60 years: time to grow up

Republic is holding a demonstration in London on 3 June. I can’t be there, but this article, my membership and my financial support will, I hope, add my voice to the campaign.

I’m a bit older than the reign of Queen Elizabeth II. I can vaguely remember items of the celebration: a celebratory steel tin of chocolates, a visit to the local cinema and seeing in the film the Queen on a horse. What I can’t remember – because that was also early in my life – is how I came to feel there was something seriously wrong about having a single family provide the head of state. Like all ideas, it developed over a time, and since I was at school I have been committed to the idea that we should all be eligible to stand and to vote for our head of state (and of course for the second chamber too), just as for the current representative parts of our government system.

The monarchy is a thoroughly bad form of government – not only because of the unsuitability of the apparent heir, a symptom of the severe mental and emotional damage that the position inflicts on members of the family involved, but also because it tops an entrenched pyramid of privilege, secrecy and exclusion that broadens down to the rest of us at the base.

Yes, I’ve heard all the arguments over the years, and never heard anything remotely convincing in favour of monarchy.

The monarch is non-political – of course she bloody well isn’t, she is part of the political system and it couldn’t be any other way, not to mention Charles spending his wasted life secretly telling experts what they should be doing (and they won’t get a gong – a recognition that they can imagine they are a small part in the pyramid of privilege – if they don’t).

Other countries have worse political systems – well of course many do, but if democracy means anything then it should mean the right of people to propose a better system for themselves. Myself, I am still in favour of a parliamentary democracy (with improvements) and a constitutionally limited head of state, not the US system that so many people think that republicans must be in favour of.

It’s a long tradition – no it isn’t, this dynasty is 19th century, based on lots of invented pomp and flummery, and its current longevity depends entirely on having a stable and mature democracy. Monarchy was always about relatives scheming, fighting and if necessary killing each other to get the throne, and if you wanted your heir to succeed you damn well had to protect him. Now we have the democracy, let’s make it a democracy through and through.

The tourists come for the monarchy – let’s face it, how many tourists have seen the Queen, or expect to? (For that matter, when did I? About the age of 8, perhaps.) When we have an elected head of state we shall still have our history, buildings and, like many a republic, we can still have ceremonies and Guardsmen. We can even have a theme park in Windsor.

We could have President [name your least favourite public figure here] – that is democracy, but then you can desist from voting for him or her, and campaign for someone better. The rather more important matter is that everyone apart from certain members of one family is excluded from the job of head of state, and on simple statistical grounds it is clear that those excluded people include very, very many who would be far better suited for the position. I’ll nominate some if given the chance.

The weakness of the arguments for retaining the monarchy is telling. The rest of us will grow up and be full citizens if we have the right to vote for the person who reigns or rules over us.

I am glad to see that many younger people are now recognising this, and are organising to campaign for a representative head of state.