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Sean Gabb on the constitution

Sean Gabb is always a provocative speaker. Here he is discussing the need for a revolution in the UK. I've heard people who are much less radical than Gabb saying the same thing.




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Reader Comments (9)

The logic of his position leaves something to be desired

The institution of monarch today has no credible authority with which to refuse to sign legislation. I can't think of anything more likely to lead to a republic than for the queen to refuse to sign a bill. She has the title of monarch but not power.

I have no problem with being a republican libertarian because there's no point being loyal to an institution which not only fails to protect civil rights but is anyway incapable of doing so.
Mar 9, 2009 at 11:34 AM | Unregistered CommenterTDK
Gabb's point was that the monarch has promised to protect English liberties. In what way does she need authority to adhere to such a promise?
Mar 9, 2009 at 12:20 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill
Had the Queen refused to sign the paper on the Lisbon Treaty, the ultimate outcome would have been either a referendum or a General Election. Then it would have been up to the People to decide - that surely is the role of the Monarch, the final check to any action by Parliament which, in the Monarch's opinion, might not be in the best interest of the People, and so must be brought before the People to accept or reject.

The problem is the UK has become a de facto republic, where the Peoples' participation is limited to the selection of their representatives once every five years, rather than in a constitutional monarchy and democracy where the People participate in decisions by their representatives on a continuous basis and the Monarch guarantees that..
Mar 9, 2009 at 1:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterLaroquois
Well she could exercise her authority. I just think that such a course of action would lead to the disestablishment of the monarchy.

It's one thing to say she has authority but it's actually meaningless.

The settlement of 1688 wasn't preserved in aspic. Even without the changes made since, the monarchy has given up its powers by failing to exercise them. Thus creating a precedent for those who would claim her powers are symbolic. The people's relationship with the monarchy rests upon their belief that her power is symbolic.

Therefore we might pretend that if she refused to sign the EU treaty then it would go to constitutional lawyers who would argue about the legal situation and conclude that she was acting properly but that would be nonsense. The reality is that ruling classes in this country would close ranks, give the queen an ultimatum to sign the bill or be removed and it would be over. The number of people prepared to take action to protect the powers of the queen is in the hundreds. The ruling elite is only prepared to tolerate the monarchy because it isn't a threat.

Don't get me wrong. I fully agree with Sean Gabb: we have to be the revolutionaries. However, I am not prepared to fight for the institution of the monarchy. Would you man the barricades to defend "We've only got 100 months" Prince Charles?
Mar 9, 2009 at 1:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterTDK
"The reality is that ruling classes in this country would close ranks, give the queen an ultimatum to sign the bill or be removed and it would be over"...

And how, pray, would they achieve that? The armed forces, police, etc all swear an oath of loyalty to the Monarch, not to G Brown or the constituents of "the Westminster Village" and the Monarch (or present Queen anyway) has great affection from "the great unwashed". It is a basis of British law that a Bill only becomes an Act once signed by the Monarch, so unless said Monarch is so utterly supine that he/she signs a Bill of forcible abdication...?
Mar 9, 2009 at 4:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterPogo
I grant they swear an oath but do they mean it?

Given the choice between loyalty to the elected government and loyalty to the queen, who would they pick? You seem surprisingly certain that they would elect to follow the queen.

More to the point, if I were to assert that the institutions had been hollowed out by successive governments, that they still had the symbols but not the standing, you wouldn't disagree. If I was to assert that children have been brought up with little or no history of this country and where they do it is to assert that it's historical institutions were supportive or instrumental in wickedness, you wouldn't disagree. If I was to assert that marriage vows were now regarded as nothing but pretty meaningless words to add to a wedding event again I doubt you would disagree.

Let's play out the scenario.

The queen refuses to sign the Lisbon treaty. The ruling powers will not call a referendum on a marginal issue like the Lisbon treaty. They won't take a chance on that because they know they may lose. They will make the referendum - who rules - the elected government or the monarch. They won't go too far - they will claim that the monarch will remain as a figurehead and all that will change will be bringing the laws up to date. The media won't mention Lisbon - it will play out the wickedness of privilege and unearned rank. It will remind us of every nasty thing done by a thousand years of monarchy.

It's not a given that they will win but I think it virtually certain. Ordinary people think she doesn't have any power already. They imagine that just as certain archaic laws remain on the books but are never enforced, the queen has a paper power that is just an historical curio.

The great unwashed are notoriously fickle. They loathed the monarchy at the time of Diana. The queen retains a certain affection because of her wartime role, her age and the fact she never courts controversy. Compare that to prince Charles. He commands nothing like the same respect.

This controversy makes failure to lower a flag to half mast look the trivia it was.

So I think a referendum will be lost and then where will the queen be. We will have a constitutional crisis similar to that between the Lords and Commons at the turn of the 19th/20th century. And let me remind you the elected house won.
Mar 9, 2009 at 7:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterTDK
It is not a matter of whether the Electorate would support the Queen or the politicians in charge, it is a matter of what the People would think about the issue under contention.

The Royal Prerogative if independently exercised would cause a constitutional crisis. It would trigger a General Election or the RP could be exercised to dissolve Parliament, thus cause a General Election.

And Labour would win right now?
Mar 10, 2009 at 9:04 AM | Unregistered CommenterLaroquois
I suspect that if Mrs Queen blew the <s>EU Constitution</s> Lisbon Treaty out of the water she'd get so much popular support that the government might very well lose the referendum TDK suggests is a virtually certain win for them. Nothing the monarchy has done in decades, possibly centuries, would resound with the average folk in the street. However, I do agree with TDK about 100 months Charlie, which is why I'll be voting for a republic when the issue is next subject to a referendum here unless we get the same dodgy political appointee Pres option as last time.
Mar 10, 2009 at 10:34 AM | Unregistered CommenterAngry Exile
"Given the choice between loyalty to the elected government and loyalty to the queen, who would they pick? "

If you think they'd choose loyalty to Broon over loyalty to HM the Q, you don'know much about the English.

The Scots, naturally, would be in favour of whatever the English were against, but there are not that many of them.

The Govt. would do anything to avoid such a showdown, simply so as not to be exposed as held in contempt and disgust.
Mar 10, 2009 at 11:52 AM | Unregistered CommenterAndrew Duffin

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