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The voice of modern republicanism
2009 | Issue 4
New B o for sa ok See p le age 5
We, the people
Republic pledges to put popular sovereignty at heart of reform agenda
See page 4
Republic joins Battle of Ideas over reform Bid to stop royal FOI changes launched 2010 Appeal breaks donations record
Back issues and more at www.republic.org.uk/imagine
G! MU 9 A IN AGE W P
2 | Imagine
Freedom of Information rules to be challenged
Republic has launched a campaign to stop the government from introducing an absolute exemption from Freedom of Information rules for the royal household. As we reported in the last edition of Imagine, the government is planning to remove that public interest test. This essentially means that they believe the interests of the royals outweigh those of the public, an extraordinary claim for our own government to make.
2010 Appeal gets huge response raises thousands in two weeks
“Republic has made so much progress in alerting the public to the misuse of power by the royals and the need for a proper republican alternative that it deserves our support.” “Republic has made a lot of progress in the past two years - let's keep that momentum moving.” These are just two of the many of messages of support we received in response to our 2010 Appeal, which we launched at short notice last month.
“In other words, secrecy is a fundamental principle of the British constitution.”
£10,000 was raised in two weeks.
difference and helps to ensure that our campaign will keep growing, into 2010 and beyond. On behalf of everyone at Republic – staff, directors and volunteers – thank you for your support. But we're not out of hot water yet. We must raise the final £5,000 before the end of the year, so if you haven't donated yet please consider making a generous contribution. You can donate online or simply return the form attached to the cover letter that came with this edition of Imagine. We rely on the support of individual republicans to keep doing what we do – holding the royal household to account and making a positive case for a new republican constitution. Now, more than ever, we need your support. I'll leave the last word to another Republic member who supported the 2010 Appeal: “Republic is the only organisation that stands for true and meaningful democratic reform. If I ever win the lottery there will be a large wad going their way, not just 25 quid!”
In a statement the government said: “In relation to Cabinet information, and information relating to the Royal Household, it has become clear that those safeguards are insufficiently robust to protect our current constitutional arrangements, and need changing." In other words, secrecy is a fundamental principle of the British constitution. Republic believes that rather than increasing secrecy to protect our constitutional arrangements we should be reforming our constitution. Lynne Jones MP has tabled a Commons motion in a bid to raise this issue in parliament. We’ll be lobbying hard to help Lynne block this move and we have already had a good response from members who have been writing to their MPs. Further work is being done to highlight the issue in the media and with party leaders.
“If you haven’t donated yet please consider making a generous contribution.”
As you will know, Republic recently received the news that one of our regular sources of funding will be cut as a result of the recession. If we are not able to raise the £15,000 shortfall before the end of the year we will have to look seriously at scaling back the campaign. On receiving the news, we immediately wrote to all our members explaining the situation and set up a dedicated page on our website with a specially created fundraising video. The response was overwhelming. At the time of going to press we have raised over £10,000 – two thirds of our total target – in just two weeks. Your donations have ranged from £5 to £1,000. Every gift makes a huge
Imagine | 3
So they say...
Send your letters to firstname.lastname@example.org
I joined in the "debate" on the Conservative Home site, prompted by Republic, when the issue of the Royal Family arose. There was no debate from the royal supporters beyond insisting the royal family offered stability and held politicians in check. From one man in particular, paroxysms of fury, at those who dared to question this. This character was all over the "discussion" attempting to respond to every comment. His approach was to state over and over that he knew that the royals were best and to ask why republicans were obsessed by the silly "fetish" of democracy. As his anger rose his vulgarity did the same: lavatorial references to republicans urinating on UK values, toilets flushing and references to s**t. This is a fundamentalist faith which is not open to debate and ready to whip itself into a fury at any opposition to their "goddess" or even her image. One royalist stated that most of the republicans were "professional lawyers" and seemed to regard this as such a moral defect that they had nothing worthwhile to offer. Why this should be so or how he knew was not explained. James Macintyre, in his The Politics Column, in The New Statesman of 5 October referred to "the fanatical Tory blogosphere". But criticise the royals and mere fanaticism falls short of describing this lot. What we see here is more like a cross between fundamentalist religionists and a lynch mob. Question their superstitious veneration of even a picture of their sacred object and the slim hold they have of reality is gone. Denis Watkins Wales We claim to live in a democracy, yet our head of state is chosen by the Windsor womb, not the ballot box. Liam Finn (Republic member) — The more I studied the workings of the House of Windsor, the more of a republican I became. It may have started as disillusion with Prince Charles, a born abuser of his hereditary privileges, content to use his unelected office to put leading British architects out of business with his cheap one-liners. But it grew into something much more fundamental. Anthony Holden — Morally, the monarchy is injurious. It makes affluent parasitism respectable. Piers Brendon — I think this is one of the greatest myths, that the monarchy has no power. The monarchy has immense constitutional power. Professor Adam Tomkins Send your quotes to email@example.com
Multi-million pound Civil List hike target of Republic lobbying
Buckingham palace is currently negotiating a multi-million pound increase in the Civil List when it comes up for renewal next year. Under a law introduced in the early 1970s the Civil List is reviewed every ten years, but it can only go up or be frozen, parliament can’t cut the payments without repealing that 1971 law. As Britain continues to face tough economic times and all political parties talk about sweeping public service cuts Republic believes it is, at best, crass to start lobbying for a huge increase in payments to the royal family. Instead the Windsors should be looking at ways to cut their inflated expenditure. Republic has already received a number of emails from MPs appalled at the prospect of a Civil List increase, and we received a promise from George Osborne that a Conservative government will not protect the Civil List from public spending cuts. Further lobbying will take place in early 2010 to ensure any proposed increase is strongly opposed in parliament. A decision must be made by July.
Imagine The magazine of Republic Republic PO Box 69 Brighton BN50 9GS 08708 508 825 firstname.lastname@example.org Back issues of Imagine and more information about the magazine can be found online at www.republic.org.uk/imagine. Members Let us know if you would prefer your copy by post or email.
4 | Imagine
Republic pledges central role in reform movement
over story . . . cover story . . .
The parliamentary expenses scandal has pushed the issue of constitutional reform further up the political agenda than ever before. People right across the country are coming to the view that the way we do politics has to change. Republic has pledged to place itself at the heart of the constitutional reform debate, which is why we have signed up as partners to the Power 2010 campaign and why we’ll be campaigning on constitutional reform issues in the lead up to the next general election. One of the big mistakes pro-reform campaigners have made in the past has been to dismiss the issue of the monarchy, to compromise on the key
cover story . . .
cover story . . .
cover story . . . cover story . . .
AGM adopts Statement of Principles
Republic was able to report a solid record of growth in media exposure.
Republicans from across the country gathered in London in October for Republic's 2009 Annual General Meeting. Republic's Executive Chair John Campbell updated members on another successful year which saw membership and media coverage grow dramatically. Graham Smith explained the strategy behind this growth and described some of the key events and initiatives of the previous twelve months. This year's financial report was the first to be presented by Republic's new Treasurer Suzanne Campbell, a director of the campaign for over six years. Suzanne explained that Republic's accounts would be presented in a new format to meet the rigorous reporting standards of the voluntary sector. Two important decisions were made by the AGM this year. The first was to protect the privacy of Republic members by establishing an unincorporated association in addition to the limited company. The second was to adopt a new statement of principles reflecting the core values of republicanism. All motions were passed by a clear majority. The statement of principles, which has been placed on Republic’s website, raised a number of issues which were debated at some length. The statement sets out the basis for our republicanism and commitment to a more democratic Britain, answering some key objections put to us in the course of the campaign. Professor Stephen Haseler, former Chair of Republic, was awarded life membership for his services to republicanism. Stephen gave a wideranging and humorous speech that touched on all aspects of the republican case. A lively question and answer session followed.
“Republic believes power should belong to the people by right. It should be “we the people” who are delegating power.”
issue of popular sovereignty, the idea that “we the people” must be in charge. The debate has too often been couched in terms of people asking if the government would be kind enough to delegate power. Republic believes power should belong to the people by right. It should be “we the people” who are delegating power to our politicians. This is the message we’ll be taking to MPs, candidates and the media in the lead up to the next election, a time when our constitution will be on full display for all to see, even more so if we end up with a hung parliament and the Queen choosing our PM.
Imagine | 5
Republic has recently secured the backing of Paul Heaton, formerly of bands The Beautiful South and House Martins. Also joining the cause are comic, actor and writer Robin Ince and heavy metal front-man Mark Greenway. You can find out more about our high profile supporters by visiting our website at www.republic.org.uk/supporters. We had a packed venue for Anthony Holden’s talk at the Plough pub in central London. A month earlier we had an excellent event in Hampstead, at which Jonathan Bartley, from Christian think tank Ekklesia, spoke about his republican convictions. A parliamentary reception was held in early November to launch our new Freedom of Information campaign. MPs Lynne Jones, Brian Iddon and Doug Naysmith were there, all of whom have since put their names to a new Commons motion calling for the proposed FOI changes to be dropped. News from around the Commonwealth has been encouraging. A visit by Charles and Camilla to Canada was met with varying degrees of hostility and indifference. A visit to Australia by Edward Windsor was virtually ignored by the press, while the debate continues to grow in New Zealand, not least thanks to the hard work of our counter parts in the NZ republican movement. Graham Smith recently visited Oxford University and Eton college to deliver talks and participate in debates on the issue of republicanism. Remarks made by a Labour candidate about the Queen ended up helping our cause as the incident prompted a raft of calls for media interviews.
NEW BOOK OUT NOW
A new collection of essays has been published by Republic to mark the 200th anniversary of the death of Thomas Paine. The book, Good Company: Ideas on Modern Republicanism, includes essays from Michael Mansfield, Claire Rayner, Peter Tatchell and others. You can purchase a copy online at www.republic.org.uk/shop or by sending a cheque for £4.99 to the usual address (with your name, address and write ‘Good Company’ on the back of the cheque.)
Making the case for real change
Our recent Annual Membership Survey (see page 8) has shown that you, like me, support a whole range of other democratic reforms in addition to the abolition of the monarchy. I'm afraid however that there is all too often a sense of “tinkering around the edges” in the constitutional reform movement. Republicans know that the one key reform from which all others must follow is the abolition of the monarchy and the adoption of a new constitution based on the power of the people – not the Crown. You'll often hear our current constitutional ragbag described as “flexible”. In fact, it's the exact opposite. Jack Straw recently announced that it could take another fifteen years to make the upper house fully elected. That means the whole process will have taken over 100 years in all! Far from being flexible, our constitution is clearly an obstacle to democratic reform
Message from the Chair John Campbell
way we do politics. That's why Republic is working hard to put republican principles at the heart of the wider constitutional reform movement. It's been another fantastic year for Republic which has seen dramatic growth in membership and media coverage. Our supporter base – that's you – is now more active and engaged than ever. I've no doubt that 2010 will see more exciting developments as our movement gets bigger, stronger and louder. With the fantastic response we’ve had to our survey and our recent 2010 appeal, I’m more certain than ever that we have what it takes to get the job done. On behalf of everyone at Republic, have a peaceful festive season and a prosperous New Year
“By abolishing the monarchy we treat ourselves to a unique opportunity to protect our liberties and rights.”
By abolishing the monarchy we treat ourselves to a unique opportunity to protect our liberties and rights by limiting the powers of those we choose to govern us. And in the process we can seriously examine – for the first time – the full range of democratic reforms and decide together which ones will improve the
6 | Imagine
Aspiration over fear
This is an issue our country needs to face up to. It is a real issue of real politics. This is about Britain, today, how we govern ourselves, how we relate to each other and to our politicians, how we manage power in this complex and modern society. So let’s cut to the chase. The monarchy must be abolished. It serves no useful purpose for the people of this country, yet it provides limitless power to the government and to our politicians. And it provides a regal cloak for that power, a cloak that deflects serious debate about our politics and the power our politicians wield.
From among our nation of 60m not one person can contend with Charles?
absurd assertion completely at odds with the truth. And it is a simple truth: Our politicians are promonarchy because our monarchy is pro-politician. It gives them more power than they could ever wish for. Monarchists will tell you the British people couldn’t possibly elect someone better than Charles Windsor to do the job of Head of State. In one breath insulting this great nation of thinkers, leaders, entrepreneurs, artists, inventors, explorers and accomplished soldiers. Not only are the British people too stupid to make the choice – monarchists claim – but from among our nation of 60 million not one person can contend with the genetically ordained virtues of Charles Windsor, or Harry. Monarchists will tell you that who we were born to is more important than what we achieve. They will tell you that the Windsors are “trained from birth” for the job. But consider this: Britain is a great country, an accomplished, modern and sophisticated society. We are an advanced society, with technology our great grandfathers could barely have dreamt of when they were young. Who made this country what it is? Doctors, scientists, intellectuals, engineers, leaders, explorers, businessmen and women, Nobel laureates, artists and entrepreneurs.
“Monarchists will tell you the British people couldn’t possibly elect someone better than Charles Windsor to do the job.”
Monarchists will tell you monarchy provides stability: But tell that to the dozens of nations plunged into civil war, conflict and revolution over the past two centuries – a litany of monarchical instability and chaos that has led to all but a handful of nations becoming republics. Monarchists will carry on about tourism: A vacuous and irrelevant distraction without evidence. Monarchists will tell you our Queen keeps power from our politicians: An
“Flying to the moon anyone can learn, being head of state? That’s a job only for Royals.”
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Did these people receive “training from birth” to achieve greatness? No, they grew up in a challenging world, competing against their peers, against the normal pressures of life. And in their adulthood they strived for success and they got there. And yet monarchists insult the greatest people of our country by demanding that the position of head of state must be reserved for the Windsor family, because they have been “trained from birth”. Flying to the moon anyone can learn, being head of state? That’s a job only for Royals. Of course monarchists will tell you that there is no alternative, no other system of government has yet been
Imagine | 7
devised that could replace our monarchy. They’ll say republicans can’t agree on an alternative and cannot say what that alternative might be. And in an appeal to apathy and inaction they’ll claim it’s just all too difficult, so let’s not bother to aspire to a better way of doing things, let’s just stick with what we’ve got. Theirs is a creed of fear, of clinging to what they know, it is a belief founded on distrust of the people. And this is sad, as there are serious, important issues at stake. There are fundamental questions facing Britain’s politics: these are questions of power – who has it, how do they get it, in whose interests are they exercising it and how can they be held accountable for it?
Military manoeuvres: Royals, regiments and chests full of medals
The Queen lays the first wreath at the foot of the Cenotaph and bows. She is followed one by one by the other adult members of her immediate family, all in military uniform. This year Prince Harry lays a wreath for the first time, representing his father who is on an official visit to Canada. After the ceremony, which marks so many tragically shortened lives, the Queen stands motionless as God is implored to extend hers. The official Remembrance Sunday ceremony is a powerful reminder of just how deeply the monarchy and the military are intertwined in the popular imagination.
Royals and military “intertwined”.
hardly be stronger. After 14 years in the Navy and Marines he became a caseworker for an ex-forces charity. “When I watched Edward Windsor on TV, laying a wreath at a war memorial, and with his little uniform and all of his medals, I only feel shame and disgust” he says. “Shame that we can allow this person to represent the courageous men and women who have given up their lives for their country and disgust that the Windsor family can carry on the pretence of 'serving us'.” Geoff Harries, a republican who served for 14 years in the RAF, has a more nuanced view of the royals' part in the proceedings. “The royal family have a right and duty - as we all do - to remember those who gave their lives in defence of this country” he says. But Harries resents the fact that the media has made the Windsor family the focal point of the Remembrance events. “My focus is on my own act of remembrance - two friends of mine were killed in Aden during the emergency of 1967.” As for the military careers of the royals, both Scullion and Sutton describe them as “a joke”. “It has always been the case that the Windsors would never be put in a
“I want Britain to have the very best, the best of everything and that means the very best democracy.”
“They must reconcile a need to
And there is an alternative. In place of the monarch an elected Head of state, a notable figure, popularly elected, accountable and so able to act in a real and meaningful way, to play a real part in our politics and our public life. Not a partisan executive office but a single representative head of state, chosen by us to represent our nation. Monarchists have a dreary, negative and uninspiring view of Britain. Best leave alone they say, all too difficult they say, you can’t trust the British people they say. I don’t have that view. I want Britain to have the very best, the best of everything – and that means the very best democracy.
mark the lives of their fallen comrades with a strong antimonarchy impulse.”
Republic counts many former service men and women among its membership. For them, Remembrance events can be particular unsettling. They must reconcile a need to mark the lives of their fallen comrades with a strong anti-monarchy impulse. Mark Sutton, a Republic member from Nottinghamshire, was in the Army from 1981 to 1986 and on reserve to 2005. He doesn't feel that the royals should be involved in Remembrance events at all. “Wasn't it imperialism and militarism that caused the Great War to begin with?” he asks. “Then surely these two things should be kept away from any ceremonies.” It's a feeling shared by Stephen Scullion, whose commitment to Britain's service men and woman could
This is an edited version of a speech delivered to the Eton College Orwell Society.
Continued page 9
8 | Imagine
2009 Strategy Survey Results
We had a fantastic response to our Annual Membership Survey, sent out to all paid-up members in August. Republic's Policy and Strategy Committee has been poring over your responses since then and many of your suggestions have been discussed in detail by staff and Directors. We've responded personally to all members whose ideas we are going to implement. Most of you were very happy with the range of communication methods we use to keep members updated on the campaign. A small number of you felt that Imagine was too “low brow” and suggested including more academic articles, while others felt the exact opposite. As always, campaigning is a balancing act and we seem to be getting that balance right for most of you. illustrates the vagaries of hereditary public office. At all other times we will continue to put forward a positive, aspirational case for a republic based on sound principles of democracy and accountability.
We asked you to nominate campaign priorities.
into the press and media” to be our top priority in 2010. Happily, this is in line with our campaign strategy and we are confident that our media profile will continue to expand in 2010, leading to both a higher level of debate about the monarchy and a larger, more engaged membership.
These principles are shared by a great many more people than you might realise - it seems that Republic members underestimate how many other republicans there are. More than 90 per cent of you were unaware that there are over 10 million republicans in Britain (a figure extrapolated from a range of recent opinion polls). This demonstrates that we may need to work harder at communicating the very significant level of support there is for a republic. One of our key aims over the past year has been to increase the level of engagement that members have with the campaign. Our efforts seem to have paid off, with more than 50 per cent of you having taken a campaign action (such as signing a petition or writing to your MP) in the last twelve months. While this is an excellent response rate for the campaigning sector, we clearly need a much more active membership if we are to pass the 'tipping point' into a mass movement. A number of initiatives, such as Republic Towns, are aimed at achieving this. Another crucial way of building a more active supporter base is to ensure our campaigns are covered by the national media. Most of you (67 per cent) had seen Republic representatives on TV, heard us on the radio or read about our campaigns in the press in the last twelve months. This reflects the significant increase in media exposure we have gained in the last year or so – a trend which you want to see continue. The overwhelming majority (91 per cent) of you wanted “getting
“Most of you had seen Republic representatives on TV, heard us on the radio or read about our campaigns in the press.”
Beyond getting into the press, it is also clear that we must continue to work with other democratic renewal groups and ensure that republican principles underpin the wider reform agenda. The vast majority of you support a range of other constitutional reforms in addition to the abolition of the monarchy. A written constitution, proportional representation and an elected upper house were the most popular. This demonstrates that Republic's membership is motivated by a broad commitment to democratic reform, rather than the “envy” that monarchists often attribute to us. While remaining a single-issue pressure group, Republic will continue to work with other reform campaigns where our interests converge. Don’t forget, you can keep the feedback coming in at the usual email and postal address.
“The fact that opinion is divided in this way suggests again that we are currently getting the balance about right.”
One issue that came up a number of times in your responses was personal attacks on individual members of the royal family. Some of you felt that we should avoid criticising the royals altogether and instead concentrate solely on promoting the core principles of republicanism. Others (roughly the same number) felt Republic was being too soft on the royals and that we should make more frequent, and stronger, attacks on the Windsor family. The fact that opinion is divided in this way suggests again that we are currently getting the balance about right. We will forcefully criticise an individual royal when there is a serious constitutional point to be made, if there is evidence of corruption or if their behaviour
Imagine | 9
Battle of Ideas
Republic’s Graham Smith joined a panel debate at the annual Battle of Ideas festival, discussing ‘Parliament: Reform or Revolution’. Graham was joined on the panel by former MP and BBC journalist Martin Bell, Jessica Asato of think tank Progress and James Panton, Oxford lecturer in politics. The debate was dominated by the need for change in the aftermath of the parliamentary expense scandal. Graham’s key message was that tinkering with the system we have now parliament and government: an understanding that parliament is ours, MPs should be representatives of ordinary people, not public officials or civil servants.”
WIN A MUG
How much does Republic claim the monarchy costs the British taxpayer ever year?
“Power delegated by us - in a limited fashion - to our servants, those we freely elect to legislate and govern in our name.”
“A new vision of power. Power not being gifted from on high, handed down to us from time to time by our benevolent masters, but power delegated by us – in a limited fashion – to our servants, those we freely elect to legislate and govern in our name.” Martin Bell argued for electoral reform and primaries at elections. James Panton also called for the abolition of the monarchy and defended the role of parliament, warning against the current climate of ‘anti-politics’. You can listen to an audio recording of the debate at www.battleofideas.org.uk.
Answers to the usual address or email by January 1st.
“We need a new way of doing politics. A new understanding of the role of parliament and government.”
was not going to be enough. He made the case that it wasn’t a question of reform or revolution but revolutionary reform. He told the debate: “We need a new way of doing politics. A new understanding of the role of
Go on - visit the shop...
Royals & Regiments
Continued from page 7
situation of danger” says Scullion. He cites Andrew's Falklands experience: “The amount of protection that he received was always 'hush, hush' but I had it on good authority from my friends who served there that he was well protected. It's all just a game to them.” Harries is less dismissive. He believes that both Andrew and his father did have genuine military careers and earned the right to wear campaign medals. Harries' criticism is reserved for the other Windsor men: “It makes my blood boil to see Charlie and his brother Edward weighed down by rows of medals and awards which have not been earned and are therefore totally meaningless and immoral.” We're often told that the monarchy is essential to maintaining loyal, disciplined armed forces. After all, service men and women fight “for Queen and Country” don't they? That phrase means “absolutely nothing” to Scullion. “It just makes me feel extremely annoyed and upset. If Elizabeth Windsor was an ordinary citizen then I would be only too happy to protect and serve for her as well as the rest of my fellow citizens.” Sutton thinks it's “a bizarre term”. He explains that for him the concepts of
Queen and Country are completely unrelated - “a bit like 'love and sausage'” he jokes. Harries, whose military service took him to Cyprus and the Omani island of Masirah, believes the phrase is “outmoded and no longer relevant. Today's men and women of the armed forces would still be willing to serve and fight for a republic, as they would regard it as fighting to preserve their families freedom and way of life.” So the message from these republican ex-servicemen is clear: it is not unpatriotic to believe the link between monarchy and military must be broken. Royals and regiments don't mix.
10 | Imagine
Best of the Blog
As a kid, I was given a picture chart of English monarchs since William the Conqueror. I’m sure it was given me ‘learn’ me some history, but it subtly brainwashed me into thinking that British monarchy is a long, unbroken chain stretching back almost a thousand years. Of course, it’s nothing like that. The succession from one crowned head to another has been squabbled over throughout that time, making the line of succession as complicated as a London Tube map. I remember on my childhood chart that even the accession of Charles Stuart jr was backdated to his father’s execution, completely missing the glaring historical reality that England and Wales, and later Scotland and Ireland, were a de facto republic for just over a decade, and the earliest attempt at a modern, rather than mediaeval, Protestant. The hereditary principle, which I believe has no place in our society, seems not even to be rock solid when it comes to picking a monarch. Just imagine that when Elizabeth Windsor dies, Parliament declares that neither Charles nor William shall become king, but they had decided to pass the crown to David Carnegie, aged 48, of Brechin, Scotland! As far as I can tell, Mr Carnegie is as far from the throne today as Georg Ludwig was in 1714. The royal gossipists talk about the possibility of skipping the ever unpopular Charles Windsor, for their poster boy ‘Wills’, but there is precedent for a much larger jump long live, King David!
6:30 for 7pm start, 2nd February The Plough 27 Museum Street London WC1A 1LH Guest speakers Brendan O'Neill, editor of Spiked, and Pam Giddy, director of Power 2010, will discuss the royal prerogative powers and what they mean for British democracy. FREE ADMISSION Republic TALKS is a continuing series of events being held in London and throughout the country. Details will be posted online at www.republic.org.uk/whatson as well as in Imagine. If you would like to suggest topics or guest speakers for future talks please get in touch at the usual address or email.
republic.org.uk/blog Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m sure David Carnegie is a nice bloke, but I don’t want to be subject to a monarch whoever it is. After all, Mr Carnegie happens to be the son of a duke, and lives with his wife and three sons in a nice little castle. I want to live in a Britain where any common citizen – regardless of class, ethnicity, gender and religion - can rise to the highest office in this land with the consent of the electorate, and then make way for the next First Citizen after a few years. However, I tell you about King David because it highlights just how flimsy a lot of the monarchy’s ‘tradition’ really is. The image of a long, unbroken chain of hereditary monarchs stretching back through history with nothing but the best intentions for their country is myth, not history. The emphasis on the line of succession and pedigree is not built of some divine order, but is there to stop the toffs squabbling. After all, the fluttering scraps of our constitution define the monarchic succession as to Protestant heirs of a German princess called Sophia. A constitutional
“As far as I can tell, Mr Carnegie is as far from the throne today as Georg Ludwig was in 1714.”
republican state. Monarchists cast this period as the Interregnum, ‘between kings’. However, no one, whatever their political stripe, in the period used such an anachronistic term. There have been lots of twists, tricks and breaks in the chain of monarchy. One that perhaps needs a little more publicity is the great big fudge in the rules of succession that led to Georg Ludwig von Braunschweig-Lüneburg becoming monarch in 1714. There were around 56 people higher up the list of succession, but Parliament chose him on the basis that he was Protestant, whereas the others were either Catholic or not known to be
arrangement that is clearly absurd, indefensible and incompatible with any reasonable ethical framework one would like to have for this country. Gareth Hughes is a member of Republic and a guest contributor to the Republic blog. Get in touch if you would like to contribute an article to the blog or Imagine.
Join the debate at republic.org.uk/ blog. Articles are posted by Graham Smith, James Gray and guest bloggers. You can submit articles to the usual email address.
Imagine | 11
Republic of Plinthland
On Saturday September 5th Pauline Godfrey took her place on the fourth plinth on Trafalgar Square. Pauline was one of thousands of randomly selected people chosen to spend an hour on the plinth doing, well, whatever they wanted. It was part of Anthony Gormley’s “One & Other” exhibition that ran for three months. Pauline chose to use her hour to declare the plinth the “Republic of Plinthland”, an opportunity to promote Republic and republicanism. Pauline had printed Plinthland money and passports, which she handed out to passers-by. She conducted votes on adopting a constitution and a new anthem and spoke about why Plinthland’s “nearest neighbour”, the UK, should also be a republic. Pauline’s enthusiastic display in front of a large crowd attracted the attention of Sky Arts, who invited her onto their regular One & Other programme to discuss her Plinthland idea further. Pauline is now busy organising a Republic Town in Suffolk.
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NAME: Emily Robinson DIRECTOR SINCE: October 2006 Emily is a Visiting Tutor at Goldsmith University in London where she teaches politics. She has previously worked for campaign group Unlock Democracy. Emily says: “When I visit other countries which are republics, I find that their national symbols and ceremonies celebrate the political struggles of their citizens. I would love it if ours could do the same.”
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Republic is a campaigning organisation supported by thousands of British citizens around the country. It’s easy to get involved. This regular page shows you some of the simple things you can do to help promote Republic and make the case for change.
Get your MP to back EDM 83
As you may know, the government recently announced plans to remove the ‘public interest test’ on FOI requests relating to the monarchy. This will effectively mean a blanket ban on access to royal documents. For background information on these proposals see our Freedom of Information page on the website. Following the launch of our campaign earlier this month, Lynne Jones MP has tabled the following Early Day Motion: “That this House disagrees with the proposed removal of the public interest test for access through the Freedom of Information Act 2000 to information held by public authorities relating to the Royal Household’s function and activities, and with the blanket ban on accessing Royal documents that would result; and instead supports the removal of the exemption of the Royal Household from the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act 2000.” EDMs are an excellent way to raise awareness of an issue, galvanise support and gain media coverage. Please ask your MP to sign EDM 83 today - you can email them right now via writetothem.com or write to them at House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA. Remember – this EDM is not about abolishing the monarchy or criticising the Windsor family. It’s about the principle of political transparency, which all MPs from all parties should be able to support.
JOINING IS EASY
Republic’s campaign work relies on the support of people like you, citizens who are committed to the idea of a republic. If you’re not a member already you can join online or over the phone.
www.republic.org.uk - 08708 508 825
I’ve signed up to Republic’s Urgent Response Network, so whenever a press release goes out I can use it write a letter to my local press. It’s a great way to get local coverage. From Kate Didsbury Republic supporter Send your Top Tip to firstname.lastname@example.org
Imagine: how far can yours go?
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Republic Campaign Ltd is a not-for-profit company limited by guarantee operating under the name ‘Republic’. Registered number: 05891072. Registered address: Dalton House, 60 Windsor Avenue, London SW19 2RR.
Find out more at www.republic.org.uk
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