The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #172353 Message #4171701
Posted By: Backwoodsman
07-May-23 - 03:03 AM
Thread Name: BS: The Coronation
Subject: RE: BS: The Coronation
Billy Bragg on FarceBook yesterday. I have to say I completely agree with everything he says…
”One of the most annoying things about appearing on a topical debate programme on tv or radio is that you spend the day after thinking of all the things that you should have said in response to audience questions. My appearance yesterday on BBC1’s Question Time was no exception. It was obvious that we’d be discussing the Coronation and sure enough the first question was about the invitation to swear allegiance to King Charles III, his heirs and successors.
I made the comment that such things were obsequious, that pledges of loyalty to a new king belong in Game of Thrones rather than a modern democracy. What I should have done was to pick up on what one of the other guests had said just before I spoke, something that I think is more important than the flummery of a coronation. There were two MPs on the panel, one Labour, the other Tory, and both admitted that they had already pledged allegiance to the monarch - in their case the late Queen - when they became MPs.
They are required to do so due to the nature of our constitution. The current arrangement stems from the 1689 Bill of Rights, an agreement that William of Orange was required to sign in order to become King of England. Under this settlement, the monarch agrees to give parliament the right to exercise executive power while they in turn pledge their loyalty to the crown. As democracy developed, the power of parliament grew while the monarch assumed a figurehead role, but the concept of the crown in parliament has remained the same. As a result, the people are not sovereign in their own parliament - the government acts in the name of the crown.
Although the administrative powers of the monarchy - the right to make laws and raise taxes - have long been under democratic control, that are some very important powers that the government have retained, powers that they can use without recourse to parliamentary debate. These so-called ‘royal prerogatives’ include the right to declare war and the right to sign treaties. In practice, prime ministers have chosen to let MPs debate treaties and the Iraq War was debated and voted for by parliament. However, while these precedents remain uncodified, there is always a danger that an irresponsible prime minister could seek to exercise what are the final few remnants of absolutism.
What we need is a written constitution, a document that begins ‘We, the People’, a modern Bill of Rights that protects citizens from abuse and can’t be abolished by a government with a majority, as the Tories are threatening to do with the Human Rights Act. Removing the crown from the constitution will allow us to end the anomaly of the royal prerogatives, replace the House of Lords with an elected chamber and ask incoming MPs to pledge allegiance to the people of the United Kingdom, rather than one person.
We could hold a referendum on retaining a ceremonial monarchy that does the things that monarchists like - attract tourists, open hospitals, offer a sense of continuity - as well as the things we all enjoy - like providing an excuse for extra public holidays and giving people like the Sex Pistols something to rage against.
The spectacle of what we all know as the Queens Speech would have to go of course. That big gold throne in the House of Lords would look splendid in a museum. More importantly, the symbolism of that event - of a monarch summoning our elected representatives to bow before them - might make us all feel less like subjects and more like citizens who are sovereign in their own parliament.”