On Tactical Republicanism

I’ve always been an apathetic republican. I don’t like the hereditary principle, but overthrowing it has never been a political priority for me. When said leader seems to have only symbolic power, it just seems low on the list of key issues after, say, housing, low wages, unemployment, climate change etc. I reckon most of the population feels similarly. If they were designing a system they wouldn’t start from here, but given where we are they can’t see why they should bother getting excited about republicanism; they feel the current setup is eccentric, but basically inoffensive. As a result republican campaigners fail to get much traction – they are seen as cranks pursuing a faintly irrelevant cause, or worse, people who have a personal animus against the queen, almost universally seen as a nice old lady doing her best for the country.

The trouble with this state of affairs is that it rests on the assumption that the monarchy has no real power and the queen is only a symbolic head of state. This is not the case. The monarchy still holds a range of powers – which are rarely used, but the threat of them constitutes power regardless. There are a whole range of royal powers which are no longer held by the monarch but which allow the prime minister to act in a dictatorial manner, bypassing parliament. And the role of head of state means that in a crisis situation or a political vacuum, power would ultimate rest with the monarch. Continue reading