The Queen has been our monarch and head of state for 63 years. But is it something we should celebrating? Check out our two writer’s contrasting opinions on whether we should still have a monarchy!
No. We Should Keep the Monarchy
Naked Politics Blogger
Recent events have reignited the debate about the need to reform the House of Lords. However, the spotlight – and questions of reform with it – have now moved to Queen Elizabeth II and the monarchy due to her recently becoming the longest reigning British monarch, sitting on the throne for a total of 63 years and 216 days.
Firstly, it is important to note that despite official and formal mechanisms demonstrating that the monarch wields power, in reality the Queen is merely a ceremonial figure, fulfilling duties on behalf of the government. If the Queen did attempt to violate this unwritten rule, she would likely be forced out. Walter Bagehot (1826 – 1877) provided a succinct analysis of the monarchy’s powers, which is equally applicable to the modern era. The Sovereign has three rights, “the right to be consulted, the right to encourage, the right to warn.” The Queen lives up to this parallelism, which explicitly only allows for soft power. She has overseen 12 Prime Ministers. Many of whom have sought advice from the Queen because of her long-standing and independent expertise. The unique position of the monarch allows for a politically weak, but very useful figure in British Politics.
Aside from red buses and underage binge drinking, connotations of Britain often include the picturesque Queen. Polls depict her as having extremely high levels of domestic support. Indeed, many polls are so favourable to the monarchy that if a referendum was held now on abolition, the Queen would retain her position.
The Queen is not just popular amongst Brits. She is also a key figure in the British tourism industry. At a cost of 69p per person, the Royal family is a significant investment in the British economy. Tourism is the third highest export earner for the UK, behind only chemicals and the financial services industries. Approximately one in twelve jobs are supported by the tourism industry. The rich history and culture of the Monarchy are critical to this success. In 2009, out of 30 million overseas visitors who came to Britain, 5.8 million visited castles. A recent study suggested that Kate Middleton’s birth equated to a fiscal stimulus amounting to $400 million dollars. Critics will find it hard to critique the economic prosperity that only a Monarchy can attract, enmeshed within their unique charisma, identity, culture, and history.
There are further benefits that are often overlooked. The Queen holds frequent public engagements, with a wide variety of organisations. In her reign has conferred in excess of 400,000 honours. The Queen is also patron to 510 charities in Britain and has raised an astonishing amount of £1.4 billion over her lifetime. She still fulfils the pledge she made in her 21st birthday speech,
“I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service.”
To conclude, many critiques levelled at the Queen are due to so-called distortions in our democracy. However, this is not true. The Queen is largely a ceremonial figure. Indeed, if any monarch was to overreach their lines of soft power, they should be removed. This is almost certainly never going to happen. With that acknowledged, we should appreciate the unique position and services that the monarchy offers the British people and economy.
Yes. We Should Abolish the Monarchy.
Editor of Naked Politics
I realise that what I’m about to argue isn’t going to be popular. I am aware that many British people have a deep feeling of sentimentality for the British monarchy and after reading this will come to the conclusion that I am a joy-less, unpatriotic twerp. But bear with me.
I’m not going to spout statistics about how much money The Queen does or doesn’t make for tourism in the UK, whether it’s made directly through having a royal family or not. Nor am I going to dispute that she costs 69p per person every year. Nor would I say that she hasn’t presented herself with decorum and dignity throughout her reign. Because all of these disputes are a foil, a distraction from the real issue. Having a monarchy is untenable, based on principle.
If we believe in Britain that democracy and living in a meritocracy (i.e.: where people are given jobs based on merit) are core values, where does the institution of the monarchy fit into this? There’s the rub; having a royal family is an unavoidable concession to these values. To live under such immense taxpayer-funded privilege, and given the title head of state, purely because you’ve come out of the right vagina is the definition of nepotism. Whatever people wish to say about The Queen being purely a figurehead, this may be true in law but in actuality, the whole family still has a considerable amount of leverage and influence. It’s a well-known fact that Prince Charles has repeatedly written to various governments about policies he would like to see implemented.
If left leaning people, as they often want to do, criticise David Cameron for being a posh toff, why do they then sing the Royal family’s praises in the same breath? Whatever my opinions about David Cameron might be, and the fact that he has probably been helped out a lot by his social background to rise to the political level he has, at least he’s been elected to that position of power. That gives his position democratic validity, which is more than can be said for the royals.
Make no mistake, we live in a country, which in terms of class, is deeply divided. There is an increasingly bigger gap between the haves and the have-nots. That is not the fault of the royal family by any means; but having a symbol of class snobbery, and undue privilege particularly at a time like this does little to ease these divides and really makes my stomach churn. The Queen opening Parliament a few months ago by telling us all that we must live within our means, whilst dripping in jewels and wearing a crown worth more than my family house is the most ridiculously ironic thing I have ever seen. As sweet and lovely as I’m sure The Queen is (having worked in a care home, I do also have quite a soft spot for elderly people!) there is no question that on principle, her position is untenable. So whilst people celebrate her 63 year rule, I think the time has never been better for us to have a proper elected head of state and for Queen Lizzie to hang up her crown once and for all.