As a Republican trying to persuade my fellow Britons of the need to remove the monarchy I sometimes encounter a kind of fatalism which says that even if we get rid of the queen we will still be controlled by rich and powerful elites essentially beyond our control. This is partly a problem of powerlessness, a kind of despairing acceptance of fate which the documentary filmmaker Adam Curtis has termed ‘oh dearism’. Now while I fully agree that the removal of monarchy must only be the beginning to the reform of our system, I nevertheless believe that it makes an excellent starting point. This is for a number of reasons, some constitutional and some psychological. I want to look at just two in this post.
Firstly, the existence of a monarchy entrenches the position of a powerful political elite via the Privy Council. In fact, the system actually views the British Cabinet (supposedly our Government) as a sub-committee of the Council (I’ve written more about these arechaic powers in this post) and we can see the importance of this to the financial elite in one example. The Crown Dependencies are managed under the auspices of the Privy Council and thus the tax havens of the British Virgin Island and the Caymen Islands to name but two are allowed to thrive. More widely the relationship between politicians and royals facilitates a taxpayer funded Prince Andrew (then supposedly a Trade Envoy) the opportunity to try and broker the selling of state assets to foreign oligarchs, thus cementing his position amongst a wider, global elite.
The psychological reasons are, as you may expect, more subtle. The royal family reinforce a British character stereotype which shuns vulnerability and normalises a cold and remote emotional state which indirectly affects us all. We can see this in the public schools which the royals share with the elite classes. It means we live in a social and emotional ice age where we accept that things will be run by our superiors who are ‘better suited to the task’. The austere paternalism can be seen in the media acquiescence to the pronouncements of Prince Charles where his often bizarre ideas are left unchallenged.
These are just two reasons why abolishing the monarchy will loosen the power of elites, the honours system alone would furnish numerous others. I am the first to acknowledge the task we face in breaking the elite stranglehold, particularly with the vast majority of media sources (led by more elites such as Lord Rothermere) serving to reinforce the sense of helplessness. Both an improvement in the way our system is run and the rejection of the ‘public school headboy’ (or ‘headgirl’ as it is currently) leader mentality will be mutually reinforcing. We can start by knocking out the keystone and abolishing the monarchy, with this archaic institution removed the other reforms will come more clearly into view. We are not helpless, we can develop the emotional independence to end this domination.