By Avi Sato
This month marks the sixty-sixth anniversary of HRH Queen Elizabeth II’s reign as Queen of… well, lots of places, including the UK.
What does this actually mean in the year 2018? Nothing. This is the United Kingdom, but even though we’ve got kingdom in the name, the monarchy is an anachronism of circumstance.
Of course, the Queen has got real power – surprisingly to most people, she’s got the ability to appoint the Prime Minister (regardless of who wins an election, although it’s become fairly accepted that whoever leads the winning party becomes the new resident of Number 10).
She could even dissolve parliament until 2011 and if she decides to do so, she can stop any piece of new legislation from becoming law, although she has never decided to use this power.
Oh, right, and she’s the head of the Church of England – separation of church and state isn’t really a thing in the UK, since the head of the government is, by definition, the head of England’s church (although not the Church of Scotland).
But should we actually HAVE a monarchy? Is it outdated? Let’s take a look at the ups and downs:
One of the biggest arguments in favour of the monarchy is the tourism. The royal family brings all the tourists who visit royal palaces and castles, the attraction of the history, etc.
Of course, the history and the palaces would still exist and there’s nothing to stop tourists from seeing them or from wanting to see them. Ask a tourist if they care whether the Queen is still in power and I doubt many of them will even know she’s got any power at all.
Otherwise, the “pro” list is a beautiful thing – a completely blank page. Yes, that’s right. You read correctly. There is no positive side to having a constitutional monarchy rather than converting our current system of government, in place, to a republic.
Of course, there are many who would say that there’s no harm in tradition. This is, of course, the reason that we, for some absurd reason, still drive on the opposite side of the street from most of the western world, have an arcane spelling system, an education system that doesn’t and can’t possibly work, a healthcare system that hasn’t been up to the challenge for decades, and a set of housing and zoning laws that allow housing prices in this country to skyrocket year after year and leave a vast amount of people living in what can only be considered war-era squalor. Just sayin’!
What are the real downsides? Well, there’s a few…
It’s not very democratic. We don’t vote in the Queen, and from a public relations standpoint, if the leader of the country isn’t the person that’s elected, how exactly do we expect wide-scale change?
It also costs an outrageous fortune to maintain the Royal Family. In spite of the Queen having a personal fortune of somewhere in the neighbourhood of £350M, the Royal Family is given an annual salary of somewhere between £40 and £50M at the moment, plus the profits from the revenue of the Crown Estates (£300M or so, every year).
There’s a budget for protection of the Royal Family, too. We don’t get to know what it is or what it pays for because the details are rather secret, much like those of the protection details for the Prime Minister. Who gets pretty much the same treatment.
There’s also the argument that if there were a President instead of a Prime Minister, the cost of maintaining the Royal Family would simply go to maintaining the family of the President.
This is a little silly and short-sighted. We already have a Prime Minister – renaming the leader of the elected parliament ‘the President’ wouldn’t change how much it cost to protect them. It wouldn’t give them a different job, realistically. It would just take out another level of government that hasn’t actually decided to do anything but accept the decision of parliament in every case since she became Queen.
Some will say that I’m a republican and I should leave the UK because I don’t see the value of the history behind the Royal Family. Of course I see the historical value. I also see the historical value in the Roman Empire but it doesn’t mean that I think we should unseat the elected representative of Italy and replace him with a new Emperor…
We have not exactly demonstrated our competency on the world stage these last few years. The fiasco of Brexit, currency fluctuations that are starting to make even the doubters wonder why we didn’t adopt the Euro when we had the chance, and a ridiculous snap election that cost millions and netted no actual change in government.
It’s not too late, though.
We may have been lied to (especially by people who paint buses) about all the money we could save by leaving the European Union, but we could most certainly save a vast amount of money by leaving the Royals to their own (rather large) financial devices.
Nationalising all Crown lands and using their revenue to invest in the country rather than in the upkeep of an ancient tradition would save a few hundred million quid, which would go a long way.
And that’s without the obvious step to be taken in tandem, eliminating the intermediary body, the House of Lords – another hideous anachronism of a monarchy. No more Queen, no more Lords and Ladies, no more painful expenses.
Nothing personal against the Queen, though – she’s probably far more intelligent and much more of a feminist than the vast majority of the politicians in government today. But unless she wants to run for office, there’s no place in a modern state for an unelected leader.
Equality is the right of all women and men and the monarchy is, quite simply, an insult to that equality. If that’s not enough reason in itself for you, do you truly believe that we are all equal in the first place?