Radical constitutional change in the United Kingdom is long overdue.
The term 'republicanism' is often associated with the right-wing US party of the same name or with Irish nationalism, but although its extent is limited, British republicanism, which opposes the monarchy, does exist.
This branch of political thought is small as shown consistently in opinion polls, but there are some key supporting figures.
Jeremy Corbyn is well-known for being opposed to the monarchy although as Labour leader he has said it removing the monarchy is not a priority. The Green Party of England and Wales also have a pro-republic stance while campaign-group Republic has been making the case to abolish the monarchy since 1983.
In some ways, Jeremy Corbyn is right. There are more pressing issues than the removing the monarchy, especially in the context of other reforms to the way Britain is governed, but if large-scale change is to take place, removing the monarchy should be considered alongside other transformations.
Let’s be realistic, with Queen Elizabeth II on the throne, who is well-respected world-wide, there is no chance of change. There is a strong argument that the current strong support for the monarchy is closely tied to support for the Queen, but the future presents opportunities for a reformation of the way we choose our head of state.
At the heart of the argument for reform is the opposition to the idea that the UK’s head of state – our representative on the international stage – should be appointed because they happen to be born into one extremely privileged family. The idea of coincidence supplanting democratic will is frankly ridiculous. Of course, having an elected leader of some description will not give everyone an equal chance of becoming leader as we do not live in a society of equal opportunities, but we should strive to meet that liberal ideal.
Everyone deserves to be eligible to run to represent the country.
“But what about tourism?”, I hear you ask. “What about the hundreds of thousands of visitors that come from across the world to see the Queen?” The idea that tourism would take a sharp tumble if the monarchy was removed is hyperbole. Other countries such as France and the USA, which each have booming tourist industries, manage perfectly well without the monarchy, and besides, the tourism industry could take advantage of all the things the monarchy offered such as the various palaces and castles.
The monarchy should thus be part of Britain's history and therefore part of its tourist industry - not its present.
“But what about having a head of state above politics? One who represents the nation.” This is a compelling argument, but there are ways of having an elected head of state without party politics. If we were to go down the American or French routes, that would not be the case, but a softer approach where a British president had very limited powers - or only ceremonial ones - and renounced their party ahead of running would keep that element in place.
Not everyone will support change, as is shown consistently with opinion polls, but with a new monarch on the cards in the next decade or so, and with parties in countries like Australia actively considering getting rid of the monarchy, there is time for change.
But change should come as part of a package of changes to modernise and British democracy:
- Removing Britain’s archaic FPTP system in favour of some form of proportional representation is a must to ensure that we have a parliament that represents the people.
- Installing an elected upper-chamber or one similar to Germany’s Bundesrat that represents all corners of the country is a must.
- Introducing an elected constitution where the rights of citizens and the rights of different levels of government (resulting in a federal arrangement) are protected will bring us into the 21st century.
In June 2016, we supposedly took control of our country and rejected the “undemocratic” European Union. If that is the narrative we are taking, then let’s reform the UK as well.
Let's take back control.