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Arguments

INFORMED EDUCATION AND INFORMATION versus UNINFORMED UNDERMINING AND MISINFORMATION

There are some sections of the media whose prime objective sometimes seems to be increasing circulation and making money regardless of any other factors. They regularly embark on sensationalised features based little on facts and more on fantasy which, though inaccurate or even completely false, have the effect of damaging the monarchy and members of the Royal Family through attrition. We are all in favour of open government and democratic scrutiny and of the investigative role of the Press but this is often replaced by unproductive undermining.

If the press are constantly concentrating upon trivia and sensationalism, and ignoring and under-reporting the valuable role being played by the Royal Family every day throughout the country and across the world, it is not surprising that the very full schedules of members of the Royal Family are not well-known and appreciated.

How much coverage is there in the press about visits to other countries made by The Queen and other members of the Royal Family and about the benefits that there are to this country and to the country visited as a result? Nowadays, they hardly get a mention.

Just have a look at the royal appointments schedules on the royal website. Those of the main members of the Royal Family show the huge number of appointments that they have. And, of course, these are not initiated by them; they do not get up in the morning and say “I think I'll visit a hospital today or open an exhibition” - of course not; there is a constant, never-ending massive number of requests from people who would like members of the Royal Family to support their events, knowing the value of a royal visit to all involved.

This huge support for The Queen is often underestimated as was seen at the time of the Golden Jubilee. In one borough where The Queen was making a 15-minute whistle stop tour (and it was the borough's choice that it should be a whistle-stop visit, not The Queen's) the not very enthusiastic and not very monarchist organisers estimated 4,000 spectators. In fact, for this very brief event over 14,000 people turned up.

Older people have experienced monarchy over many years but younger people often do not realise the extent of the role of the Royal Family. They do not know the arguments in favour of a monarchy and against a republic. The discussion of the value of this institution, as with so many other of our institutions in this country, is just not taking place in some of our schools. It is not adequately taught, it is not given sufficient time in our education system these days. On one Kilroy programme the young people in the audience discussing recent developments to do with the Royal Family said that they heard that the Royal Family did a lot of valuable work but they just did not know what it was!

Constant attempts are made to suggest that it is an outdated, anachronistic institution in spite of the fact that it, like all other British institutions, has evolved steadily over many years. To call it feudal, which is often done by opponents, is of course a nonsense; and to suggest that it is at the head of the nobility and a class system is to talk about the past rather than the present. Like other institutions in a rapidly changing society, it needs to be constantly examined to see whether improvements can be made so that its relevance to the current situation is maintained. This is regularly being done - there has for some time been a committee which meets for the sole purpose of discussing the way ahead for the monarchy.

It is sometimes said that Britain can never be a really modern state while it still has a monarchy. This of course ignores countries like Japan, Spain, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, The Netherlands and many others, all of which are modern constitutional monarchies in modern countries where the majority of the people of those nations have absolutely no intention of removing their monarchy because of the benefits they recognize they derive from it. In some countries where they have relinquished the monarchy in the past rather than reforming it or modernizing it, many people wish that there was a possibility of restoring it but, often, the passage of time has been too great. In some countries such as Afghanistan, serious attempts were made to look at the restoration of the monarchy as a valuable uniting symbol of a disparate population but it was realised that other factors had intervened which rendered this not practical.

The argument often put forward is that a monarchy it is not democratic. In fact, it is that blissful combination of an institution which is entirely under democratic control yet above politics, faction, division, election, appointment and short-term tenure, providing a continuous thread from the past to a certain future.

When looking at a President as an alternative to monarchy, the first question that one has to consider is what type of President one is referring to. This is absolutely crucial because the various different types of President vary enormously in their power, scope and role. Indeed, this is one of the major difficulties in any attempt to move from a constitutional monarchy to a republic in that it can be almost impossible for the nation to decide, and to decide by a large enough majority, just what sort of President they wish to have and also by which method this President is to be elected or chosen. Is it to be by universal suffrage, which would result in another absolutely mammoth nationwide election, or is it to be by some sort of electoral college or by appointment by the parliament or by some group of elected representatives? Is the President going to be the head of government as well as the head of state or purely just the head of state and if so will he or she have any powers at all or simply be a figurehead?

The argument against a President who is head of state as well as head of government is that too much power is concentrated in one pair of hands, despite any other checks and balances that there may be. The overall workload and responsibilities are massive and the post has to combine the roles of the head of government and the ceremonial duties of head of state and these are often incompatible and very time-consuming. One of the advantages of the constitutional monarchy is that it can remove a large number of the ceremonial, figurehead and nation-unifying roles from the head of government allowing the person to concentrate on matters governmental. If a country opts for a head of state with little power, a limited period of tenure and who attempts to be above politics, the result is usually somebody who cannot adequately symbolise for any period of time the unity, the history and the continuity of the nation, and this person sometimes is a nonentity whom very few people know outside the country and, indeed, sometimes inside the country! There can also be huge difficulties in the head of government having ceremonial duties with the armed forces and this is best done by a non-political person and this is, of course, one of the major roles of the Royal Family.

Elected Presidents are concerned more with their own political futures and power. Constitutional Monarchs are not subject to the influences which can corrupt short-term Presidents. A Monarch can represent centuries of history whereas elected Presidents in their nature devote much energy to undoing the achievements of their predecessors and setting traps for their successors. With Monarchs it is the reverse- they build on the achievements of their forebears in order to strengthen the position of their successors. A long-reigning Monarch can put enormous experience at the disposal of transient political leaders. This has been the case with our present Queen. An experienced Monarch can act as a sounding-board for politicians. Having a Monarchy and a Royal Family means that a whole family of people are undertaking valuable ceremonial and charitable duties across the country to a degree to which an Executive President or Symbolic President just cannot fulfil.

It is often asked why should the opportunity to hold the highest position in the land be denied the person in the street? But it is a question of how you define our highest position in the land. It is clear that the Prime Minister is the most powerful - a post which is, of course, open to anyone. The Monarchy retains only residual powers which are hardly ever used and, if they are, they are only exercised on the advice of the government of the day. Purists talk about people holding positions when they have not been democratically elected to them. A Constitutional Monarchy is the delightful combination of an institution which is entirely under democratic control and yet entirely above divisive election and supported by the majority of members of all political parties.

"Britain will never become a modern democracy, nor will it be possible to create a more meritocratic and inclusive society, as long as we languish under the burden of an unelected and archaic monarchy" - quote from a republican. The words archaic and feudal are applied to our Monarchy to make it sound out-of-date and anachronistic, not taking into account how the Monarchy has evolved and developed over the centuries and the major modernisation and reform taking place and envisaged at present.

Queen Elizabeth II is the Monarch of 16 independent countries and the Head of the Commonwealth of 54 nations across the globe - an absolutely astonishing fact in this age of separatism and a massive worldwide symbol of unity and association which can only be achieved by a Monarch – can you imagine all these nations agreeing on an appointed, let alone elected, symbol?

Many nations, such as Afghanistan, who have lost their monarchies wish they could restore them because they can see the value of a non-political unifying symbol above faction and politics, and racial and ethnic division.

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