The Blog

Will a Small Royal Reshuffle Kick Off Our Biggest Social Change?

2013 was the year Pope Benedict XVI took the unusual decision of resigning from his post, much to the surprise of those who had followed his works across the world. This year, our own defender of the faith is also resigning - to an extent...

2013 was the year Pope Benedict XVI took the unusual decision of resigning from his post, much to the surprise of those who had followed his works across the world. This year, our own defender of the faith is also resigning - to an extent.

"Queen hands over the reigns to Prince Charles - historic step closer to a new king," screams the Mirror's headline. "In a royal first, he will be taking on more head of state-style responsibilities as the Palace starts to make tentative plans for his eventual succession. But it was stressed yesterday that the changes do not mean the Queen is planning to take a back seat," the paper explains.

As it becomes more evident, and as the media begin to cover the royal reshuffle more frequently, the debate about monarchy will inevitably rear its ugly head, especially since Charles is both unpopular and politically biased. I thought that I'd get in early.

Republic, the UK's biggest anti-monarchy campaigning body, got in even earlier than I did. They've already created, a website which details all of Charles' current failings and warning against his subtle ascension to the throne:

"We think it's time Charles was subjected to the same level of scrutiny as politicians and senior public servants. As the Queen gets older, more and more of her duties will be passed to Charles. It's likely that by the time the Queen dies, Charles will be our de facto head of state."

That's not to say the Queen is faultless either. Most notably, she has repeatedly given the go-ahead on suspending the Canadian Parliament. While Republic says that "she's done okay", they do note that much of her day-to-day life "is largely scripted and choreographed and entirely out of her hands" by unelected advisors.

You can probably guess from my choice of events and quotes that I'm quite anti-monarchy. I hated the royal wedding and loathed the furore over the royal baby. I'm sick of seeing news clips of the Queen waving at people who's lives she'll never understand.

But do I think that, because Charles is trying to gain power, now is our chance, the perfect time to kick out the royals? No, for several reasons.

Firstly, we need political reform. We've seen in America, and to a lesser extent here in the UK, what it can be like when our representatives don't really represent us, and have no desire to. There is no point in replacing the monarchy with more unrepresentative people, especially when those other unrepresentative people are politicians and much more influential in terms of media, business, etc.

Electoral reform is also another prerequisite to removing the monarchy - yet another problem that is prominent in America, but also present in Britain. The first past the post system has its troubles as it is, and the thought that we would be electing a head of state or President under that system is worrying.

Proportional representation would lead to more coalitions, of course, but don't let our current coalition put you off that. Remember, in the current system we have several safe seats that most of the current Cabinet occupy. Those would not exist in a PR system, and politicians would therefore have to work harder to please the voting population. In order to produce solutions, they would have to co-operate and compromise. Sounds a lot nicer, doesn't it?

We also need to wait and see what Scotland does. Alex Salmond is currently pro-monarchy, and any form of Scottish independence would lead to a very different outlook - if the 'rump' of Britain voted against a monarchy, but Scotland decided to keep it, or neglected to have a referendum, there would have to be some serious discussions about their monarch operating out of Balmoral. Furthermore, to operate a proportional representation system in a united republic could marginalise the interests of the Scots even more so than the current system is claimed to do.

Most importantly, we need to phase out disillusionment. Introducing proportional representation and political reform should help with that, but I worry for my own generation and how uninvolved and uninterested we are. The days where students were one of the most politically active groups in society are long gone - most students look at any political campaigning with disdain, and students' unions are becoming increasingly insular in their own universities rather than looking to the wider world. Creating a republic will not work if 'Generation Facebook' (or use whichever condescending stereotype you would prefer) stay the way they are.

I'm not stupid. I know this will take a long time. A really, really long time. Social change is not something that happens quickly, as many of our minorities are so painfully aware. Negotiations will move slowly, and small details will have to be smoothed out. I'll be surprised if we have a fully functional republic before I hit retirement age.

What does this mean for Charles? Unfortunately, I fear it is too late to stop him from becoming monarch, or from abusing his power as many fear he will. On the bright side, though, his reign could well be used as the catalyst for reform and change.

2014 is going to be where it all begins, it seems. Buy your nuclear bunkers now.

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