as to when the word "republic" should be used as opposed to "monarchy", do you have any proposals? Is it your suggestion that we should change nothing? Do you believe that that is sustainable in the face of Brown's proposals? Is there anything we should do to try to sustain a do-nothing policy? Is it your view that we should change things in some way so as to favour the direction you prefer (which as far as I can make out involves an attachment to a hereditary monarchy, though want function you want that hereditary monarchy to perform I am not sure)? Would it be possible for you to share your views with us (on some matter other than the use of words)?

Sepoy Agent

I find it rather hard to believe all these comments that oppose hereditary monarchy, constitutional monarchy, monarchy at all. I thought this was supposed to be a Conservative blog, and one leaning to the right.

First, it is crazy to claim that Elizabeth II is not a hereditary monarch because her father became monarch following an abdication. The abdication of Edward VIII was voluntary, albeit caused because his behaviour had become unacceptable. Edward had no child, and George VI was his brother and the next in hereditary line.

Then I find it unacceptable to suggest that, on the death of our present monarch, her successor should be chosen by the upper house of Parliament or anyone else. Charles, Prince of Wales has been a hard-working and thoughtful heir to the throne, and deserves to succeed. But, more than that, he is the next in line and in our hereditary system must succeed.

Next, I believe we are confusing "Government" and "Royal". Most of the so-called royal prerogatives are actually exercised by the Prime Minister, eg the appointment of bishops, where the PM makes the choice, and the monarch rubber stamps.

Finally, I must agree with all those who have said that the constitutional monarch is our protection against a dictator or an extremist yet unsupported government. It is vital that Her Majesty retains the power to invite the leader of the majority party to form a Government, to dissolve Parliament where necessary, and to appoint Ministers.

Ken Stevens

Tim Roll-Pickering | July 17, 04:27 PM
Point [A]:
" if it came down to being able to retain only one of the monarchy and the established Church, would every single conservative save the former?"

I thought the principle was that the two were inseparable, i.e. if one believes in the Established Church, then the Monarch is its head. If the Conservative Party is a broad "church", then it includes folk who are not adherents of the Established Church, so presumably the monarchy would be the default option in a forced either/or choice?


Point [B]:

"Many of the Conservative grievances in the current constitutional arrangements - particularly the West Lothian Question - stem from changes that the Conservative Party just said "No, No, No" to at the time"

...And with regard to the WLQ are still saying "No No No" or, in the case of the EU "Er well, sort of no, depending.., 'cos we like it, or not, as the case may be".


Sort out the constitutional threats that already exist, including the current one to the monarchy (i.e. EU). Then worry about possible future procedural ones that have yet to be formulated.


TomTom

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?

Act of Settlement 1701 covers it.......

There is only one alternative to a Monarchy and it is the one tried between 1649 and 1660....that would be ideal if the country did not have a Monarchy

Oberon Houston

An interesting post Andrew, however I feel that you have framed the issue well and then drawn an alarming conclusion.

Gordon Brown, as a history student, knows very well that he has no mandate or moral right to undermine the current conventions (sic) of the constitution, but he also knows that much of the 'power' our Monarchy relies on an acceptance and courtesy for unwritten conventions. He also knows he is playing with fire, therefore this is an exercise of toe in the water. If the public stay silent, the knife will start going gently in. As Conservatives we should defend the Monarchy, and Browns spin should be exposed as subversion.

One last thing. The public love an underdog, hence the harsh treatment of the Queen after Diana's death (egged on by the Murdoch press). But they still love an underdog and we should champion the Queen and play to the only real strength any monarchy has - popularity with the masses. We 'did' the republic 140 years before the French, and we preferred this system. Why change all that for a socialist with a chip on his shoulder and a brief window of opportunity?

Preaching to the converted. Andrew?

Londoner

I agree with those who have identified Murdock (an American) as the greatest subversive. Why are we so wet that we do not have laws as in the US which prevent foreigners (i.e. those with no allegiance to the Monarch) from controlling such vital media outlets? No doubt someone will tell me that EU law might prevent it. But so long as we do not prevent any national of another EU country becoming a national of ours (swearing allegiance to the Monarch), I do not think in justice, if not in law, that we could be held to be disciminatory.

Bagehot

OK Andrew. I am contemptuous of your efforts, in part because your idea of an elected Monarch is, in the British context, ridiculous. But since you ask...

I suspect that Brown is an emotional and ideological republican. He's also very cautious and knows that this issue has immense power to harm him and the Labour Party. Abolishing the Monarchy is high on the socialist wish list but very low on the 'to do' list.

His removal of the Royal Prerogative in certain areas is largely irrelevant. What matters is loyalty and allegiance. The Armed Forces still swear an oath to the Monarch, for example. The Queen is a symbol of the unity and coherence of Britain as a nation. The existence of the Royal Family at the pinacle of society is the embodiment of an eternal truth - that hierarchy is the natural order and absolute equality is both impossible and undesirable.

That's why twisted socialists, with their adolescent inability to accept the immutablity of human nature, hate the Monarchy. It symbolises tradition, nation and the preference of the British people for organic inequality over artificial and coerced equality. It appeals to that side of our collective character that predates the Enlightenment but exists in harmony with it.

Andrew, I fear that you are an instinctive meddler whose cleverness is untempered by wisdom. Invoking Peel is a bogus stratagem because Peel compromised when he had to - not when there was no earthly reason to.

Conservatives are very much on the front foot in any debate on the Monarchy. Of course there are trends within society that make Monarchy more difficult to sustain but there are also trends that reinforce it. Our job is to take a cool look at Brown's measures, decide which, if any, threaten the Monarchy and then wave through the rest.

How on earth you work out that electing the Monarch (thereby gutting the institution of its high symbolism and emotional power) is the answer to Brown's (minor) reforms is anyone's guess. Unless you are, as I suspect, a closet republican.

You're certainly an objective one.

Tim Roll-Pickering

Bagehot it's a pity you choose that handle as the real Bagehot would argue the point, not fall to personal abuse.

If you reread the bit you quoted you will note I said "if". You'll also note I did not dispute the idea of support for the monarchy being a core Tory principle but rather a core Conservative principle. Those two words are not interchangable. Certainly whenever people have tried to define what a "conservative" believes, it is very rare for "principled support for the continuation of monarchy" to be listed. "If it ain't broke don't fix it" is by no means the same.

I did not say the monarchy is unsecure now. The point as to what would happen when a republic semmed inivetable is at present is a hypothetical one, although I do believe that the accession of Prince Charles will have serious consequences and lead to the monarchy going through much testing strain.

When faced with inevitable constitutional change in the past, usually because of another party with an overwhelming Commons majority, Conservatives have had one of two reactions. One has been to make a gesture of outright opposition to the change all the way, an opposition doomed to fail, and which leaves them fulminating against the consequences but unable to unscramble and rescramble the eggs. Another has been to seek to direct the flow of change, to establish checks and balances and to limit the effect. The latter course has always produced better results for the country than the former, which is what I presume Andrew was agreeing with.

"Democracy" is a concept not an organ of government. The comparison is fatuous in the extreme.

Sepoy Agent at 05:34 PM: The Abdication was not Edward VIII's voluntary decision. He was faced with an ultimatum - Wallis Simpson or the Crown, but not both. Otherwise the government would resign and no serious alternative could be formed. And the fact that his brother & heir presumptive was much more highly regarded amongst the eastablishment in 1936 was one of the reasons why this option could be contemplated. Would support for Abdication have been so forthcoming in these quarters if the heir presumptive had been the Duke of Kent? Ultimately the abdication was a choice (at high level) between Edward and George.

Ken Stevens at 05:35 PM: Established Churches exist in republics as well as monarchies. Whether the two are truly inseperable remains to be seen but given the long history of constitutional fudges and some frankly incompatible concepts working together, it doesn't seem impossible for the established church to exist in a republic. As for the "default option", that isn't the question but whether every last conservative would be found on one particular side of the debate.

I thought our current stance on the WLQ was a "no Scottish MP should vote on matters that are devolved for Scotland", a position which isn't terribly workable as it would lead to different majorities on different matters and be trying to have two Parliaments in one. Who for instance would determine who was Secretary of State for Health - the government derived from the full Parliament or just the non-Scottish (or whatever combination) MPs? It's a messy arrangement that doesn't stand up.

TomTom at 05:39 PM: Why do so many monarchists resort to wheeling out the Common Wealth as the "only" alternative to monarchy? Are all republics in other countries like that?!

Andrew Lilico

[email protected]:21

So, now matters are clearer. For you do not believe in the monarchy primarily as a constitutional instrument. For you its role is as a symbol. Thus for you the family and that family's history is central, and Brown's changes to the power of the monarchy largely irrelevant. I mentioned in my article the thought that some would have that, since the (hereditary) ritual monarchy would remain, my concerns over the constitutional monarchy were silly.

I on the other hand (who am not, in any way, a republican - seductive, isn't it, the temptation to smear our opponents by calling them "nazis", "racists", "Europhobes", "republicans", or whatever other abuse term comes to hand, in an attempt to discredit them. So much easier than offering any robust argument...) - I am a believer in the monarchy as, in the first instance, a constitutional instrument. I couldn't give a hoot what blood runs through the veins of the person filling this constitutional role. If that blood happens to motivate someone else to agree with me in supporting X to be monarch - well, splendid; that's a bonus. I certainly see important secondary merit in the monarchy as a symbol, and I suppose that could be enhanced if the individual garnered devotion, also. But this is as likely to be a drawback as a strength (particular if it makes people support someone for monarch that will be useless at it).

So since, for me, the monarch's role is primarily constitutional, whilst for you it is not, then it is relatively unsurprising that I am concerned about attacks on its constitutional power, whilst you are not. On this point we differ. But I shall gainsay you on one more point: it is in no wise an un-Conservative opinion to believe in the Constitutional Monarchy - not today; not ever. Whiggish Conservatives have always been supporters of the Constitutional Monarchy.

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