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Realpolitik (see also Political realism; from German: real “realistic”, “practical” or “actual”; and Politik “politics”) refers to politics or diplomacy based primarily on practical considerations, rather than ideological notions or moralistic premises. In this respect, it shares aspects of its philosophical approach with those of realism and pragmatism.
"Manchmal werden Leute den Wald vor lauter Bäumen nicht sehen."

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

004- Republican itchings (Inaugural post)

I've been dying to write my inaugural entry on this blog for some time, and have a ridiculous number of titles written on my computer's virtual notepad. Sadly, most of them are merely in the planning stage bar one, which has the honourable status of being in draft format. The latter, thankfully, is the birth-child of the resurgence of my own interest in the political realm once again.

You see, I thought that I would order an outdated, yet interesting book by one Tony Benn, surrounding the daring Private Member's Bill he was (sadly) unable to get voted through during his tenure as MP. And this book, though outdated, and somewhat old-fashioned in its attempt to remedy his version of a Britain fallen from grace during the early 1990s, ignited a new desire within me to pursue information on the republican cause in the United Kingdom.

For it is- I hope- to become a topic that will feature to some degree on the British public's psyche, what with a certain Royal wedding proposed for 29th April 2011, and Republic urging interested parties to join forces and spread the word about their campaign for the establishment of genuine democratic governance in this country.

Throughout my life, I have sat on the fence when it has come to my opinion of the British political system. Like any other child, I was force fed about the virtues of our system, and never taught to question the existence of a hereditary head of state, and the continued maintenance of an exclusivist form of government. To like the Queen was our patriotic duty, as she represents a long line of Monarchs who have somehow come to represent the supposed fabric of our society, and are also the manifestation of the continuity of our nation throughout the ages.

All this, in spite of the previous Labour administration's attempts to incorporate 'citizenship' lessons into compulsory education during my formative years. Indeed, these lessons did nothing to encourage us to engage in free thought and to challenge the status quo. And all of this, in spite of both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown's pretensions to establishing reform in the electoral system, (true) democracy in the second chamber of parliament and a codified constitution, clearly stating the limits of parliamentary power.

It is with some degree of trepidation, that the Daily Mail today reported on the current coalition's plans to replace the Lords with an entirely elected senate. But it is with great pleasure, that I read this supposed proposal- it is the Daily Mail after all- though I will need to examine its finer points in further detail, as I already disagree with the idea of these senators sitting over two to three parliaments. But I digress, for if this is true, it could represent the last step toward achieving the ultimate goal: the abolishment of the British Monarchy.

In many ways, I wish the British public would be celebrating the 29th April 2011 as Republic Day, a day to commemorate the establishment of a political system where parliament was made truly accountable to the people; a day when the British finally became citizens of their country, rather than subjects of an arbitrary leader, as opposed to a day to commemorate the institutional wedding of two dubiously esteemed residents of the state. It has been suggested that the political establishment are championing the wedding, as a means of distracting the electorate from the local and devolved elections, not to mention the referendum on voting reform, which are planned during that period.

I wouldn't be surprised if this is the case, as the media machine has already played its part in drumming up blind enthusiasm for the royal engagement, by reminding people of the ease with which they'll be able to run garden parties, in spite of the fact that post-recession businesses will incur serious losses due to the disruption.

And of course, it is so easy to appear as a killjoy whilst you talk about constitutional justice, when all the lay person wants to do is to enjoy an extended weekend, courtesy of the monarchical melodramatics.

But this is the problem. The Monarchy is adept at remaining inconspicuous at times where criticism should abound. How much longer are we going to allow this undemocratic institution to go unchallenged, draining public funds for superfluous ceremonies and whose very existence permits heads of government to abuse the powers of the Royal Prerogative, so readily available at their disposal?

I for one, will be diving further into British republican thought, and will be looking to help spread the cause and inform my fellow citizens of the practical applications of democratic republicanism for we, the rational, intelligent human beings of this country.

The people are the power.

Chokobo

For more information on Republic's constitutional outline, please click here.

6 comments:

  1. It seems an interesting idea, though I would imagine not likely to catch public attention before the 2011 Royal Wedding has come and passed, for a variety of reasons you alluded to.

    On a light reading the Commonwealth Bill should further equality acts already in place, for instance the reformed House of Commons would contain equal proportions of both sexes. It is also refreshing to see that many functions currently under the Royal Prerogative would transfer to the reformed Parliament rather than to a potentially over-powering Presidential figure.

    The major issue I see with this legislation is that ultimately and inevitably it would result in the abolition of the Royal Family. Whilst they may serve a shadow of their former purpose they are still significantly symbolic for people visiting the UK, and if we were instead to establish ourselves as a constitutional Republic, we should endeavour to ensure (for tourism and historical reasons) that such heritage is not lost completely.

    Overall though I'm warming to the Republic ideology, purely because it would serve to straighten out the operational issues we have with our current devolutions of power, including National Parliaments..

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  2. It was a very daring proposal by the man. I mean, I didn't agree with everything that was in is book by any means, but I was intrigued nevertheless. In terms of guaranteeing equal representation of the sexes, I fear that it only solves part of the problem, as although doing this would counter the male gender dominance in parliament, there still would be other groups that could claim to be under-represented in parliament, and the last route I'd like them to go down is one of demographic quotas.

    In terms of the power of the president, I was initially sceptical of a purely ceremonial role until I took note of one of the reserve powers of the President of Ireland as an example, which is to refer laws to the supreme court if it is deemed to be unconstitutional. In some ways, I'd prefer a semi-presidential structure like France, but I realise that this would probably be unpalatable in this country.

    In terms of the link between the Royal family and tourism, I would be incredibly sad if the sole reason for anyone venturing to this country would be because of the presence of a monarch. Think of it the other way around; do we go to Germany because of their federal government structure, and the USA because of their executive president? I mean sure, in the case of the latter as with our own head of state, they are the human figurehead, but I think our history, which goes far beyond the actions of any single Monarch, is profound enough not to be solely based upon them.

    Just look at France for instance. No Royals and as such, people have the privilege of exploring beauties like the Palais de Versailles. I'm sure that if we became a republic, the buildings and such which are a in many ways a more potent display of our history and heritage than any single person, would remain.

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  3. Whilst I agree that no one single monarch is solely responsible or accountable for the UK's illustrious and deep history, I still feel that the total abolition of the monarchy would detract from a significant element of British culture in the eyes of those visiting this country (London in particular) for cultural purposes. Whilst the Queen herself is not accountable for the entirety of our past and culture, she is by biology more representative of previous heads of state than the Presidents of the United States.

    Of course the buildings would stand monument to the history of the country, though part of our culture at present derives from us being one of the last existing monarchies, and I continue to wonder whether a total abolition would serve to weaken that cultural draw. Whilst it would be disappointing if the presence of a monarch would be the sole reason for visiting the UK, it must be investigated to what extent their presence creates an intrigue in travelling here..

    I still find the Republicanism ideology to be beneficial to the United Kingdom for the future however, since the current devolutions of power would be somewhat repaired by a new modernised and more relevant structure. Whether or not this is likely to reach vote before the 2011 Royal Wedding comes and passes however is unfortunately unclear..

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  4. Ideologically I would support becoming a republic, with a figurehead president doing all the greeting and other PR stuff the current royal family does. But on the other hand I recognise the great work done by the queen and her close family including Charles(nice guy but dont think he should ever be king) and Anne. Its a difficult one the royal family ignites imaginations abroad which goes generate income from visiting tourists and also helps with brand GB. A president would not do this.

    I think in terms of running a series of presidents etc it would not be any cheaper to be a republic infact it would probably be more expensive. So again the pragmatic realist part of me is saying stick with the status quo. Then there is the sheer amount of work and money it would cost the country as a whole to change from the royal family to a republic.

    On the whole I think sticking with a royal family is for now preferable. Although I would like to see the civil list reduced even further in terms of the people covered and for how much personal income they get, but that's basically trimming around the edges. Seriously though do you want another gravy train for other washed up politicians, I mean come on president Cameron or Clegg ewwwwwwwwwwwwww!

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  5. @Sandlefish:

    It doesn't sit right with me, that that would be such a huge factor for people to choose to visit this country. I think the degree of her supposed representative power over our people is one of our greatest national myths. If the Queen herself, or at the most, the Monarchy, is a pulling factor of people visiting London, let's take a moment to consider the things that people might actually see on a visit. The closest you get to the Queen are the gates of Buckingham Palace and a few Queen's Guards stood around. The mystery in the draw is the false hope of seeing this Monarch.

    People have been truly duped into not questioning the sheer ridiculousness of deference that we afford to this elderly lady. I must admit, if she turned up at my door tomorrow, I'd probably feel inclined to do the same...but for what? Because she is my Head of State? Indeed, but her position is completely undemocratic. And if I am going to pursue knowledge for the goal of furthering genuine democracy, then henceforth, I should renounce my recognition of her role as legitimate.

    There are legions of perfectly capable, intelligent people who could fulfil the ceremonial role of the state, with the added merit of being elected by the people.

    I once spoke to an Afghani man at a bus stop last year. When he spoke about this country, his image of it was based on a country full of opportunity and prosperity. Sadly, we were both stood waiting for a badly delayed bus, as he lamented about the fact he couldn't find work. The presence of the Queen, I suspect, was the least of his interests in his choosing to come here.

    I simply refuse outright to accept that we should accept that she should be left where she is because she has been there for a long time and people are used to her.

    I realise this is a completely unpragmatic viewpoint. I realise the more realistic alternative is a long, drawn out process of dissolution, just as we always like it.

    Ever the way to stymie change!

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  6. @Jonkarra:

    Whilst I agree the the Royals are an important pulling factor to the UK, I must disagree with the belief that their absence would adversely affect the country. I think much of the pulling power of the UK owes more to its imperial history and aura than the present. It is the quirk of the anachronism which I believe draws people. It's seen as quaint, and for others, probably disbelief that there is this "modern" version of a medieval institution.

    I agree that a President wouldn't carry "brand GB", just as sure as I am that the Queen and the Royals don't either. There are thousands of people carrying that brand; our diplomats and ambassadors, British Council teachers abroad, heck, us, when we visit other countries and interact with the locals.

    This is the point I am trying to drive, the "we." We as individuals, not one sole person, arbitrarily chosen to be the leader of the pack. We owe ourselves so much more than to fall in line behind a monarch.

    I must say as well, that I do not believe that cost should be an issue when it comes to establishing genuine democracy. If we are willing to spend billions spreading 'democracy' to middle-eastern states, then I'm sure we can be prepared to spend millions on reforming our own system. Charity should always start at home first.

    I have little issue with the cost of the Head of State; but I have issue with the laity being denied the highest position in the country.

    This isn't about "gravy trains" for washed up politicians. It's about allowing people who are fit to govern to govern. It's about stating that only people with a democratic mandate through popular election, have the right to govern or preside. And more importantly, it's about allowing we the people, to have enshrined in a constitution, the fact that they work for us.

    If we are speaking of a ceremonial president then Cameron or Clegg would not be an issue in that position, since their main role would be to ensure that the government passes legislation in accordance with the constitution.

    Finally, under a system with a degree of separation of powers- though admittedly, it is difficult to separate the legislature from the executive in Westminster-style parliaments- I would expect the whims of a megalomaniac to be sufficiently curbed.

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