With the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations due to take place next week, there is no better time to draw some attention to the point of the monarchy in this country. Many, when asked about the Queen will respond with indifference; she doesn’t seem to be doing much harm would be the general view. However, there are those who question why we still have a monarchy when many other countries have replaced their own with a democratic alternative in the form of a president.
These people are known as Republicans and they will be holding a Jubilee Protest on Sunday June 3rd from 12-5pm on Tower Bridge. Republicans campaign for the abolition of the monarchy, an elected head of state and a new democratic constitution that really puts power in the hands of voters. As stated on their website, this is what they want:
We want to reform Britain’s politics so it is genuinely democratic.
We want a new constitution – a new set of rules for our political system – that puts power in your hands.
We want voters to be able to elect their head of state – instead of having a ‘job-for-life’ monarch.
We want to give voters more power over parliament and parliament more control over government.
We want a head of state that has a meaningful role and who can be held to account on their record in office.
We want Britain to be a republic.
Here is a clip from Question Time where they seem to have full support for the Queen and the monarchy:
To counter the argument, here is some information from the Republican website:
The monarchy is great for tourism
Tourism revenue is not only irrelevant to a debate about our constitution, the suggestion that the monarchy promotes tourism is also untrue. There is not a single shred of evidence to back this up. Of the top 20 tourist attractions in the UK only one royal residence makes it: Windsor Castle at number 17 (beaten comfortably by Windsor Legoland, in at number 7). Royal residences account for less than 1% of total tourist revenue. Indeed, the success of the Tower of London (number 6 in the list) suggests that tourism would benefit if Buckingham Palace and Windsor castle were vacated by the Windsor family.
The British tourist industry is successful and robust – castles and palaces would remain a part of our heritage regardless of whether or not we have a monarchy (look at Versaille). Other attractions, such as the London Eye, Trafalgar Square, the west end, Bath, Stonehenge, Britain’s beautiful countryside and so on, will continue to attract tourists in the same numbers as they do today. The government body responsible for tourism, Visit Britain, hasn’t even collated statistics on the monarchy as an attraction, which shows it is not a key factor in the promotion of the UK as a tourist destination.
The tourism argument has been dreamt up to distract people from the real issues. There is no evidence that the monarchy is good for tourism, in fact, there are good reasons why the opposite might be true. Imagine the potential for Buckingham Palace if it was fully opened up to tourists all year round, where visitors can explore every room and courtyard and see the grounds and the magnificent art collection. And of course popular ceremonies such as the changing of the guard will continue.
The Windsors work hard for our country
Let’s assume for a moment that the Windsors do work hard, is this an argument for the monarchy? Should we appoint a head of state, MPs or other officials based on who works the most hours in the year?
Nurses, teachers, manual workers, police officers and even City bankers – these are people who work hard. To compare the royals’ lifestyle with theirs is absurd. The royals are paid astronomic hourly rates for their “work” and yet accept none of the risks of redundancy or formal performance appraisals, and do not have the same chores and responsibilities the rest of us face at home.
The simple truth is that they do very little. Mark Bolland, former press officer for Prince Charles, was quoted on Janet Street Porter’s BBC programme in 2005 as saying “the Windsors are very good at working three days a week, five months of a year and making it look as though they work hard”.
The monarchy is value for money
The monarchy is very definitely not ‘value-for-money’, as you can see from Republic’s Royal Finances page.
The monarchy does not cost each person 67p a year, as the palace claims. This figure is part of the official spin. It is reached by dividing £40m (a woefully inadequate figure) by 60m people, which includes every man, woman and child in the country (rather than just every taxpayer).
Let’s repeat the important point here: this is blatant spin. No other public expense is justified by dividing it among the total population. If it were then almost any government expenditure could be spun as ‘cheap’.
The key figure is £150m, the estimated total cost for the maintenance and lifestyles of one family: 100 times the cost of the Irish presidency, 17 times the cost (per person) of members of parliament and without any return on our ‘investment’.
To test whether something is ‘value-for-money’ we need to judge what we get for our money and whether we can get something better for less. The monarchy completely fails this simple test.
It’s never easy to introduce substantial change and people will always question whether it is necessary but there are times in life where we need to look at alternatives and give them the consideration they deserve. Now is probably not the best time with the country currently swept away in a celebratory mood, whilst forgetting the current state of the economy and other troubles, but as mentioned in the Question Time clip, when the Queen does choose to step down, maybe then questions can be asked for a more democratic alternative to the head of state.
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