Following my recent blogs right here on The Huffington Post about the monarchy, I was invited by the UCL debating society to participate in their debate on the monarchy this week.
I shared a platform with Graham Smith - Chief Executive of Republic, Professor Robert Hazell
- Professor of Government and the Constitution at UCL and founder and director of the UCL Constitution Unit and Robert Jobson - The official royal commentator for US network NBC, ITN News and Daybreak.
The motion to abolish the monarchy won the vote in the end and sense won out.
As this platform was afforded to me through the opportunity The Huffington Post has given me to share my thoughts with an audience, I thought it'd be nice to share my speech to the UCL Debating Society with through The Huffington Post. So you can read it below:
"Good evening everyone, and thank you for having me here today. I'd like to take a moment to thank my esteemed and knowledgeable colleagues sharing the platform with me here and to pay special thanks to the UCL debating society for inviting me.
Firstly, I'd like to ask if you'd indulge me a small, special dispensation if I may? This is my first formal debate so, whilst the rules allow for interjections I'd be grateful if I'm allowed to make it through and then deal with your points once the debate is open. I know right, bloody amateurs!
There's some pretty horrible things happening in the world right now. We're in the midst of a double-dip recession, Europe looks increasingly unstable and tensions in the middle east are increasing to such a level to turn one's hair even more grey.
Let's not pretend that there's not genuine human suffering happening abroad and here in Britain and also in fact just a short walk from this very room.
It therefore seems almost perverse that all of us are here in this room having a debate about something that seemingly has such little impact on our lives, such as the monarchy.
However, the reason this debate is important for me, is that whilst increasingly conversations about what kind of society we want are put on the back burner behind what kind of society we can afford, principles remain important.
On top of that, we've been subject to a three year PR assault from the royal family and their supporters, they've been putting their case forward unfettered and without press or media scrutiny since the engagement was announced, so if this debate is so unimportant well I can only respond with the rather grown up answer of 'they started it'.
I'm not going to lie, as a republican it has been a tough couple of years. With the wedding and the jubilee and the double-edged sword of our incredibly successful Olympic and Paralympic team meaning that celebrating the achievements of our fellow Britons was followed each time with a celebration in song of a monarchy, let me tell you even by my own boundless capacity for grumpiness, it's not been easy.
So, you'd think that when I sat down to think about what I'd say tonight it would be easy, all those arguments that have formed with every unbalanced hour of BBC broadcasting, with every article that dehumanises a newly married young woman as nothing more than an incubator, with every apology from a journalist who accidentally did his job for a change and actually reported how an un-elected Elizabeth seeks to influence our elected representatives. It should be a doddle. However, it hasn't been, I simply didn't know where to start. There are just too many arguments against monarchy for me to make within my seven minutes, so today I have decided to focus on just two of those arguments.
Firstly that monarchy is in practical terms a poor system for choosing a Head of State, but most importantly my argument and indeed, my entire view of the monarchy is based on principle, and on principle having a monarchy is just bloody wrong.
Now I stand here before you realising my own place in society, it's a little bit rich for a man who makes a living as a music consultant to criticise anyone's value to society. However, it is my conviction that without the need for people to be uniform, every human should be treated as equal.
Some monarchists will argue that the royal family don't have any power, that their power is symbolic and I'd like to borrow that argument. Yes, much of the point of monarchy is its symbols: the crown, the throne, referring to a perfectly run-of-the-mill flesh-and-bone human as 'Her Majesty', genuflecting, throwing a couple of massive expensive parties that have actually been blamed for slowing the economy down even further, all of these things are important symbols.
So if symbols can be used to signify monarchy's place in society then surely monarchy is a symbol of society itself? For me it is a symbol of inequality, it is a symbol of an hereditary principle that blights our nation and holds back not only our people but many of our industries, it is a symbol of a class system that not only restricts opportunities for millions of people, but that actually has real world impact on health and life expectancy.
Do I think that abolishing the monarchy would somehow bring about a utopia? If only the world was that simple. However, the very existence of a system for choosing an important part of our state that relies on the hereditary principle is a validation for those inequalities.
How can we really state that we're working to a society of increased social mobility when the way we choose our Head of State is rooted in one of society's worst prejudices, that some people are simply born better than others.
We all know that in reality some are born into more privilege, and that some people's lot in life means that personal fulfilment is more difficult for them. Much as my argument is about principle. I'm a realist, and I know that this isn't going to change any time soon.
However, that doesn't mean we have to shrug our shoulders and accept it. Maybe it's time for a bit of trickle-down equality, let's make the symbolic move of changing how our Head of State is chosen so it's more in line with the type of society we want.
'But I don't care about equality' I hear some of you say, and indeed not everyone does agree that a more equal society is a good one. So let's look at things on a practical level. Not even thinking about what an affront to democracy monarchy is, in what other than 'the top job' would you select the ideal candidate for the following reasons:
1) They're born in a certain family,
2) That they didn't happen to have any brothers
3) Because their Nazi-sympathising uncle just happened to fancy a woman who had been married before?
Is that really the most sensible way of choosing a Head of State? I know the rules relating to gender have changed but it's no less ludicrous now.
I know Elizabeth is popular at the moment, but imagine what kind of wildly inappropriate individual one could end up lumped with by employing this system. Still, I guess we don't have to worry about this what with the heir being both oh so popular and wise. I think I've made my point.
So these are just a couple of reasons why today I make the argument that monarchy should be abolished. Because we should reject the notion that some people are born better than others and because we should reject this slip-shod anti-democratic system for selecting a head of state.
We live in the 21st century and it's time we took positive, pro-active steps to make a better, more democratic society. For those of you here who are staunch monarchists I offer you this olive branch, I think you're as ace as your queen, now how can that be a bad thing? So please, I put it to you, my equals, it is time we abolished the monarchy."
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