Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Not so "neutral" after all II

One of the great myths of the UK's (and our) constitutional system is that the monarchy is "neutral" and does not involve itself in politics - something we have now learned is bullshit. A second great myth is that the monarch plays only a ceremonial role, and does not take an active role in decision-making. That too is bullshit:

Whitehall papers prepared by Cabinet Office lawyers show that overall at least 39 bills have been subject to the most senior royals' little-known power to consent to or block new laws. They also reveal the power has been used to torpedo proposed legislation relating to decisions about the country going to war.

The internal Whitehall pamphlet was only released following a court order and shows ministers and civil servants are obliged to consult the Queen and Prince Charles in greater detail and over more areas of legislation than was previously understood.

New laws required to receive the seal of approval from the Queen or Prince Charles cover issues from higher education and paternity pay to identity cards and child maintenance.

In one instance the Queen completely vetoed the Military Actions Against Iraq Bill in 1999, a private member's bill that sought to transfer the power to authorise military strikes against Iraq from the monarch to parliament.

So much for reigning rather than ruling. When you're deciding on child maintenance and identity cards (and indeed, on the constitutional question of whether Parliament rather than Ministers should decide whether to go to war), you are making highly political decisions, and playing an active role in government. All of course while being unelected and unaccountable. And to add insult to injury, its all done in secret - the documents showing how the royals attempt to bully Ministers have been kept secret, on the hypocritical grounds that releasing them would compromise their neutrality (by exposing the truth that they're not).

This is not a suitable constitutional arrangement for a democracy. Political decisions should be made by elected, accountable politicians - not unelected, unaccountable inbreds. If the Windsors want to make these sorts of decisions, they should stand for election and gain a democratic mandate for doing so.