Is there not a better way? (David Priest)

As the Queen’s Jubilee approaches can I just take this opportunity to make Shetland folk aware of the organisation Republic, campaigning for a democratic alternative to the monarchy in the UK. Please check out the website at

There are many of us now that believe that it is time for the UK and Scotland to have an elected accountable head of state with no-one allowed to assume the role through privilege of birth.

I resent being described as a subject of Her Majesty; I resent the reserved role that one particular aristocratic family has managed to retain without transparency or public accountability. I resent the significant amounts of public sector money being poured into jubilee celebrations in the middle of the worst recession in a generation and against the background of cuts, redundancies and serious reductions in local authority services.

Once again a royal jubilee/wedding/funeral/birth is used as a substitute for a presidential campaign – free heart-warming publicity for the royal family in a game where no-one else is allowed to play. The fawning celebrity worship which is about to reach fever pitch shows how powerfully the royals market themselves and how skilfully they are able to manipulate newspapers and TV away from ever questioning their right to rule. Bread and circuses!

Hereditary public office goes against every democratic principle. And because we can’t hold the Queen and her family to account at the ballot box, there’s nothing to stop them abusing their privilege, misusing their influence or simply wasting our money.

I would like to be able to vote for the position of head of the UK or Scottish state but I am not allowed to. I am disappointed at those political parties who argue for a retention of the monarchy – notably and more recently the SNP – in keeping us locked into a medieval, backward looking and obsequious constitutional settlement.

I would like the new undemocratically appointed Lord Lieutenant of Shetland to take note.

I am sure that if the Queen ran for election as the head of state tomorrow many people would vote for her. I might not, but it would be nice to have the choice.

David Priest
Member of Republic and
Republic Scotland
11 Upper Baila,


Add Your Comment
  • Chris Ash

    • May 30th, 2012 10:23

    The normal miserable Class-War ranting from a republican. HM the Queen has provided far better leadership and example than any of our elected politicians – if only they would take a leaf out of her book. I don’t see the sons and grandsons of our of MPs serving their nation in the armed forces.
    A Constitutional Monarchy is certainly undemocratic – but it works and surely that is the main thing. Britain is one of the few European nations never to dabble with extremism, unlike our so-called ‘democractic’ republican neighbours. Adolf Hitler (a democratically elected head of state, incidentally) was so frustrated by the resolve and leadership shown by the British Royal Family during the war, that he described the late Queen Mother as ‘the most dangerous woman in Europe’.
    I will be celebrating the Jubilee in Entebbe and plan to drink long into the night.
    God Save the Queen.

  • Bob Gardiner

    • May 30th, 2012 16:08

    It has been shown that the vast majority want the monarchy. The thought of some politically correct appointment of someone who has no interest in the continuity of the country and only exploiting the system for a fat pension is horrendous.

  • G W Hay

    • May 30th, 2012 21:36

    Sorry David, I don’t think there is a better way. For me it’s simply a case of if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. The monarchy as it stands works very well, you only need to look at the worldwide interest in the last Royal wedding as an example. In contrast I found the US presedential campaigns of the past to be nauseating in the extreme, some alternative….Republic Scotland? I will (democratically) opt out of that one!

  • Rev'd Chris Blackshaw

    • May 31st, 2012 8:03

    This weekend should be a time of celebration of a fantastic achievement and not an opportunity to deride a great milestone in the history of our monarchy. 60 years of doing the same job day in and day out, meeting all sorts of people, visiting different places all across the world, shaking all those hands and making personal sacrifices in order to do your duty, is not what I would call a privilege, but a very onerous task, one that I would certainly not like to do. The Queen has performed this role with outstanding dedication and tenacity. Our royal family are the envy of the world. Prince William’s wedding alone was watched by 2 billion people all across the world. This figure does not suggest that our monarchy is in any way unpopular, especially when we have 7 billion people in the world. If people are unhappy with the monarchy and dislike it so much they do have a freedom of choice to live elsewhere in the world.

  • Brian Smith

    • May 31st, 2012 11:41

    Canonisation, Chris?

  • Chris Ash

    • May 31st, 2012 13:06

    I’m not entirely sure I deserve it, Mr Smith, but it’s a kind thought.

  • Sue Wailoo

    • May 31st, 2012 13:39

    I agree with David Priest. It’s high time we were treated as free thinking adults and citizens of our country. How disappointing the SNP want to retain an outdated,essentially English feudal system for an independent Scotland. Establishment propaganda is so entrenched most people never recognise it. Even limited BBC news bulletins about disasters,atrocities and injustices are followed at the end by the trivial doings of some member or other of the” royal family” . So that’s all right then, all’s well with the world and we do not have to worry our tiny minds about all that other nasty stuff. Sycophantic, sick making, dumbing down indeed.. And that’s just one example.
    Several members of the royal family and the aristocracy were Nazi sympathisers in the 1930s, Chris Ash. We don’t often hear about that historical fact.
    So the Queen is 80 odd, one of the richest people in the world, and we are expected to celebrate her working life which she has the choice whether or not to continue. I would rather celebrate all those workers on whose backs that wealth was created and all those with no choice but to slave away day in and day out until they drop in order to have only the most basic of life’s essentials. Not everyone will have” time off” this weekend but enjoy yours.

  • Chris Ash

    • May 31st, 2012 14:00

    Sue Wailoo, I assume you will trouble yourself to name these ‘several members’ of the Royal Family and provide concrete proof rather than slurs and accusations? A great many people everywhere failed to see the dangers of Nazi Germany in the 1930s – Sir Winston Churchill (a staunch Royalist) was a lone voice at the time. Indeed, there is even a infamous photograph of the England soccer team giving the Hitler salute before a match in Berlin in the late 1930s.

    I note you did not feel able to challenge the fact that the Royal Family provided leadership and example in those times, nor that Great Britain has never flirted with extremism unlike many republics in Europe. It should also be remembered that both HM the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh served in the war, continuing a long tradition of patriotic which has been carried on by the Duke of York (Falklands) and Prince Harry. If only we could see such examples of service from Blair, Brown, Cameron et al.
    I have recently read that the 1000 yacht regatta on the Thames will include a young soldier who lost a leg in Afghanistan but is going to row down the river in honour of HM. I assume you also disapprove of this magnificent gesture?

    Please be assured that we will indeed enjoy our weekend.

  • John Tulloch

    • May 31st, 2012 18:19

    The fact that the majority of the Royal Family members carry out their duties in an admirable fashion is a reason to praise their work not a reason to continue having them.

    Whether they are wealthy or highly paid isn’t a reason not to have them.

    By accepting the principle however that one person is, by birth, somehow “superior” to another we accept a whole lot of other stuff like privilege and patronage, including e.g. Mrs Thatcher’s hereditary peerage which will keep her family, among other things, in the House of Lords for up to about 900 years by which time her line may be expected to have died out.

    The fact that the great “meritocrat” herself sold out out in this way underlines the corruption of our system of government which is underpinned by our continued fawning and forelock tugging at the mention these “superior-by-breeding” people who are, in essence, no different than ourselves.

    In this day and age that is anachronistic – and repugnant.

  • John Tulloch

    • May 31st, 2012 21:16


    “Mrs Thatcher’s hereditary peerage which will keep her the House of Lords…”

    It would have been be more accurate to say “Mrs Thatcher’s hereditary peerage which WAS INTENDED to keep her family…etc”

    [The House of Lords Act, 1999, introduced some restrictions on hereditary peerages.]

  • Brian Smith

    • May 31st, 2012 21:45


  • Gordon Harmer

    • June 1st, 2012 6:28

    Get it right John, Thatcher’s husband received an hereditary baronetcy, but she herself was created a life baroness by her successor, John Major. Since Thatcher’s tenure, only The Prince Edward and Prince William of Wales have been created hereditary peers (they were created Earl of Wessex in 1999 and Duke of Cambridge in 2011 respectively, both on the occasion of their marriages).
    We should rid our selves of the house of Lords for no other reason that they are unelected, never mind this poor downtroden commoner’s guff..

  • Robert Sim

    • June 1st, 2012 7:07

    I agree with John Tulloch’s comments above. The Royals have made some positive contributions to “ordinary” society, a shining example being the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme for young people, but in general they are indeed simply part of the (let’s face it) English establishment, an establishment which continues to allow a small elite control of the media, politics and education in England.

    Thankfully, Scotland has a different, more democratic tradition,going back to at least the Enlightenment, and which historically produced a widely-educated population, able to think for itself. David Priest’s original letter above can be seen as an example of that. Therefore there is, I think, a distinct lack of “forelock-tugging” in Scotland. Some up-to-date evidence for that is this story in the Scotsman, about the lack of interest in Jubilee street parties in Scotland:

    The Queen has modernised the monarchy in an intelligent way. But that does not negate its and her overall irrelevance to ordinary society and in particular Scottish society. (For example, Chris Ash, the fact that the UK did not produce a dictator in the 1920s and 30s is to do with a whole host of factors in our society at that time, including the stability and maturity of our parliamentary/political system at that time, in which list the monarchy would be very low down in terms of relevance.)

  • Chris Ash

    • June 1st, 2012 7:08

    A lot of the republican bleating about the Royal Family claims to be about democracy, but when one scratches the surface, it is purely petty jealousy and envy. If republicans were so worried about ‘democracy’, why did they not protest about Tony Blair becoming PM with just 35% of the vote? Or that the vast majority of Brits favour a referundum on EU membership, but this is simply ignored by our ‘mother knows best’ political class? Or that 75% of our laws are now decided upon by unelected Eurocrats.
    These are real challenges to our democracy, not the fact that we (like Norway, Holland, Spain, Sweden and a host of other free, tolerant and decent nations) have a unelected figurehead as a ceremonial head of state.

    Democracy is simply not the issue for republicans – instead they are really interested in 70’s style Class War moaning about ‘privilege’.The fact is that in any free market economy, certain people are going to end up richer or more privileged than others and any social engineering project to alter this results in wonderful People’s Paradises like East Germany and North Korea. Do republicans really believe that future (eg) Kennedy’s, Bush’s or Obama’s are not going to be born into privilege?

    Luckily the latest polls show that only 13% of Britons favour a republic, and any republicans who feel they are mistreated in Britain’s Consitutional Monarchy, (or who find it ‘repugnant’) are more than welcome to try and emigrate to a republican eutopia – may I suggest Zimbabwe?

  • Chris Ash

    • June 1st, 2012 7:40

    Any who still believe the claims that republicans are really campaigning for ‘democracy’ in the UK, might find the Economist’s ‘Democracy Index’ interesting.

    It is interesting to note that 5 of the top 6 ‘most democractic’ nations are constitutional monarchies and that the UK is one of just 25 nations to be ranked as a ‘Full Democracy’ (more democratic, indeed, than republican USA). Republics like France, South Africa, Portugal and Greece are rated as ‘Flawed Democracies’ and come in significantly lower, wheres People’s Paradises like Russia, Azerbaijan, Cameroon, Angola and North Korea languish right at the bottom.

    So please spare us the rubbish about your campaign having anything to do with democracy and admit it is motivated by childish spite and petty jealousy.

  • Chris Ash

    • June 1st, 2012 9:46

    Robert Sim

    You seem to overlook the fact that the Constitutional Monarchy and House of Lords were integral parts of our ‘parliamentary / political system at that time’ and therefore added to the ‘the stability and maturity’ of it.
    Are you suggesting that all those nations in Europe who ended up with extremist governments lacked mature political systems? Even today, the first round of the recent Presidental elections in France saw 30% of people voting for either a Holocaust denier or a Communist. This is admitedly an improvement on the last time, when a man who denies the Holocaust ever happened came 2nd.

  • Ron Stronach

    • June 1st, 2012 12:46

    God save the Queen, Cheers everybody have a great few days celebration!

  • Judith Probert

    • June 1st, 2012 17:34

    I have read with great delight the comments on Mr Priest’s letter; which I had found repugnant in the extreme. Born “British” and proud of it; hopefully a member of the United Kingdom; and living for nearly 40 years in one of the most beautiful parts of that United Kingdom. I have a respect for the Royal Family and what they try to stand for in an ever changing world. None of us are perfect; but I can not see many people dedicating their entire lives in the way our Queen has done; nor can I believe that many of us would wish to do and be expected to continue doing; the daily work she commits herself too. Naive maybe; but my thanks go out to all of you whose more eloquent responses have found the words that I was unable to find – I join with you all “God Save The Queen”……..

  • John Tulloch

    • June 1st, 2012 22:30

    The royal family don’t upset me or cause me to utter “class war ranting” because I am not a “class warrior” and I don’t mind others having lots of money, especially, if they have worked hard for it.

    That said, the democracy we enjoy in this country is more attributable to Magna Carta and Oliver Cromwell’s Parliamentarians than to any particular democratic benevolence on the part of monarchs who, prior to the English Civil War and the beheading of Charles I, insisted on the the “Divine Right of Kings” and had to have it wrested from them, forcibly. Without those events would there ever have been a successful French Revolution?

    Ruling monarchs took major countries to war against democracies as recently as World War II so I’m unsure we should be too complacent about monarchies underpinning democracy. Were it not for the freedom fighters of the past, might we not still have a ruling monarchy similar to the one deposed in Iran a mere 33 years ago?

    I am sufficient of a democrat to accept that if the majority of people in this country want to have a monarchy to which to bow and fawn then they will have their way and I’m content with that.

    That does not however prevent me from thinking that the existence of the monarchy is simply WRONG in principle – repugnant – and all those “ranting” about democracy above will, I trust, permit me to speak my mind and disagree with me by argument as opposed to derogatory comments.

    Prior to the tumultuous events of the past I would probably have been hung, drawn and quartered for expressing these views and I find it surprising to see a “man o’ da cloot” picking up cudgels and inviting detractors of the monarchy to leave the country;-

    “For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body–whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free–and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.” [1 Corinthians 12:13]

    The Laird and the Minister, it appears, are still pretty tight.

  • Robert Sim

    • June 2nd, 2012 7:55

    Clearly, for some folk, the lines are very blurred between the monarchy and religious belief. And good luck to you on that one. We all need something to believe in.

    What I have been suprised by in this exchange is the level of vitriol and personal invective directed at those who espouse anti-monarchist views. Does that typify the values we are all meant to see enshrined in the Royal Family?

  • ian tinkler

    • June 2nd, 2012 19:20

    HRH is OK if you wish to bow, scrape and idolatrise with sycophancy. Sole life time achievement, live very well and for a long time living off the backs of her subjects, not much else I can think off. Produced some highly obnoxious offspring whom to date have achieved nothing that money and privilege could buy them. Most onerous activity for HRH? Tell me, I can think of nothing comparable to the suffering and commitment to HM forces, soldiers, sailors and airmen and women that truly serve and die for democracy. I am sorry if anyone finds this offensive, but just think about it, failing that, try sharing RNC Dartmouth with his Royal Highness, Prince Andrew, Duke of York, or a Marine billet at Lympstone with ex, nearly RM, HRH Prince Edward. Now give me Dianna of Spencer, at least she truly of British decent, not Von Gotha or whatever.

  • David Priest

    • June 2nd, 2012 21:01

    John Tulloch, Robert Sim and Sue Wailoo thank you for your supporting comments. Sorry about the length of this.

    This has been a very useful exercise in sharpening up my arguments, but nothing of the shallow arguments put up by pro monarchists has caused me to change my views in the slightest. Observing the comments above I would clarify what is important and why I am a republican (& proud of it) ;

    1) The monarchy need to be de-coupled from the British constitution. their automatic right to be head of state to be suspended. Jubilee’s , royal marriages, divorces, birth’s deaths and bar mitzvahs can all go on as normal. Behind that the constitution needs redesigning, particularly the role of head of state and the operation and constitution of the house of lords, accountability of the military and judiciary needs to be considered and more effective checks and balances established. The UK has never really had full democracy, the House of Lords Act 1999 was at best a fudge.

    2) It is politicians and those that slog away in the public sector that perform the real public service (including the military) in the UK. The make tough decisions with scarce resources and are regularly harangued – for sport- by a cynical and manipulative media. Never having to make difficult public policy decisions means that the royalty (& aristocracy) rarely have expose themselves to trial by media, unlike politicians, and can sit there aloof as those who try to make the world a better place have to slug it through all the invective and character assassination.

    3) The head of state needs to have some affinity with the poor and disadvantaged in society. I don’t see where the royals have any affinity with anyone outside their own class. 2 weeks living in a croft in Loch Nagar doesn’t quite convince me that they understand the poverty issues of living in one parent families on council estates in major cities or what rural poverty really does mean in the UK.

    4) I have some sympathy with the generations that lived through World War 2 or the post war austerity. The royal family did show some genuine leadership here and in actual fact in some ways the queen has not been a too bad head of state. She is attractive to many people in the UK because there has been a dignity and continuity and restraint in her own personal conduct – unlike some of those around her. But why does the queen feel she needs to go on for ever? The demands of the role must mean that as an 80 odd year old capacity and ability must be limited now and it demonstrates a lack of vision, inflexibility and selfishness in not standing down in a dignified way at a more normal retirement age.

    5) There are other successful models of establishing a republican constitution. The republic of Eire is a great example, so is Germany post war (& a successful economy and football team too). Chris Ash seems to equate republicanism with dictatorship or communism. I equate it with proper checks and balances, moderate, consensual with forward thinking and a care for the whole community.I’m sure we can think of many failed monarchy’s over the 20th century often working in collusion with dictatorship to keep the masses down trodden.

    6) The monarchy is against change and improvement. In the last 25 years of the Queens reign, inequality has increased, corporate power has increased and the elderly, vulnerable and disadvantaged have been increasingly alienated and left without a role in society. Where is the evidence that the monarchy have done anything to help stop or reverse this decline?

    Chris Ash makes the point about the poor soldier in the regatta who lost his leg in Afghanistan. I’m glad he is getting an opportunity to do his bit and feel proud and get some recognition for his sacrifice but I feel he is being used in a very subtle PR game. Royalty are very dependent on the military and I am sure the military appreciate having figureheads who take an interest in their issues and point of view. This is a pact that re-established itself after the Civil War in England. But ultimately the royals use their close links with the military to be seen as doing their public service. It is a convenient trade off to do and young royals can be seen as both manly and caring and `doing their bit with the lads’ at the same time.
    I’d like to see one of them do hospital porter shifts or train up as a social worker (inner cities of course) or work with asylum seekers for say a 3 year stint – not quite as glamorous eh..and a more poignant contrast to the regular pleasure dome of hunting, polo, horse racing that they would be more comfortable with.

    The queen has been a popular head of state and if there was an election for the job next week, of course she could win. But in a few years time there will be a successor and the cracks in the royal edifice will become more noticeable. At last the royals are becoming more vulnerable.

    It is important that Republic as an organisation continues to keep the pressure on and take opportunities to point out the flaws in the present anachronistic fudge. We are here for the long game. Your interest in my letter has only helped raise the profile and illustrated the weakness of the pro monarchist arguments, thank you..

  • Chris Ash

    • June 3rd, 2012 9:05

    John Tulloch

    I am unaware of any Constitutional Monarch taking their country to war against a Democracy in WW2. Please can you enlighten me? The closest I can think of is Great Britain declaring war on Finland after it sided with Nazi Germany – is that something we should be ashamed of? What I am aware of is that extremism swept through the republics of Europe, though not Great Britain.
    I further note that, for all your claims to be motivated by a lust for greater democracy, you declined to comment on the evidence I presented which showed Great Britain is far more democratic than the vast majority of republics you seemingly admire, or that five of the six most democratic nations on earth are Constitutional Monarchies.

    Robert Sim

    I had no idea that you were so sensitive. I think you’ll also find that republicans were the first to throw around words like ‘repugnant’, ‘sycophantic’ and ‘sick making’, and to make rather unpleasant and completely unsubstantiated accusations about the Royal Family’s support for Hitler.

    Still, republicans are, of course, more than welcome to their rather bizarre view point. As no major political party supports a republic, only 13% of British people like the idea and the pressure group ‘republic’ has a similar level of membership as other extremist groups like the BNP, then we can safely ignore the possibility change any time soon.

    Right – I’m off to finish putting up the bunting and put the beer in the fridge.

  • Brian Smith

    • June 3rd, 2012 13:25

    Yes indeed, Robert., You can imagine the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret cursing and sinking about the failure of deference over their gin.

  • Gordon Harmer

    • June 3rd, 2012 13:36

    Imagine waking up on the day after polling day and hearing this, “Good morning people of Britain, I present to you President Cameron” (or, worse still, President Miliband or Salmond). I dread the day that this might happen. We have enough self serving and dishonest politicians already (along with a good percentage of decent ones), plus Eurocrats like the Kinnocks who leech of the tax payer and don’t give a tenth of the value of the Royals. Why do we need more? The Queen is a wonderful, apolitical representative of our country, and should be thanked for her hard work and determination. If we get rid of the Queen, we will have to have a President. That means one politician from one political party representing our country to the world. I can’t think of a single politician I would want to represent me and my country overseas. The Queen, on the other hand, is a worthy representative. Considering she only costs us the equivalent of fifty pence per person per year good value I would say.

  • Robert Simpson

    • June 4th, 2012 14:13

    Completely agree, David.

    Most of us are at best, completely indifferent about the royal family, and what they get up to. I think there is a strong argument which says the concept of having a hereditary head of state is politically incorrect and morally unsound.

    The Jubilee business, as patronised by the usual suspects (Cliff Richard, Paul McCartney, and Elton John and now newcomer Gary ‘relyte ma fayuh’ Barlow) is achingly tedious. And actually embarassing. Somehow even more embarassing than Henman Hill.

    (Did I just committ treason?)

  • Peg Young

    • June 5th, 2012 22:31

    I thought that people might be interested in reading a Canadian opinion on the monarchy. Coyne uses a word which I don’t see much in the debate above: love.

  • John Tulloch

    • June 6th, 2012 18:33

    In reply to Chris Ash’s query re WWII monarchs,

    Emperor Hirohito, Pearl Harbour attack on US, Constitution of the Empire of Japan (aka “Meiji Constitution” – November 29th,1890 to May 2nd, 1947).

  • Robert Simpson

    • June 7th, 2012 9:48

    Chris Ash,

    The above example John Tulloch gave is a good one. And reminds me that according to that same constitution Emperor Hirohito had divine powers, as per the shinto belief that his family were descended from the sun god Amaterasu. These kind of religious proclaimations are not uncommon in explaining/justifying how/why monarchs came to be, throughout any continent.

    “Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of Her other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith”

    A lot of us think that matters of State and Religion should be kept entirely separate, monarch or not.

  • Chris Ash

    • June 12th, 2012 6:14

    Attempting to compare pre-WW2 Imperial Japan with the Constitutional Monarchy of Great Britain is completely disingenuous. The Emperor retained enormous powers and was worshipped as a Deity. There was only one political party (all the parties having combined into one) and this was under the control of the powerful military lobby in any case – the average Japanese voter had little or no say in how their nation was run. Far from being comparable to the British system of Constitutional Monarchy, the Japanese version was inspired by the Prussian system of Absolute Monarchy of the late 19th Century – something I do not think anyone is arguing in favour of.

    What is relevant to this debate is the system of Government implemented on Japan by the American occupying forces after the war. Keen that Japan would never succumb to extremism again, they chose not a republic, but a Constitutional Monarchy for Japan – a system which is still in place today. As the Americans evidently knew, the Constitutional Monarchy is the most stable form of government one can get. I previously demonstrated this by posting the link to the ‘Democracy Index’, though this information has either been ignored or misunderstood by republicans.

    If the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbour in 1941 is the best argument republicans can come up with for changing our system of government, then they really are scraping the bottom of the barrel.

  • John Tulloch

    • June 12th, 2012 17:42

    Chris Ash,

    You’re right. IF the bombing of Pearl Harbour was the best argument for changing our system, republicans would indeed be scraping the barrel however it isn’t even the argument – the only reason Hirohito was mentioned was because you challenged my comment “Ruling monarchs took major countries to war against democracies as recently as World War II.” “RULING” monarchs – it was YOU who asked me to explain which “Constitutional” monarch took his country to war in WWII and I answered your question correctly.

    Just because our royals are more cuddly than the Meiji Constitution Japanese monarchy doesn’t make it right for us to have a monarchy.

    The problem with constantly shifting your ground each time your argument suffers a reverse is that the “wheel eventually turns full circle” and you get back to where you already lost in the first round, viz.,

    The Queen does her job admirably and the Duke of Edinburgh’s honesty and lack of political correctness are refreshing however that doesn’t excuse the fact that they are where they are because of heredity – they are descended from the most successful – and ruthless – warlords of the past whose ill-gotten gains have been passed on from generation to generation until such time as they attained an air of legitimacy and entitlement.

    I suppose the descendants of Saddam Hussein and Idi Amin might have become respectable “Constitutional” monarchs in about 500 years time had their lines not been rudely interrupted – in the best traditions – by force of arms.

    Would that make it all OK to have let them stay on?

  • Chris Ash

    • June 12th, 2012 20:40

    So far, I have yet to read any better argument for changing the current system of government, so assumed the attack on Pearl Harbour was the best the republic lobby could come up with.
    As already explained, Imperial Japan was by no means a Constitutional Monarchy – it quite simply lacked any of the hallmarks of that system and was primarily based on the Prussian system of absolute monarchy, so I am unaware of ever shifting my ground. If Japan was a Constitutional Monarchy before the war, perhaps someone can explain why it needed to be changed into a… wait for it… Constitutional Monarchy after the war. Also, no one has explained why the Americans chose this form of government over any other.
    And as for ‘losing the first round’, I would like to point out that republicans have so far failed to answer any of my questions – apart from a rather bizarre attempt to compare pre-war Imperial Japan to a Constitutional Monarchy – something I have never seen anyone ever claim before. Others have popped up to make unsubstantiated claims which fly in the face of reality (eg. ‘Most of us are at best, completely indifferent about the royal family’ or ‘The UK has never really had full democracy’).
    I also eagerly await a republican finally commenting on the Economist’s “Democracy Index” which I posted 12 days ago.

  • John Tulloch

    • June 12th, 2012 22:20


    You can skate around the argument throwing off red herrings as much as you like(which I shall answer separately to avoid detracting from this) however the one argument that cannot be resisted is that the automatic apportioning of supposed genetic superiority to a group of individuals by their “pedigree” and keeping them apart from “commoners” is not only undemocratic, it is tacit apartheid – racism.

    If Prince Charles was the Queen’s little brother, would she still be the Queen?
    If Prince Charles converts to Catholicism can he still be heir to the throne?
    If Barack Obama was British could he become Head of State?

    No, no and thrice, no.

    Sorry, that can’t be right.

  • Chris Ash

    • June 13th, 2012 6:26

    Interesting reading:

    Pre-war Japan was a Constitutional Monarchy in the same way that East Germany was a ‘Democratic Republic’.

  • John Tulloch

    • June 13th, 2012 9:23

    Funny how people who have lost an argument seek refuge in semantics.

    “constitutional monarchy
    A monarchy in which the powers of the ruler are restricted to those granted under the constitution and laws of the nation”

    The Constitution of the Empire of Japan aka “Meiji Constitution” restricted the powers of the emperor in line with the above constitution and the laws of that nation. No more to be said.

    I repeat, “the automatic apportioning of supposed genetic superiority to a group of individuals by their “pedigree” and keeping them apart from “commoners” is not only undemocratic, it is tacit apartheid – racism.”

    Keep skating round it, you might get lucky yet.

  • Chris Ash

    • June 13th, 2012 9:31

    Once more, we are back to being told that the current system is ‘undemocratic’ – and yet I’m the one who gets accused of a ‘circular argument’.
    You will forgive me for (once again) directing you to the Economist’s ‘Democracy Index’. The UK is one of the most democratic, free and stable nations on earth, so this argument really is a non-starter. Why will no one answer these simply questions: if a Constitutional Monarchy is ‘undemocratic’, why are five of the top six ‘most democratic’ nations on earth Constitutional Monarchies? If the system is undemocratic, why is the UK one of only 25 nations on earth recognised as a ‘Full Democracy’?
    It takes a remarkable amount of “self-confidence” to think that your position is right and everyone else (The Economist, the 80% who support the Monarchy, the Americans who selected a Constitutional Monarchy for Japan etc) must be wrong.
    Even republicans admit that HM the Queen does her job brilliantly – as did George VI in WW2 and George the V in WW1.
    I have nothing against modernising the monarchy and, indeed, it has always changed with the time. I have no problem with changing the line of succession to remove the built-in male bais. But in general, and as G.W. Hay wisely said right in the beginning – the system works (and has worked well for hundreds of years) so why change it?

  • Robert Simpson

    • June 13th, 2012 9:33

    “As the Americans evidently knew, the Constitutional Monarchy is the most stable form of government one can get.”

    Then why did the American’s define their own country as a Federal Republic?

    I understood your point about the Economist’s Democracy Index perfectly well, thanks. There is no need to start throwing around insults. You should accept that people have different views to you and rather than try and discredit them by saying they are stupid, you should try and discredit what they are saying.

    I think what is even more relevant to this debate is that your Democracy Index is essentially meaningless. And discredited by the fact that it lists France, Italy and Portugal among many others, as being ‘flawed democracies’. This might actually be true… but I don’t think they’re any more flawed than say, the United Kingdom’s Democracy, or the Republic of Ireland’s.

    Is the Kingdom of Norway really more democratic than the Republic of Iceland? Is the Republic of Iceland more Democratic than it’s old colonial motherland, the Kingdom of Denmark? Are these meaningful comparisons? Isn’t the correlation between ‘more democratic’ nations (as defined by 60 Questions posed by the Economist Magazine) and ‘constitutional monarchies’ more to do with European Colonial History? All 25 ‘full democracies’ except Japan and South Korea are European nations, or former European colonies.

    Some are republics and some aren’t. Some will probably become a republic in the near future – like Australia – and some won’t. I suggest that the deciding factor in the Democracy Index seems to be access to European colonially influenced modern Free Trade policy, not links to constitutional democracies. And I suppose, this would be a logical conclusion for the “Economist Magazine”, which promotes and indeed sells economic intelligence, to reach.

    Here’s how the Democracy Index was devised:

    60 Questions about each country were asked. Don’t know who to. (e.g. ‘Are Elections Free and Fair?’). Most answers are “experts’ assessments”; the report does not indicate what kinds of experts, nor their number, nor whether the experts are employees of the Economist Intelligence Unit or independent scholars, nor the nationalities of the experts. Some answers are provided by public-opinion surveys from the respective countries. In the case of countries for which survey results are missing, survey results for similar countries and expert assessments are used in order to fill in gaps.

    This is meaningless sociological survey work. Pseudo-science. It’s essentially an opinion. In this case, being taken out of context to argue against democracy in the form of a democratically elected head of state. The Irony… I wonder if one of the questions in the Economist’s Democracy Index survey might have been ‘Was the Head of State democratically elected?’. How many points for that?

    And on the point of Pearl Harbour, that was simply a response to you saying that no monarchies attacked republics in WW2. Another vacuous and meaningless assertion.

    Well they did. One notable example was Japan’s agression against the USA, which by the way, was nothing to do with monarchial nations being more or less aggressive than republics, it was a bid to safeguard oil supplies from British/Dutch (Shell) controlled fields in Indonesia. A power play which ultimately went tragically wrong for all involved. No more no less.

    This in turn was in response to a comment about members of the Royal Family being Nazi Sympathizers in WW2. Well, that is widely speculated on, by many historical experts. It’s not difficult to imagine though, since prior to the outbreak of was about 50% of Europeans supported extreme right wing policy, and about 50% supported extreme left wing policy.

    I support the idea of a British Republic because I believe in people being equal. And I believe in modernism; I don’t believe in maintaining tradition for tradition’s sake. Finally, and most of all I find royally inspired chauvanistic patriotism/nationalism which the monarch are designed to personify, offensive and embarassing. As a secularist I don’t have much time for religious proclamations from sovereign heads of state either. It’s not about Pearl Harbour, or a meaningless poll/editorial gimmick from the Economist, and I acknowledge that nationalism is not reserved only for monarchists, but you’ve failed to convince me that the monarchy are worth supporting, Chris, so I’ll just stick to my bizarre views as you call them. the jubilee stuff had shades of the ‘dear leader worship’ about it and I’m not comfortable with that. But each to their own. We’ll carry on regardless and I don’t suppose it will much affect my life. Except for the hugely irritating and embarassing Cliff Recard/Elton John/Wills n Kate fest I’ll have to endure when she snuffs it and that twit Charles takes over…. yawn

    Don’t mind me, put it down as some more “normal miserable Class-War ranting from a republican.” if you like.

  • ian tinkler

    • June 13th, 2012 9:52

    For goodness sake, the argument is simple. If the Sheep want to fawn and idolatries Saxe-Coburg and Gotha Greek/Prussian dynasty, so be it. Ovine sycophants will always be part of human nature, just hope Elizabeth outlives Good Queen Camilla. Food for thought? Adultery rains OK!!!!

  • ian tinkler

    • June 13th, 2012 9:56

    RAIN? REIGN! Dyslexia for President?

  • Chris Ash

    • June 13th, 2012 11:22

    So there we have it: everyone else is wrong, and the 13% of the British public who want a republic are right.
    And if you are one of the 80% (with 7% undecided) who disagree with them, you are insulting them, apparently.
    And as for “that was simply a response to you saying that no monarchies attacked republics in WW2” – if you go back and re-read what I said, you will find I never claimed that. No doubt you will think I am accusing you of being ‘stupid’ for asking you not to mis-quote me, but there you go.

    Also it’s great to see that the catch all claim of ‘racism’ has now been thrown about – it never takes long to someone to resort to that in a losing cause.

  • John Tulloch

    • June 13th, 2012 11:34

    The Economist’s Democracy Index? OK.

    I think we can conclude that those countries at or near the top which have “constitutional monarchies” must be extremely democratic in respects other than the way they determine who is to become head of state; they are therefore at the top IN SPITE OF and not because of having a monarchy.

    Perhaps it’s because of their “unicameralism” (I thought that was inhabiting a “one-camel-town”) – no House of Lords with membership by heredity or political patronage and the fact that what’s left of their monarchies is well pared down. For example the personal fortune of King Harald V has been estimated at 100 million kroner (about 10 million pounds). Try multiplying by 1000 for our lot.

    Come to think of it, when does the Norwegian Household Cavalry “troop the colour” – I must remember to book my holidays?

    Interesting too that the UK falls below such republican beacons as Uruguay, Czech Republic, Malta, Germany and Austria, I wonder why that might be?

  • John Tulloch

    • June 13th, 2012 11:48


    Your style reminds me of some other guys who used to write here over the past year or so – do you know any of John, Mark or Mike? Are you related or are/were they in your class at school or college?

    Are you a closet republican putting up arguments to be shot down like clay pigeons? I didn’t set out on this debate as a republican, I simply had misgivings about heredity and privilege in our society being underpinned by the existence of a monarchy however I’ve become more convinced with every round of discussion.

    Oops, “I doot A’ll hae ta flee” .. one of my wife’s friends has just announced that a busload of heavily-armed beefeaters has just disembarked in Arrochar… oh, no..oh, it’s ok, it’s only a bunch of bingo-winged tourists who’ve booked a steak lunch at the Village Inn!

    Edder wye, I tink a’m hed enioch.

  • Chris Ash

    • June 13th, 2012 11:53

    Aha! So the reason that five of the top six most democratic nations are all Constitutional Monarchies can only possibly be DESPITE their system of government! I’m now beginning to understand how a republican sees the world.

    As for Semantics, and while we’re on the subject, let’s take democracy:



    1.A system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives.
    2.A state governed in such a way.

    So if you are one of those who chooses to see the world in black and white, this would mean that Apartheid South Africa (a country which threw off the tyranny of a Constitutional Monarchy to become a republic, let’s not forget) was a democracy – afterall, “all the eligible members of a state” got a vote.

    There are, however, shades of grey in everything. Imperial Japan was far closer to being an Absolute Monarchy than a true Constitutional Monarchy. The British system had been rejected as giving ‘too much power to Parliament’ (ie. the people), and the Japanese Emperor alone had the right to make war, make peace, dismiss and appoint any and all government officials and was “sacred and inviolable” and worshipped as a God – so not a lot of restriction in his absolute power, I think you’d agree.

  • Vernon Yarker

    • June 13th, 2012 11:57

    Elected president. Some of the most unstable countries in the world have elected presidents. Its simplistic tosh to want a political head of State. The head of State should not be political. The result of this is that the UK has probably the most stable politics in the world

  • Chris Ash

    • June 13th, 2012 12:56

    Well, John, I am glad I managed to help you firm up your opinions and many thanks for a lively debate.


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