Comment: Anyone surviving in public office for this long is a sign of something wrong

To say the Queen has succeeded by 'not putting a foot wrong' is to miss the point of a head of state


Our political system is profoundly flawed. It is just about democratic, giving the people the once-every-five-years opportunity to elect less than half our parliamentarians. Then we’re locked out as power rushes back to the centre, to the prime minister and his ministers.

That’s one reason why we need to get rid of the Crown – the source of the prime ministers’s power – and introduce a new democratic constitution. A Westminster system made good, fully elected parliament and a head of state with a genuine role to play in the constitutional process. Not running the country but guarding our constitution and handling political crises when they arise.

It’s also a matter of principle, an opposition to hereditary public office and a need for an accountable head of state. That’s why today’s milestone is not a cause for celebration. Keeping a job-for-life for life is not an achievement, and instead reflects real need for radical democratic reform.

The Queen has survived this long in her role as head of state for one reason: she has never had to face election or be held to account. When anyone survives in public office for this long it is usually a sign of something wrong, either in the country’s constitution or in the political culture. There is either a lack of will to challenge that person or a lack of mechanism to remove them – or both.

To say the Queen has succeeded by ‘not putting a foot wrong’ is to miss the point of a head of state and to set the bar for success very low indeed. The Queen has said nothing and done little that anyone can remember over 63 years in office. So instead we see commentators and cheerleaders projecting the nation’s history, changes and achievements onto the monarch.

The reality is that the Queen has succeeded only in serving the monarchy and the status quo. It is now time for the country to look to the future and to choose a successor through free and fair elections, someone who can genuinely represent the nation. It is time to challenge the ‘done nothing wrong’ narrative and challenge royal abuse of public money, challenge the £334m a year price tag, challenge the secrecy and stop the royals meddling in politics.

It’s pretty simple really. There is a democratic alternative, a simple way to make our Westminster system genuinely representative from top to bottom. It works in Ireland and elsewhere, and we can make it work too, and then some.

Instead of a tired old hereditary institution that locks out the people, let’s have something that celebrates, symbolises and practices democratic values. Rather than celebrating an election-free reign, let’s celebrate the power of the people.

Graham Smith is the chief executive officer of Republic

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31 Responses to “Comment: Anyone surviving in public office for this long is a sign of something wrong”

  1. GhostofJimMorisson

    Coswallop! What we need to get rid of this largely undetected, undemocratic EU. These ‘tired old hereditary institutions, though far from perfect, are a part of of history, our identity, and our heritage. We do not have the moral jurisdiction or the right to dissolve them. What would we put in their place? How would Britain fare any better in the world as a Republic? How would other nations see us? Our Parliament and Monarchy are the envy of the world for millions. The power of the people is nothing but a prelude to revolution, anarchy, war, genocide and finally dictatorship. Something Britain has resisted while almost all of Europe was convulsed with huge social upheaval and turmoil.

  2. David Lindsay

    When Prince George was born, there were complaints that we now knew that our next three Heads of State, probably stretching into the next century, would all be white males. Well, they would all have been white males, anyway. The present one is not male. But any elected Head of this State always would be. And white. And quite or very posh. So why bother changing the present arrangements?

    No one with anything like the Royal Family’s foreign background would ever stand a hope of becoming the President of Britain. Nor would anyone aged 26, as the present Queen was when she came to the Throne. Nor would anyone aged 89, as she is now.

    The Royal Family is not at the pinnacle of the class system. That is the old Noble Houses of England and Scotland, who look down on the Royals as immigrant noovs, an unfortunate political necessity from the eighteenth century. That was the root of the trouble with Diana. She had married down. Time was when the Spencers, then the richest family in the Kingdom, had even bankrolled the indigent Hanoverians.

    Liberty is the freedom to be virtuous, and to do anything not specifically proscribed. Equality is the means to liberty, and is never to be confused with mechanical uniformity; it includes the Welfare State, workers’ rights, consumer protection, local government, a strong Parliament, public ownership, and many other things. And fraternity is the means to equality, for example, in the form of trade unions, co-operatives, credit unions, mutual guarantee societies and mutual building societies, among numerous that could be cited.

    Liberty, equality and fraternity are therefore inseparable from nationhood, a space in which to be unselfish. Thus from family, the nation in miniature, where unselfishness is first learned. And thus from property, each family’s safeguard both against over-mighty commercial interests and against an over-mighty State, therefore requiring to be as widely diffused as possible, and thus the guarantor of liberty as here defined.

    The family, private property and the State must be protected and promoted on the basis of their common origin and their interdependence, such that the diminution or withering away of any one or two of them can only be the diminution and withering away of all three of them. All three are embodied by monarchy.

    Monarchy also embodies the principle of sheer good fortune, of Divine Providence conferring responsibilities upon the more fortunate towards the less fortunate. It therefore provides an excellent basis for social democracy, as has proved the case in the United Kingdom, in the Old Commonwealth, in Scandinavia and in the Benelux countries.

    Allegiance to a monarchy is allegiance to an institution embodied by a person, rather than to an ethnicity or an ideology as the basis of the State. As Bernie Grant understood, and as one rather expects that Diane Abbott understands, allegiance to this particular monarchy, with its role in the Commonwealth, is a particular inoculation against racism. No wonder that the National Party abolished it in South Africa. No wonder that the Rhodesian regime followed suit, and removed the Union Flag from that of Rhodesia, something that not even the Boers’ revenge republic ever did. No wonder that the BNP wants (or wanted, since it now scarcely exists) to abolish the monarchy here.

    It was Margaret Thatcher who mounted an assault on the monarchy, since she scorned the Commonwealth, social cohesion, historical continuity, and public Christianity. She called the Queen “the sort of person who votes for the SDP”, and she arrogated to herself the properly monarchical and royal role on the national and international stages. She used her most popular supporting newspaper to vilify the Royal Family.

    When the Sex Pistols sang of a “Fascist regime” in the Britain of 1977, then they were referring to a Labour Cabinet with Tony Benn in it. Benn had also been the Postmaster General who had taken on the pirate radio stations in order to protect the livelihoods of the unionised musicians. The fans of pirate radio and then of the Sex Pistols went on to elect Thatcher three times, and did not vote Labour at another General Election until Tony Blair had come along, giving him a third term as Prime Minister even two years after the invasion of Iraq.

    God Save The Queen, Comrades.

    God Save The Queen.

  3. steroflex

    OK so Jeremy Corbyn is our new elected President and the Deputy President is Nigel Farage. Both very popular choices.
    Can you see the Church of England going along with that? Isn’t it better to let it die quietly?
    Can you see the remains of the proud British Army serving – and dying – for Jeremy Corbyn?
    What about the Law? How much longer would it be full of unelected judges? And what about other ancient relics like habeas corpus? With terrorism?
    Republicanism did not work in ancient Rome. It looks very good on paper and in speeches and in clever columns like this one.
    Once you spell it out, it really does not wash.
    PS The late Jim Morisson is quite right: in 2017 we will be asked to vote on Associate Membership of the Federal Republic of Europe.

  4. Robert

    This is specious nonsense. It may well be that any future President, like any future monarch, would be a white male – but the difference would be that he’d be elected by popular mandate, and that he could be voted out again. What’s more, liberty, equality and fraternity may be inseparable from nationhood but they’re not inseparable from monarchy. France defines itself by those three words but it’s doing OK – and we don’t see its people rushing to reintroduce a royal lineage.

  5. Robert

    “Clever column” = sound argument, and it’s countered here by pretty groundless scaremongering. Oh and by the way: the Roman Republic endured for 500 years.

  6. David Lindsay

    They fawn over the British and Monegasque Royal Families instead, and they lap up popular history and historical fiction about their own Royal past. Most people just laugh at the theory, which they are still devoutly taught in school, that France somehow began in 1789. It is still within living memory that de Gaulle seriously considered restoring the monarchy, specifically in order to grant British levels of stability. The stability without which there could have been no 1945 Settlement. It is no wonder than Attlee ended up an earl, a Knight of the Garter, a member of the Order of Merit, and a Companion of Honour.

  7. steroflex

    And the monarchy? Just 500 years ago it was run by an equally brilliant and devoted queen.
    Simple, effective, and no question about who is the new monarch.
    How about, say, Mrs Thatcher as President? Or John Major perhaps?

  8. steroflex

    John Prestcott for President!

  9. David Lindsay

    He’ll be CH before he dies.

  10. Robert

    More scare-mongering. The point is that an elected President – whoever he or she is – would be there by the will of the majority, no matter what you or I think about that choice.
    Elections, too, are simple, effective and clear. Unlike a monarchy, they also have the merit of being democratic.

  11. F*** THE TORIES


  12. Robert

    I see. Now we’re arguing about what the French really want, and conveniently ignoring the question of electoral principle. Such fun.

  13. David Lindsay

    You mentioned the French.

    The only ever British Government ever to have been composed predominantly of anti-monarchists was the Blair Government. Think on.

  14. Andy Buckley

    Can you explain how our monarchy is the envy of the world? A celebrity reality show that titillates people the world over, and happens to be publicly funded. Curiosity is not the same as envy. What does our hereditary monarchy actually contribute?

    Obviously it’s a good deal for the Windsors, who get massive public subsidy for luxury lifestyles and legal protection from scrutiny, in exchange for no expertise or oversight. I can do that! But what has it done for the good of the country as a whole? I’m genuinely curious to see if anyone can point at any concrete achievements (and not the old “they bring in tourists” canard)

  15. Asteri

    Anything that keeps British politicians away from a presidency is worth it. I shudder at the thought of “President Blair of the Federal Republic of Britain.

  16. Robert

    You implicitly mentioned the French first by quoting liberty, equality and fraternity.
    And you don’t need to be a Blairite to be anti-monarchist, any more than you need to be smart to support the monarchy. As you say, think on.

  17. David Lindsay

    You implicitly mentioned the French first by quoting liberty, equality and fraternity.

    Well, there really is no answer to that.

  18. Robert

    David, I’ve been thinking about my previous comment and I apologise for being rude.

  19. TN

    Stalinist twat.

  20. TN

    Joyless left wing navel gazing losers, finding something else to whine about. Guess what, poll after poll shows overwhelming support for the Queen.

    I don’t know how things will pan out after her time, but stop complaining already. Miserable killjoys.

    LFF and James Bloodworth LOVE to talk about inequality. Well even if the Monarchy is abolished it’ll still exist.

  21. NoSpaceName

    You say very little about what the point of a head of state is, which would require us to vote for one, or make such an election meaningful. The monarchy in Britain has survived by doing the minimum necessary in political terms, getting out of the way as much as possible. This means that in political terms it would make absolutely no difference at all to most people if the head of state was elected instead.

    What would make a difference would be if, say, the voting system for the House of Commons was changed to STV, so that the massive number of wasted votes under FPTP was reduced, and a putative PM would have to win the support of around 50% of the voters, either directly or through coalition.

  22. David Lindsay

    You are very kind.

  23. robertcp

    What we need is a different voting system to elect the House and numerous other reforms. Abolishing the monarch is so far down the list that it has disappeared. Numerous European countries prove that constitutional monarchy is totally compatible with liberal and social democracy.

  24. robertcp

    I agree.

  25. jj

    How dull!!
    Like most of LFF, joyless misery!

  26. jj

    What in heavens name is the point of a president when we have a PM?
    The monarchy rakes in 200 million a year for the UK economy, argue with those who are directly or indirectly employed by the monarchy, and you may realise why it needs to stay

  27. ted francis

    What nonsense. It is the fabric, buildings, ceremony, tradition not individuals that bring in the tourists. Vide Paris, Venice, Rome etc. The tourists rarely see any of the Windsor clan.

  28. jj

    It isn’t just tourism, that’s the thing, thousands are employed by the monarchy, directly and indirectly.

  29. ted francis

    The house of Grimaldi “fawned over”? I don’t think so. There are many in France who are know of the Windsors’ original name and their friendship with the Nazi gang of barbarians. The teaching is that the Republic of France was created in 1798 as a reaction to the excesses of monarchy. As for Attlee’s gongs, how else could he have been honoured – canonisation?

  30. Selohesra

    Electing a head of state can be very divisive – even supposedly popular leaders such as Obama got only just over half the votes and its not beyond the realms of possibility that France end up with the embarrassment of Le Pen as President. The Queen being apolitical is someone a far greater proportion of the country can unite around

  31. Paul Toplis

    The queen has no political power, she’s just a simbolic head of state, what we don’t need is a political head of state. We need electoral reform, PR and reform/abolition of the house of lords.

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