With Harry and Meghan leaving, do the rest of the Royals need to go? Wednesday debate

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Britain has had the monarchy at its forefront for over 1,500 years, making it a pinnacle of culture and tradition. The Royals a globally recognised and famous institution.

A survey of the British public in 2018 revealed that 69% of the population are ‘pro-monarchy’. However, there are many anti-monarchists across Britain who are calling for change. Two of the main driving forces for Republican sentiment is their cost to the taxpayer and their innately anti-democratic nature.

The Royal Family’s main income is the Sovereign Grant. This payment is made annually from the government to the monarch serving as “funding to support the official duties of the queen”. The grant was introduced in 2012 and is reviewed every five years. In 2018-19 it was calculated at £82.2m. This does not cover the additional cost of the family’s security, estimated to be an additional £100m each year.

The sole purpose of the pressure group, Republic is campaigning for the abolition of the monarchy. They have a number of demands, the forefront being replacing the monarch with an elected head of state.

The powers of the monarch have become increasingly ceremonial compared to a few centuries ago. Yet, the Queen still has a number of roles such as appointing and dismissing the Prime Minister and the power to declare war.

Republic dispute arguments are that the Royal Family compensate their cost to the taxpayer. They state on their website that other British attractions, including Chester Zoo and Stonehenge, brought in more visitors than Windsor Castle.

Nevertheless, in 2018 it is estimated that the Royal Family brought in £595m to the UK in 2018 through tourism, merchandise and the arts. Furthermore, over the past five years, they have contributed £2.8bn to the UK economy.

Recent scandals such as Prince Andrew’s relationship with Jeffrey Epstein and Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s decision to step down from their position as royals has further fuelled anti-monarchy sentiment. Is it time to change the nature of this historic institution or scrap it altogether?

Recently, POI have added a number of new editors and this will be the first article from the new team.

Written by Correspondent, Emer Kelly

The invaluable gift that keeps on giving – Conservative article

I have always had the upmost respect and admiration for the royal family; a major part of the UK’s identity that should never be let go. Having reinvented themselves, the UK’s monarchy still stands whilst others around them have fallen.

Their role in legislation may have diminished to nothing but a formality, this is not to say they are no longer relevant or important. Their relevance in today’s society just takes a different form. They now lead in a different way, providing hope to the nation and leading from the front through charity work amongst other things.

Whilst Prime Ministers are subject to election and in most cases lack the support of half the electorate that voted against them, the Queen does not suffer from such problems. This ensures she is a perfect representative of the UK abroad. Monarchs sidestep political decisions by the governing party and carry cross-party support, not just on a national but international level.

Nationally, people turn to the Queen in times of need as she has the respect of most of the country. Why else do millions of people tune in to the Queen’s speech on Christmas Day? We look up to her in uncertain times to guide the country through with her wise words of advice.

Internationally, the Royal Family are representatives of the UK and in doing so carry out endless amounts of charity work. I believe this is the direction that the royal family will take under the younger generation of royals. The loss of Harry is a bitter pill to swallow on this front. I do not, however, see this deterring the monarchy though from continuing their fantastic work. It is crucial and their ability to represent our nation in this is next to none.

Whether as patron or president, the wider royal family support many different charities, most of which have a personal attachment. The Royal Foundation’s support for the United for Wildlife charity, headed by the Duke of Cambridge is just one example of the international work of the royals. Their involvement has had a huge impact on the conservation of endangered species.

I am yet to mention the financial aspect of the royal family. Their upkeep is expensive in terms of the amount but broken down it is estimated that they only cost roughly £4.50 per person. This is a small cost to bear given their financial and social contribution to the nation.

In terms of their financial contribution to the UK economy, the royal family alone contributes roughly £550 million to tourism every year. This outweighs their costs. This is only one example of the money that the royal family adds to our economy. Brand Finance estimates that the monarchy generates an uplift of nearly £1.8 billion a year, including their indirect effect on other industries.

This income is undoubtedly due to the Royal brand. We have one of the biggest and most successful brands in the world. Although this may not be how most people consider it, if you do then you can see that this contribution alone makes financial sense to keep it.

I admit that the system after the Queen, will need to adapt once more; Charles does not hold the same international reputation. This does not make his role any less relevant though. He has shown through his work as Prince of Wales and being in charge of the Duchy that he can have just as positive a role when King.

The Queen and the royal family are British icons and should be preserved as such. As long as they are popular, there will always be a place for them in Britain. After recent events, it may be necessary for the extent of the royals to be reduced. However, we cannot be too hasty in dismissing it completely. It still has worth, both for the economy and our society as a whole.

Written by Conservative Editor, Fletcher Kipps

Point of Information

The Monarchy is wasting the potential of the youth – A Liberal response

Having read Mr Kipps’ article, his analysis of the economic benefits and the so-called “branding” is interesting food for thought. However, isn’t the Monarchy outdated for our advancing society? Understanding the role of the British monarchs is no longer in the interest of the youth. They would rather spend their time developing the skills for their future.

Although the Queen does attract millions of the British population during her Christmas speech, it was not the most viewed piece of television. The comedy show “Gavin & Stacey” had approximately 11.4 million views, almost double that of the Queen’s speech. Even on the international stage, leaders such as Greta Thunberg attracts millions of views on YouTube through her climate speeches.

The British public is not interested in hearing the Queen’s views, as we understand she lacks the ability to create change. I think our democratically elected leader should be the one to address the nation, as we chose him or her to lead us.

Mr Kipps clearly undermines the financial burden on each taxpayer since he believes that £4.50 is not a considerable amount. According to the Social Metrics Commission (SMC), 8.3 million working-age adults lived in poverty in 2017/8. How can it be justified to take £4.50 away from over 20% of the working population?

The youth are the future of the UK and the world. We should cater to their desires and needs if we want a brighter future. Unfortunately, the outdated Monarchy no longer cuts it.

Written by Liberal Editor, Charlie Papamichael

Much like the Royals, this argument doesn’t bear up to close inspection – a Labour response

The Conservative standpoint above does a great job with the usual bluster about Queen and country. Respecting our betters, so on and so forth. Unfortunately, anything more than a superficial glance at these arguments shows they leave a lot to be desired.

Does the Royal Family do good work for charity? Absolutely. But let’s not pretend like putting a name on a piece of paper or turning up at events to smile and wave is a taxing way to spend their time. In fact, I would argue it’s the least they can do given we all fund their lavish lifestyle.

Speaking of profit, the economic argument for The Queen & Co is well worn now.  Yes, the above article is right. The ‘Royal Brand’ makes a lot of money. However, this argument somewhat misses the point.

Tourism, tradition, tea towels – none of these would end when we abolish the monarchy. What would happen is the majority of the Royal Estate, and its sizeable profits, would be put back in the hands of the people.

At a time of such financial uncertainty in our country, surely Mr Kipps can agree with me about the public’s need for that money?

Written by Labour Editor, Evan Saunders

The Royals and the Government should be distinguished – Liberal article 

The monarchy has been central to the British culture and identity for centuries, but now it is considerably outdated and old-fashioned. The Queen and the Royal Family have played a role in countless events, global and domestic. However, politics should be in the hands of the Prime Minister and the Members of Parliament that were elected democratically.

My party is heavily split regarding the Monarchy. 40% of responses from a members-only forum poll by ‘Liberal Democrat Voice’ believed that after Queen Elizabeth II there should be no monarchy.

My intentions are not to offend the Queen or undermine her devotion to public service throughout her reign. I simply believe that it is unjust for her or the Royal Family to interact with the democratically elected government.

As a nation, we decide who we think is best suited to represent the United Kingdom within domestic and international politics. As a voter in the General Election held last year, I used my right to vote for the appropriate candidate who represents my interests and values. The Royals are born into their position. 

The Queen’s involvement in Boris Johnson’s scheme to suspend parliament is a shamble. The Queen is forced to do as her Prime Minister says, forcing her to be involved politically. However, if she refuses, she is involved in British politics. The Queen should be axed of her ability to intervene in any political matter because of her status as a politically unbiased figure. How can she remain unbiased if politicians can twist her arm to get their way?

Not only does the Queen interfere with politics, but she also takes the average Joe’s tax money. In 2016, The Sunday Times estimated that the Queen’s net worth is over 340 million British Pounds. Her income derives from the Sovereign Grant, paid for by taxpayers, and two other income sources. I think that the British public should be able to decide on the Queen’s political involvement since we are paying for her expenses and the upkeep of the Royal estates.

The Queen’s abuse of her land rights is like taking sweets from a baby. The Queen “holds exclusive rights to lease the seabed around the British Isles for wind and wave power.” Although the profits are sent to the Treasury, 25% are kicked back into the Royal pocket through the Sovereign Grant.

How is it justified that the Monarch, who was born into her role, owns the land run by the people? If the land rights belonged to the government, they could be sold to companies for a total profit for the Treasury. That money could be spent on the people through public services.

In my opinion, the Royal Family and the Queen should continue to represent the United Kingdom. They should hold a ceremonial role in events with no political connection. Although they have dedicated their lives to charity and voluntary service, they should have no control over the nation’s domestic and foreign policy.

Written by Liberal Editor, Charlie Papamichael

Point of Information

It isn’t broken, so don’t fix it. – a Conservative response

I am happy to see that Mr Papamicheal acknowledges the role that the royal family should still have in today’s society. I do however question the necessity for the removal of the monarch’s already limited role in politics.

As pointed out, the Queen has an obligation to do as the Prime Minister wishes. This she has never broken and therefore has never stopped the democratically elected leader. The tradition is entrenched in our uncodified constitution. The royal prerogative should not be broken, the monarch’s ‘power’ has no need to be reduced.

I do not believe following through with the Prime Minister’s wishes is getting involved in politics, as Mr Papamicheal suggests. By having a head of state separate to the legislature in the form of a monarch, it reduces the potential for deadlock. This ensures that the executive’s legislation can be signed without further delay.

In terms of the Queen’s worth, it is true that this appears an extortionate amount. However, it is important to consider the value that the Monarchy adds to this country and have done throughout her reign. Their contribution to the UK economy since her ascension to the throne far exceeds her worth.

The Monarch’s political role is now a very small one. To diminish it any further is to challenge traditions and potentially cause further tension within the partisan system.

Written by Conservative Editor, Fletcher Kipps

Surprisingly, I agree – a  Labour response

Given that this is all our first contribution to Point of Information, I was worried (read: excited) that there might be some passionate disagreements with the other editors. So I have to say I was pretty surprised to agree so strongly with Mr Papamichael’s article. If only Labour and the Lib-Dems had been on the same side like this in the election.

Astute and articulate, the above piece cuts right to the heart of the problem with the Monarchy. The undemocratic nature of the position, privilege and so-called Royal Prerogative is unacceptable. Even more so when we all foot the bill to keep them in their ‘rightful place’.

It is also very acutely pointed out that The Family faces a generational gap.  The difficulties facing Harry and Meghan are emblematic of wider concerns about the future. After suffering so much at the hands of the tabloids, perhaps Harry and Meghan have the right idea by choosing to step back from public life – and to give back public money.

I wish I could say our national relationship with the Royals has only now just turned toxic. But, as Harry sadly knows all too well, the gutter press has obsessed over the Royals since before the days of Princess Diana.

Written by Labour editor, Evan Saunders

The Royals are unfit for modern Britain – just ask Harry and Meghan – a Labour article

Despite everyone and their granny owning a Jubilee tea towel, many of us are less convinced about the Royal Family. From a Labour perspective, Corbyn has long been opposed to the Monarchy. Also, more recently, ex-leadership candidate Clive Lewis caused a tabloid frenzy by suggesting a referendum on the royals.

Although ending the monarchy is not part of the official Labour party policy, I believe it absolutely should be. Abolition is long overdue.

Why? Because the current system fundamentally undermines our democracy. This is where arguments about reform flounder. As head of state, the Queen is unelected and completely unaccountable. This is unacceptable and no amount of ‘refinement’ can change that. 

In the 21st century, it should be us, the people, who choose our head of state. Continuing to give away control over our politics has serious consequences. 

Some think the Royal Family has no real power. This is a fallacy. Let’s consider the most confusing word in British politics last year:  ‘proroguing’. This term refers to the Queen’s ability to suspend parliament, part of a sprawling set of privileges known as the “Royal Prerogative”. 

That power should not be in the hands of someone the public has no control over. When Boris Johnson abused this process with an insidious and unlawful attempt to avoid scrutiny over his Brexit bill, he sadly proved us right. Therefore, it’s undeniable that our archaic system is open to exploitation. 

Even if these powers weren’t abused, they would still be wrong in principle. The Royals themselves are far from the neutral figures people think they are. Look at the Black Spider Letters, clear evidence that Prince Charles lobbied to change numerous government policies. Neither the Prince of Wales nor any other royal should be allowed to secretly meddle in our politics. And he absolutely should not be doing it at the taxpayer’s expense. 

Furthermore, what’s worse, is the Royal Family is exempt from Freedom of Information requests. Therefore uncovering this behaviour is incredibly difficult. Prince Andrew rightly faced scrutiny in the media over his links to convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein. Did you ever wonder why he didn’t face more?  

The result of all this is that the British public has no way to investigate what goes on in the shadows. No way to hold the Royal Family to account for their mistakes. That’s why we need an elected and non-partisan head of state like the Republic of Ireland. We need someone who can stand up to abuses of power, to hyper-partisan politics and who represents the people. We need someone who answers to us.

The Royal Family are an integral part of British history is undeniable. However, that’s exactly where they belong: in the past. Transforming our country by abolishing the monarchy would be a bold and brave decision. In post-Brexit Britain, let’s take this opportunity and become a real beacon of democracy to the rest of the world. 

Written by Labour Editor, Evan Saunders

Point of Information

The Royals no longer can sit upon its high horse – a Liberal response

I believe that Mr Saunders hits the bulls-eye with a variety of his points. For too long has an undemocratically elected Head of State been present in the UK. How can we justify toppling autocratic governments across the globe to replace it with a democracy, when we are no perfect example?

Abolition of the Monarchy would certainly come as a huge shock to the British public. The public would struggle to come to terms with immediate removal of the Queen and her family. We as a nation need to draw the line on their roles within politics. As people say, who is really in charge? The person in charge, or those who put him/her there?

We should not disregard Mr Saunders’ comments about the controversy surrounding the Royal Family. They have been their own destruction at times and proved to the world that they are incapable of upholding their reputation.

I understand that everyone is human and makes mistakes. However, the Royals have no room for this. They are watched with hawkeyes and any mistake makes the headlines. If they weren’t in such a high-profile role, they would be able to live a more simplistic lifestyle.

Written by Liberal Editor, Charlie Papamichael

‘An elected, non-partisan head of state’ not the right way to go – a Conservative response

It appears in Mr Saunders’ article that he believes the role of a head of state should be used to restrain the executive. I wonder if this would be the case had Jeremy Corbyn walked into 10 Downing Street with the same mandate Johnson has just secured?

I do agree with Mr Saunders’ point regarding Prince Andrew and the lack of any further investigation. Whilst the Queen may be considered ‘above the law’, the rest of the royal family are certainly not. Nevertheless, the suggestion that the mistakes of one royal should bring down the whole system is farcical.

An elected, non-partisan alternative will just create more deadlock for legislation. Moreover, it is the job of the judiciary, not an elected head of state, to judge any abuse of power by the Prime Minister. Even in a situation where they are not running for a party, as in Ireland, they will always have a personal opinion on any legislation. Electing them gives them a mandate which they can claim to be fulfilling by slowing down and potentially stopping legislation.

Written by Conservative Editor, Fletcher Kipps.

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