The Gryphon asks: Should Britain abolish its monarchy?
Yes – Rory Claydon:
Only a few days ago, the nation was abuzz with news. It wasn’t news of junior doctors striking, refugees, or indeed, anything that matters – instead, the media decided that we all needed to know about the Queen’s 90th Birthday. Even monarchists must admit the wide coverage seems excessive, and it goes to show what an outdated institution it is.
I’m reminded of news of the royal baby, with the constant coverage getting tiresome after just a single day. The very fact the BBC had a ‘Royal Correspondent’ constantly on the scene to check when a woman, whom the majority of viewers will never meet, was giving birth makes it seem like we are still servants of the crown, rather than free citizens. Why should we need to know when someone gave birth, or when someone reaches ninety? No-one else gets that coverage, but the royals get it by right. It solidifies inequality when it’s clear that we raise one family on a pedestal whom didn’t earn their respective positions through hard-work or talent but by simply getting lucky in the lottery of birth.
And, for an institution that doesn’t really do, well, much we still see fit to pour money upon the royals. Indeed according to the organisation Republic, Royal funding has increased by 38% in the past five years. That’s a huge waste of taxpayers’ money. It could be better spent combating poverty – but I suppose the monarchy solidifies such attitudes. We can pour money on grandiose ceremonies whilst people starve, it’s a very medieval attitude for an institution that indeed was created to lift one family above the peasantry.
I also find fault with the very idea of a monarchy in general. The fact that our head of state is unelectable, unaccountable and worst of all simply born into the job is outrageous. There is no way a layperson could line themselves up for a position in the head of state. It doesn’t send out a great democratic message if the head of state is simply there by birth right.
It’s about time Britain joined the 21st century and became a republic. The head of state should be an elected, accountable figure whom everyone has the chance of running for. Monarchists may argue that it brings in money – but I’d like to think that people don’t just come to Britain to see one family, and reducing our country to simply one family doesn’t seem all that patriotic despite the flags that the monarchists wrap themselves in. Britain shouldn’t be a country where a child is born into royalty with constant rolling coverage and praise, whilst 3.5 million children grow up in poverty. That isn’t something that makes me proud to be British.
It’s an institution that’s outdated and unnecessary – the constant media coverage and the staggering amounts of wealth we throw at them is sickeningly excessive. Britain should be a place where its people are citizens, but whilst the monarchy remains, we are simply subjects.
No – Michael Everritt:
After the London Olympics, the repurposed park needed a new name. The obvious answer was to name it after one of the athletes, but which one? To choose a white athlete would bring accusations of racism. To choose a male athlete would bring accusations of sexism. To choose an Olympic athlete would bring accusations of prejudice against Paralympians. To choose a black, female and disabled athlete would bring accusations of tokenism.
Caught between a rock and a hard place, the decision was made to name the park after the queen. No one was particularly happy with that idea, which made it the only option everyone agreed on.
In an age when what it means to be British is in constant flux, the monarchy is an eternal constant. When we learn our history, we begin with the monarch of the time and work our way down. As institutions rise and fall, the monarchy endures. Five centuries from now, school history books will contain a chapter titled “New Elizabethans.”
Is there someone more worthy of representing this period of our history? Each period of our history is messy and complicated. It would be all but impossible for us to identify a single individual that is representative of our age. Worse still, the nature of the representative individual would vary considerably from one age to the next.
Even in the here and now, there is good reason for accepting the monarch as our representative. In the global market place, brand recognition is important. Say the word ‘Britain’ to any citizen of any foreign nation and the vast majority will doubtless think of the queen. To put it frankly, we need the queen in the same way that Disney needs Mickey Mouse.
Our little nation might so easily be forgotten when the big boys sit around the negotiating table. Consider the global success of films like The Queen and The Kings Speech, contrasted with the failure of the arguably more representative Made in Dagenham. Like it or not, our monarchy is an inexorable part of our brand identity.
Might there not be a way of appointing a more representative head of state? To adopt a presidential system would prevent us from treating our head of government with the contempt he deserves. To attack the US president is, by extension, to attack the nation he represents. To attack the Prime Minister is to attack an individual, which rightly makes him all the more vulnerable.
You could hold a popular vote, if you wanted to put being appointed head of state on a par with winning The X-Factor. In an age of celebrity, when charlatans like Donald Trump can win popular support, we must be wary of validating popular opinion. The beauty of the monarchy is that it rises above what is currently trendy.
At the end of the day, the only person who can represent all of us is someone who represents none of us, someone who is objectively not one of us.
Image courtesy of Reuters