Should Britain keep its royal family?
- Good morning, and welcome to our live debate on the future of the British Monarchy. With the Queen's Diamond Jubilee just a few days away, Oliver Lane, Chairman of the British Monarchist League and Graham Smith, CEO of Republic will join us at noon for a debate on the pros and cons of the British royal family.
There's still plenty of time to send us your questions, and we hope you will also comment on the live debate as it happens.
- Both organisations are also on Twitter, you can follow the British Monarchist League via @bmlsupporters, and Republic via @RepublicStaff.
- So what do you think? Does the royal family represent value for money? Would you keep the monarchy as it is, or switch to a different system?
- Why not keep them, but let them live off their own means? Other... Monarchies seem to do ok and yet still perform the same public duties and PR events ?
- Over on our Facebook page, Europeans for Mitt Romney 2012 comments: "The monarchy and its cultural, historical legacy is one of the most important things that make Britain attractive to foreign tourists."
Meanwhile, Abdiqani Hussein says: "[It] is not for the British people to decide... If there were any polling i think it should include the countries that are still under the British Crown."
- Yes it should be kept in my opinion. The Monarchy is one of the most recognisible parts of British culture. It attacts tourist revenue and gives the UK a global brand.
- According to the latest polling, the Queen is enjoying record levels of support ahead of the jubilee celebrations, according to a Guardian/ICM poll.
"Britain would be worse off without the monarchy say 69% of respondents, while of 22% say the country would be better off. This 47-point royalist margin is the largest chalked up on any of the 12 occasions since 1997 on which ICM has previously asked the question."
Read the full Guardian write-up here: www.guardian.co.uk
- The Monarchy represents inequality and prejudice. It is inherently undemocratic and it is wrong that it is held out to be a symbol of our country.
- No more Monarchs... apart from the Queen they are not fit to be recognised as head of state. Get rid of them !
- I want a neutral head of state that is above party politics and serves as a unifying force for the country. The monarchy delivers that, a politician given the title president simply will not. God save the Queen.
- @MLJ111 tweets: "How do you describe the principle of Monarchy to kids when you teach them about human rights & equal opportunities?"
- Our guests should be with us in a few minutes. Thanks for your questions so far. Keep them coming!
- To make the monarchy redundant one needs statesmen instead of self-serving politicians. In this country, the chance of that happening is zero.
- @IpsosMORI tweets: "Will the #monarchy still exist 50 years’ from now? % saying 'yes' Nov 1999: 29%, Apr 2011: 56%"
- I say keep them. They generate wealth for charities and draw tourists the world over to come spend money in our country. A lot of this debate will stem from their apparent drain on our taxes when in fact the total amount they create by far exceeds this.
- They must go. The Royal Family underpin all the nonsense and snobbery that UK life is riddled with. But, alas servitude is entrenched!! Just listen to the toadying tones adopted by BBC news readers when talking about the Royal Family...... if it wasn't so sick-making it could be almost funny!!
- Right then, let's get this show on the road. The first question, to both our guests, is:
Q - Is the royal family still a strong unifying force, or an institution which divides us?
- @ZyklonMist Do tourists really come here for the royal family? I'd say the majority come to see the sights, especially in London, and to experience our history. This does include Buckingham Palace, but they typically don't get to see the Queen or the family. We can keep the palace, the changing of the guard and all the pageantry without the monarchy. The tourists will still come in regardless.
- The monarchy has always been divisive. The polls only show an inclination towards not changing things, they don't point to a widespread and deep affection for the institution. The monarchy is often symbolic of class and political divisions.
- Good afternoon everyone, and thank you to Ross and Reuters for inviting the British Monarchist League to join you today.
This seems like a great question to start with. I think the events of the past few weeks, and of the coming weekend especially show what a massively unifying force the Royal Family are in the United Kingdom. As has been mentioned here just, recent polls from IPOS MORI and Guardian/ICM shows that an enormous majority in the UK both support the retention of the Constitutional Monarchy as a form of government and the Queen herself as a head of state.
The Guardian Poll is particularly telling - in the unfortunate event of the death of Her Majesty, only 10% of Britons would want to see her replaced by a republic. I can't think of any single political figure in this country who can claim to be so uniting, or who has the character and popularity to take the position.
- Ofcourse it is unifying.. .70-80% support for the monarchy, a majority of Labour, Lib dems, conservatives voters/MPs.. A politician would be far more divisive, check most presidential election results in republics for proof.
- Another question to both of you now. Does the royal family represent good value for money? There seems to be confusion about the numbers.
- Hi Oliver. That poll figure is not asking about a republic but is asking about who should succeed the Queen, giving specific individuals to choose from. 22% say the country would be better off without the monarchy.
- @Simon Wright A president does not necessarily have to be a politician. India's previous president, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, is a scientist and aerospace engineer by profession. While backed by certain political parties, he was and is an independent. India's system has allowed a Muslim scientist from a poor background to become head of state of a Hindu-majority country, something that is simply not possible in the UK.
- Thanks for the Clarification Graham. Looking at the results now, the Guardian / ICM poll pretty clearly states that 10% said that if the Queen Abdicates or dies, the UK should become a republic and elect a head of state.
Only 10% - not many. If you're getting confused you can see the figures here;
- There's no value for money, no. And I'll come onto that in a moment. But it's important to stress that we're discussing our constitution and our democracy. 'Value for money' is irrelevant.
Having said that the huge cost of the monarchy is symptomatic of an unaccountable institution. The estimated annual cost to the taxpayer is around £202m. There is no return on that, just wasted money that could be spent on thousands of nurses, police officers or schools.
- Will now reply to Ross's new Question!
- Graham, before I reply in full I'd like to know where that figure came from? Is this from the Government, Palace? Or is it based on guesswork?
- It's based on various sources that we've put together and have published on our website. We are of course left to make our own judgement on this because the official figures are obscured by secrecy and spin.
- I think it's worth emphasising that without access to the Chancellors personal paperwork, it's difficult to know the exact cost of the Monarchy to the taxpayer, however the Royal Family contributes more to the public purse than it takes away, through the Royal Estates. In 2009/11 the Crown Estates handed over £200 million to the public purse and received significantly less in return.
- Oliver, your response to my second question about value for money? I'll give you time to answer that and then we'll move on.
- Thank you. Separate questions for both of you coming up. Oliver, yours comes from one of our users.
- Question for Mr Lane: Does he believe that any other positions in British public life should be awarded by birthright? If so, which? If not, why does he believe an exception should be made for the head of state?
- The key question here Oliver is what would happen if the monarchy were abolished. The Crown Estate is not the personal property of the Windsor family. If they are removed from office it will remain where it is, and will continue to pass revenue to the government. Therefore it's not something that can be factored into the equation.
- And Graham - What would you replace royal family with? What's the alternative?
- @Oliver Lane (Chairman,... The Crown Estate belongs to the people, not the royal family. It's our seabed essentially!
- What about an introduction of a much less grandiose monarch, it would save the taxpayer millions and still keep up the tradition.
- Don't forget the 10 billion pounds worth of art work they own. Surely we could make more money if we opened up the palaces to the public as museums?
- @r3loaded Governments do not exist for the purposes of helping people become head of state. As for scientists becoming presidents, once they are the president, they are a politician not a scientist. You will find that the british public are apathetic to politicians as a whole and would prefer to keep the monarchy as they are viewed as being above the political realm as well as being more human than some of our politicians.
- The alternative is simple and works well elsewhere: a parliamentary democracy with an elected head of state and a republican constitution. This would limit the power of parliament and give parliament more authority over the government. The head of state would be an impartial constitutional figure - elected by the people - who would be able to act as constitutional referee. Other than that the president would represent us at home and abroad, not getting involved in politics but speaking for the nation in a way the Queen can't and doesn't.
- As we move away from a constitution based on a mixture of legislation, common law and convention, and towards a written constitution (albeit at a snail's pace), the question that has to be asked is what place the royal family could realistically have in the constitutional framework of what purports to be a modern, transparent and liberal democratic state?
- Graham, can I follow up on that by asking, what is the most successful model outside of the UK?
- hi cobb_013 - the art collection is an important point. Buckingham palace has one of the world's largest art collections, it's a scandal that it's kept away from the public. It would make a world renowned art gallery in a republic
- @MS Look at Sweden, Norway and Holland and you will find your answer.
- How can we criticise foreign countries for their lack of democracy when we refuse to lead by example?
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