The central argument against abolition of our monarchy is simple: there really is no overwhelmingly powerful argument in support of abolition. Britons, quite simply, want to retain their monarchy. However, this argument is often based on the symbolic nature of Royal Family and apathy towards them. These feelings are well consolidated within an, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ attitude.It is supposed that they preside over our nation, with no real political power, but their presence is reassuring.
However, do we really have a valid use for the Monarchy in modern day Britain? Power once traditionally vested in the monarchy is now in the hands of the Prime Minister, but with Royal Prerogative remaining a distinguishable power. Any function the Monarchy does now carry out is largely ceremonial. This, one could argue, is how our democratic country should be. As an electorate we place our faith in the the government whom we elect to run our country on our behalf; an accident of birth should not give an individual the right to rule over an entire nation, especially when that nation proclaims to be a mature democracy.
Nevertheless, I argue that the very existence of an unelected head of state, is an important aspect of a mature democracy. The actions of the past governance has proven that a pluralistic democracy is quite unattainable. It would be ignorant to assume that this country is run purely democratically in absence of ‘unelected influences’ such as hereditary piers in the House of Lords, lobby groups and special aids. The monarchy therefore surely is another aspect of a mature democratic system in which the role of the monarchy is accepted as a vital part of the nation’s constitutional operation.
The role of the monarchy as a ‘semi-executive’ fulfills a position in Britain’s democracy which without it would be dangerously absent. Primarily, providing the role as the final check and balance. The potency of this possible constitutional rebuke is debatable, but, her role as a final check for her people is unquestionable. If the advantages of a separation of powers are to be accepted, then the existence of the monarchy in contemporary British politics does act to counterbalance the powers possessed at least by those of the legislative. Surely therefore the monarchy plays an important balancing role in our democracy.
Therefore, criticisms aimed at the monarchy cannot be aimed at it’s constitutional position but rather, as I mentioned earlier in the article, the election to that position; the hereditary nature of the position is easily criticisable. The idea that access to a branch of power is gained only by birth right intuitively seems absurd. Therefore the republican may call for the abolition of the hereditary monarchy but the retainment of the executive. However, I would argue that such a suggestion is short sighted and at least not as democratically utopian as it is assumed. The benefits of our unelected monarchy in comparison to an elected executive branch are abound. The contemporary British sovereign has been unwaveringly neutral and whose sole interest has been in representing the British people, not only their electorate, as an elected executive would naturally do. The British sovereign has also remained free from commercial interest and political gains, proving a consistent and valid figure head for the people.
The British constitution should no way be laid out as a blue print for an ideal democracy. However, what I have tried to convey in this article is that Britain, with its mature democracy, has embraced the monarchy as the head of state and therefore gained numerous advantages from it.
Article by Eleanor Corcoran. Edited by Patrick English