Arbitrary and Unlimited Power, Thrown Away

The monarch’s job is to continue arbitrary and unlimited power, and hand most of it over to government. In 2003, Blair used this to declare war on Iraq without prior parliamentary approval, in 1992, John Major used this power to cover up Britain’s arms trade with Iraq, and in 1984, Thatcher used it to prevent civil servants from joining/forming trade unions.

English: H.M. King George VI and Queen Elizabe...

H.M. King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in the Senate Chamber giving Royal Assent to Bills, Ottawa, Canada.

The Queen has formal powers too, such as the power to dissolve/dismiss government, withhold royal assent on certain bills, and to appoint Prime Ministers. Even though they haven’t been used in Britain for a while, they were used against democracy (with great backlash) in Australia to dismiss the 1975 government, and in 2008 to prorogue the Canadian government (and undemocratically prevent a vote of no confidence) for several weeks.

It is true that Elizabeth isn’t exactly controversial, but monarchism ends up choosing people by chance, and there’s a danger people like Charles could abuse it. Additionally, her being above the fray of politics is pointless, when she ends up being the government’s puppet. This is where the equality of opportunity argument comes in (and yes you can think it baseless in comparison to the white millionaires club), it’s not good enough for me to just say that the current head of state gives birth to the next one; I think such a position should be earnt.


The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth

Szlachcic na zagrodzie równy wojewodzie.

The noble on his estate is equal to the voivode.

This is a Polish proverb, part of the legacy that came with the Commonwealth, that basically means that no free man would think of himself as less superior than anyone else.

The Polish-Lithuanian was one of the early republics, and experienced a time of prominence in the mid-1600s. A huge state, (see this map) it had over 8 million residents. Germans, Armenians, Jews, Poles, etc. all lived together. However, whilst there was freedom of religion and many different faiths, Catholic was predominant under the constitution. The constitution, for that matter, was made up of all parliamentary legislation – ranging from the obligation of farmer tenants to wartime taxation.

Many would disagree that the Commonwealth was a republic, as there were still enserfed peasantry and privately controlled cities, and additionally, politics was limited to the szlachta (upper class). Those who held seats in the Senate could also only be Catholic, as was the case with the elected King of the Commonwealth.

Comparing the Commonwealth with its close neighbours, though, illustrates the importance of the progress it had made so early. Rights of self-determination to regional councils and a Parliament of the Commons made in the Commonwealth contrasted with the victory of absolute and central rule in Russia over Zemskii sobor (assembly of the people).

Furthermore, whilst in the Commonwealth, libertas and the rule of law was the guiding principle of the state, in Russia autocracy alone symbolised the principles of justice, salvation, and the state structure. Additionally, the Catholic King of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was actively ‘monitored’ by the country’s politicians, who often blocked key decisions.

Overall, the Commonwealth is an interesting example of what some might class as a democracy, at a time where this was certainly not the norm. It would be worth looking more into this.


The BBC sets the agenda on the Royal family (Republic)

Please note that I didn’t write this, but am reposting it from the campaign for a British Republic ( http://www.republic.org.uk/updates/?p=907 ). The headline is: ‘BBC accused of blocking embarrassing royal stories

The BBC has been accused of operating a deliberate policy of ignoring or underplaying news stories that could embarrass the monarchy, while giving significant coverage to pro-royal “puff pieces”.

In the last six months the BBC, which employs a “royal liaison officer” to ensure good relations with Buckingham Palace, has overlooked a number of potentially damaging stories about the monarchy – despite extensive coverage in other national media outlets. These include:

Duchy of Cornwall accused of tax avoidance
Covered by: The Guardian, The Independent, The Daily Mail, Financial Times, The Daily Express
BBC coverage: none

Royal finances to be investigated by public accounts committee
Covered by: The Independent, The Daily Mail, The Telegraph, The Sunday Express
BBC coverage: none

Prince Charles uses intestate cash to fund own lobby groups and old public school
Covered by: The Guardian, The Times, The Daily Mail, The Daily Express
BBC coverage: none

A number of other stories – including the public accounts committee’s demand for the government to justify Prince Charles’s tax exemptions, revelations about the “royal veto” and the Queen’s £6m pay rise – received only fleeting coverage, despite being given high prominence by other media outlets.

In that time, however, the activities of the royal family – and in particular Prince Charles – have been covered in considerable detail by the BBC. Headlines on the corporation’s website over the previous six months include:

  • Prince Charles visits community shop
  • Charles and Camilla take Tube ride
  • Prince Charles: ‘I’m feeling very old’
  • Royal baby prompts green concern for Prince Charles
  • Prince Charles calls for more compassion in NHS
  • Prince Charles revives horse logging on Balmoral estate
  • Prince Charles urges ‘harmony with nature’
  • Prince Charles ‘worried’ for rural communities
  • Prince Charles visits Northampton shoe factory
  • Prince Charles visits Middleport Pottery factory

The BBC has also just announced a “Coronation celebration season” which aims to “bring the nation together this summer by allowing everyone to join in with the Coronation celebrations”.

Republic’s chief executive Graham Smith said: “When you look at the royal stories that the BBC covers and the ones it ignores, it’s difficult not to conclude that the corporation is at pains not to embarrass the royals. It will often send more than one reporter to a staged PR event, yet manages to overlook some really important public interest stories that licence fee payers have a right to know about.”

“Many of the stories the BBC has covered have all the hallmarks of PR puff pieces orchestrated by the palace press office – which the corporation seems eager to cover without the slightest concern for journalistic integrity.”

“If the BBC has the time and resources to report that Prince Andrew uses an iPad, then it can report on controversies surrounding the royal finances or Prince Charles’s political meddling.”

“The BBC is supposed to be independent, impartial and honest, but it seems to have been entirely co-opted into the royal PR machine. That’s why we’ll be protesting at Broadcasting House on Saturday – and why we’ll keep putting pressure on the BBC to cover the monarchy objectively.”


Republican Principles in 18th c. Britain

233 years and 4 days ago, John Dunning MP successfully moved a motion that stoutly attempted to make firm Parliament’s sovereignty.

This was a key stage in Britain’s democratic and republican growth, the motion stated that:

“the influence of the crown has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished”

& that

“it is competent to this house to examine into and correct abuses in the expenditure of the civil list revenues, as well as in every other branch of the public revenue, whenever it shall appear expedient to the wisdom of the house so to do”

Edmund Burke may have best described the ‘Crown’ in this context as a system of patronage and undemocratic secrecy that continually threatened to undermine the people-power of Parliament. Dunning my also have seen it this way, as the ‘Crown’ was acquiring a worrying amount of executive powers that would bypass Parliament in political decisions. This was in conjunction with the unpopular monarch, George III, who continually attempted to exercise undue influence on the democratic process.

Dunning is a lesson to modern British and foreign republicans, who all too often focus on one aspect of a state’s constitution and ignore other abuses of power. In Britain for example, there are still threats to republican values that are not through the monarchy or the Crown but in Parliament itself. The motion was successful, despite the 18th century Parliament being in many cases unrepresentative and simply corrupt. If a historical and weak Parliament could create such a bill as this, it is not hard to believe that the same may yet happen in modern times.


Prince Charles – A False-flag Republican?

Thomas Paine, writing a warning for the Americans on the monarchy said that “Such an unwise, unjust, unnatural compact might in the next succession put them under the government of a rogue or a fool.” As Nick Cohen said in the Guardian, “In Prince Charles, we have both.”

The current monarchy rests on convention, and an understanding that the current King or Queen will not attempt to test the limits of their unwritten constitutional boundaries. This has been largely been abused by Prince Charles, and it doesn’t seem likely that the situation will change if he becomes Monarch of the United Kingdom.

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Spotlight: Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus

Highly regarded by Romans as a real life legend, Cincinnatus’ (520BC – 430BC) actions inspired numerous organisations/other groups that are named in his honour. Cincinnatus was a political figure of the Roman Republic.

Cincinnatus, following the condemnation of his son, was forced to live a humble life on a small farm. For two points in his life after living on this farm, Cincinnatus was given absolute power over the people of Rome in separate times of crisis. However, on both instances the power was not wrested from him by other politicians following the crisis as often happens in such occasions but given up willingly at the very day he saw his usefulness as a dictator had come to an end.

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