Why I am now a republican

Recently on Twitter, I read a fantastic thread about moving into the new year by leaving the politics of tribalism in 2018, and it really resonated with me. Throughout the year, I’ve made something of a habit of putting opinions out there that don’t really fit with the “group think” of my political tribe, for example: arguing for proportional representation, the Norway model in the Brexit negotiations, a carbon tax, and more. Things that don’t invite the “sound brigade” to shout “sound” at me.

Jack Powell, editor of 1828, and I recently had a conversation where we agreed that, going into 2019, we would make a more conscious effort to be more consistent with our politics, with what we rail against, and which policies we put our weight behind. Taking my key philosophical principles  – liberty, property rights, and equality of opportunity – I’ve decided that I can no longer support a particular institution in Britain, an institution that many cherish, but an institution that is thoroughly illegitimate and wrong: the monarchy.

This decision isn’t based on any personal dislike of the Queen or the royal family – on the contrary, I think the current monarch has done the job well. I accept that it’s a demonstrable fact that the monarchy brings money into the coffers through the tourism they generate (though I still think that people would flock to Buckingham Palace without the knowledge that a sitting monarch was inside it). I just don’t think that this fundamentally small contribution to the UK’s GDP justifies supporting an outdated institution which ultimately rides against the very concept of equality of opportunity.

To that end, I have never heard a single argument that would, to any degree of rationale, justify the monarchy. In my experience, pro-royal comment typically revolves around: “Oh! but they don’t have any real power”, or “oh, but they’re good diplomats!” Not the stodgiest.

Obviously, when the Queen sits in front of a solid gold piano and preaches to the people of the UK about unity, that helps fuel my growing republicanism. Stories about the Queen lobbying for a private yacht leave something of a sour taste in the mouth, but politics should come down to something more fundamental than that.

If you believe in meritocracy, which I do, then the idea of an individual being born into a position of power should give you the revolutionary fervour of Alexander Hamilton. If you believe that all individuals are born equal, then the sense of outrage should double. If you believe in the freedom of the individual, and a streamlined state, then in principle shouldn’t we support the abolition of an outdated institution which has historically given disproportionate power to one person, and still affords them undue influence?

Indeed, according to the constitutional scholar, Walter Bagehot, Queen Elizabeth II “could disband the army; she could dismiss all the officers… she could sell off all our ships-of-war and all our naval stores; she could make a peace by the sacrifice of Cornwall and begin a war for the conquest of Brittany. She could make every citizen in the United Kingdom, male or female, a peer; she could make every parish in the United Kingdom a ‘University’; she could dismiss most of the civil servants, and she could pardon all offenders.” With our uncodified constitution, having an unelected person with this power and influence is deeply uncomfortable – and frightening when you consider that the British monarch is above the law.

Returning to my initial point about consistency, 2018 has been characterised by rank hypocrisy in the values of political tribes in efforts to protect their own.

Owen Jones went up in arms to protect Katie Osamor over her son’s drug dealing conviction when he almost certainly would have condemned the same behaviour from a Tory MP.

Swashbuckling Brexiteers, who would usually be staunch free marketeers, have condemned freedom of movement to keep in with what they now see as their tribe – though to do so goes against their very ideology.

Though it’s starting to change, hundreds of politicians have kept quiet over the UK’s trade links with Saudi Arabia, but would angrily have condemned the actions of the crown prince had he been Iranian.

Ultra-remainers crow about re-running the vote in order to reflect the wishes of the next generation, but slam young free-market Brexiteers such as Darren Grimes and Tom Harwood for their views on the premise that “they’re too young to understand!”

So, that’s my goal for 2019. Think what you will, but remaining consistent to your philosophical beliefs is important – not publicly supporting something because some in your wider tribe think that you should, or because you’re “protecting your own”. That’s my commitment, and why I have decided that I am now a republican.

Written by Matt Gillow

Matt Gillow is the co-founder of 1828 and research associate of the Adam Smith Institute.