December 5, 2012

WE PERFECTED IT BY GIVING THE CROWN MORE POWER AND THE COMMONS LESS:

Britain, become a republic! You can even keep the Queen! (DAN HIND and JAMIE STERN-WEINER 3 December 2012, OpenDemocracy)

Britain has been fooled. Told that 'republicanism' just meant sacking the monarchy, the British have missed its radical vision for the future. We interview the author of a new pamphlet that seeks to ignite the flame. [...]

Montesquieu characterised the English constitution as a 'republic [hiding]... under the form of monarchy'. If Britain is a de facto republic, why does it take 'the form of monarchy' at all?

Well, I agree with Montesquieu, and with Bagehot who made a similar point. I call it an illicit republic because I wanted to stress the extent to which rule is out of sight.

The monarchy is still useful. For one thing it confounds the reforming imagination. It is kind of indefensible in logic, but it is emotionally appealing to lots of people. So the blundering rationalist calls for its abolition and everyone laughs at the silliness of those who don't enjoy our rich traditions, and so on. Like I say it is part of how the game of public speech is played.

More seriously, the current constitution, where the Crown-in-Parliament rules, gives enormous discretionary power to a tiny handful of people. Many people think that they live in a constitutional monarchy that also is a democracy. They are wrong on both counts. They live in an absolute monarchy whose sovereign power has been captured by a Parliament. This Parliament has conceded some democratic elements but the people are not sovereign. The country is not even formally, let alone maximally, republican. But this has nothing to do with the fact of a crowned head of state. The issue is the constitutional status of the general population. Britain isn't, as a matter of boring old fact, a democracy. This matters a great deal; it is a large part of how Britain's particular version of capitalism organises itself.
Posted by at December 5, 2012 9:15 PM
  
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