Power to the Monarch

About three years ago I wrote an essay on constitutional reform in the UK. When researching it I came across a Bow Group report by Andrew Lillico, in which he argued that the Monarchy should row back some of the reforms of the past, and start taking an active role in the political life of the UK. Some of his ideas were a little 19th Century, and some just a little strange, but on the whole I’m pretty supportive of the Monarchy being a counter balance to the excesses of populism in certain circumstances (and Lillico is right to point to Germany and Zimbabwe as examples of this). Today he has a column on ConservativeHome, in which he repeats his bizarre desire to see the House of Lords select the next Monarch, but makes some good points too.

  • jpeters

    P ON

    your dead wrong on English constitional law there are many documents precedents etc which make it more effective that other written constitutions and it helped prevent the UK slipping into extremism when other parts of Europe have, as for living up to principals who has all of the time? name me one country which hasnt even in a minor way subverted its own constitution? And remember most of the others are written. Your whole analysis of this complex area of law is superficial in the extreme

    As for the monarchy (and im no fan myself) whats it to you, so they are germans but last time i looked the UK was a multicultural extremely mixed society and has been for thousands of years, no initiative to get rid of them has got of the ground anyway and the English especially seem happy enough with monarchy, so whats it to us. I doubt you ever got so hot under the collar about the Dutch monarchy and they are the real orange men!

  • Ziznivy

    Feeding the troll.

  • Butterknife

    If i look at words that are written on a paper that is by definition written P O’Neil. The UK constitution is uncodified as its not one body of work but rather convention, case law, tradition, statute and other laws.
    By quoting the Magna Carta you failed to include the Bill of Rights of 1689 and recently the Belfast Act 1998 etc which Sinn Fein subscribes to under the principle of parliamentary sovereignty – that includes recognising the Queen in Parliament.

    complete document but as you rightly pointed out it includes the written documents of the

  • jpeters

    Ziznivy

    i fall for it every time!

  • Glensman

    ‘Being a balance to the excesses of populism?’

    Can you expand on the point please Michael?

  • DC

    Democratic federalism anyday.

  • kensei

    “The UK constitution is uncodified as its not one body of work but rather convention, case law, tradition, statute and other laws. ”

    And completely useless in, I dunno, preventing the introduction of 3 month internment without trial.

    The UK’s constitutional protections are much weaker than the US or the Republic’s. Indeed, almost any properly democratic Republic. Significant example – in the US or the Republic, if the Supreme Court rules a law illegal, that’s it, it’s struck off. In the UK it remains in force until Parliament changes it cf the terror detainees a few years back. Appalling.

  • Michael Shilliday

    Glensman,

    I did. Deliberately. Germany and Zimbabwe have both experienced elected dictatorships.

  • jpeters

    kensei

    as i said in my above post all countries inevitably fail there own principals at some point and RoI and US are no different both have maintained sytems of internment at some point. As you say Appalling. perhaps the failings of countries shouldnt be blamed on consitutions but on leaders

  • kensei

    “as i said in my above post all countries inevitably fail there own principals at some point and RoI and US are no different both have maintained sytems of internment at some point. As you say Appalling. perhaps the failings of countries shouldnt be blamed on consitutions but on leaders”

    The point is that the Constitution and courts almost always bring Republics into line. Mechanisms exist. No such mechanisms exist within the UK.

  • jpeters

    wrong im afraid human rights act 1998 has two tier system for challenging government legislation at the reading stage and at the implementation stage

  • Harry Flashman

    The written constitutions of the USSR, China, Cuba, Zimbabwe, and for all I know Venezuela, North Korea, East Germany, Iran and Syria are probably full of magnificent words proclaiming the freedoms and liberties of their respective citizens.

    Remind me again how these paper guarantees compare to the freedom of peoples around the world who live under the titular sovereignty of a certain octagenarian grandmother who lives in Buckinghamshire?

  • Dev

    In the UK it remains in force until Parliament changes it cf the terror detainees a few years back. Appalling.

    Posted by kensei on Jul 17, 2007 @ 01:54 PM

    I’d rather have Parliament, the democractically elected representatives of the people, decided whether to keep or repeal a law than appointed judges. Under the HRA 1998 judges can declare an Act as being contrary to provisions within the HRA/European Charter of Human Rights, they then leave it up to Parliament to decide whether to strike down the legislation or to derogate from the ECHR on that particular issue.

    To say the UK’s constitution is weaker/inferior to others simply because it’s not codified into one document ignores the fact that the UK constitution is a lot more flexible and receptive to change within society being mainly based on Acts of Parliament and precedent from case law, it develops organically through time. The constitution in the US is particularly rigid with too many checks and balances causing great delay in bringing about change.

  • kensei

    “Remind me again how these paper guarantees compare to the freedom of peoples around the world who live under the titular sovereignty of a certain octagenarian grandmother who lives in Buckinghamshire?”

    I’m sorry, I wasn’t aware that any of those states were democratic, bar Venezuela. A written constitution is not enough in itself clearly, it requires supporting processes and bodies to be implemented and to become a living document. My argument is that those things are enhanced by a written constitution, because rights and responsibilities of both citizens and state are much more clearly laid out, if still not perferctly. It works better again when people have real pride in it, like in the US.

  • “It works better again when people have real pride in it, like in the US.”

    True, but look at gun control.

  • kensei

    “I’d rather have Parliament, the democractically elected representatives of the people, decided whether to keep or repeal a law than appointed judges. Under the HRA 1998 judges can declare an Act as being contrary to provisions within the HRA/European Charter of Human Rights, they then leave it up to Parliament to decide whether to strike down the legislation or to derogate from the ECHR on that particular issue.”

    So, you don’t believe in separation of powers and an independent judiciary then? If a law is illegal, then it should instantly be struck off. It shouldn’t be left hanging in some kind of malevolent after life.

    “To say the UK’s constitution is weaker/inferior to others simply because it’s not codified into one document ignores the fact that the UK constitution is a lot more flexible and receptive to change within society being mainly based on Acts of Parliament and precedent from case law, it develops organically through time. The constitution in the US is particularly rigid with too many checks and balances causing great delay in bringing about change. ”

    I wasn’t aware that inalienable rights should be “flexible or receptive to change”. The US seems to get on just fine, and went through a fair amount of upheaval in the past century. I should also point out that the Republic has a Parliamentary democracy and plenty of case law, but also a Constitution that guarantees some fundamental freedoms.

  • jpeters

    the fact is a written constitution guarentees nothing even in a democratic state without the political will to apply the rights therein fairly, look at the states the supreme court which is supposed to be the final arbitor of the consitution is with supporters of who ever happens to be ruling at the time! I will take my chances with the House of Lords!
    To say a state without this piece of paper will trapple over rights automatically is also incorrect

  • jpeters

    I wasn’t aware that inalienable rights should be “flexible or receptive to change”.

    rights are one of the most changeable aspects of law, before WW2 rights were not thought of in the same way. they were more abstract like liberty, taxation/representation and before that they were even more abstract. If you read the English Bill of Rights you would be hard pressed to find any you considered a ‘true’ human right. You can add into the mix socio economic rights which eastern bloc cold war countries considered more important that the ‘democratic style’ ones we have now

    nothing in law is fixed thats why the americans have such trouble with their constitution and why some of the corporationalist aspects of the RoI one are now barely relevent

  • Intelligence Insider

    “P. O’Neill”, in his poorly written, poorly thought out post forgets to add that the unwritten “constituation” (sic) of the United Kingdom is the same one that applies to the R.O.I. for all laws passed pre-1922.
    As for his remarks regarding sending the “Queen of England” back to Germany, maybe she will consider it when he goes back to digging the spuds. Roll on the next potato famine.

  • Dev

    “So, you don’t believe in separation of powers and an independent judiciary then? If a law is illegal, then it should instantly be struck off. It shouldn’t be left hanging in some kind of malevolent after life. ”

    No, I believe the final say on whether a law remains in force should be down to democratically elected representatives not appointed judges. Judges cannot rule a law ‘illegal’ as this would conflict with the Sovereignty of Parliament, one of the most fundamental aspects of the UK constitution. The Judges can declare a piece of legislation as incompatible with the ECHR and then leave it to Parliament to sort it out.

    Who ever said separation of powers was such a great thing anyway? The UK has no real separation of powers, what with the executive being taken from the legislature and the highest ranks of the judiciary sitting in the legislature as well. Contarst this to the USA, which is plagued by legislative gridlock so that even measures such as universal healthcare, which are popular with the majority of Americans, can’t overcome the constitutional hurdles put in place as lobbyists and vested intrests can always bribe/give financial support to enough senators and congressmen to block any legislation (as happend Clinton in the 1990’s).

    “I wasn’t aware that inalienable rights should be “flexible or receptive to change”. The US seems to get on just fine, and went through a fair amount of upheaval in the past century. I should also point out that the Republic has a Parliamentary democracy and plenty of case law, but also a Constitution that guarantees some fundamental freedoms.”

    The UK constitution guarantees inalienable rights just as well as any other it simply does so through individual judgements and Acts rather than one piece of paper. Also, exactly why would you want to permanently subjected to the opinions of people who wrote a document 200/300/400 years ago? It’s vitally important that a constitution can change to reflect the society it’s supposed to apply to.

  • Martin

    [URL]http://www.r3.org/bosworth/index.html[/URL]

    depose the Saxe coburg usurper,scion of the bastard Tudors

  • jpeters

    may as well find canutes relatives whie we’re at it!

  • Welcome_to_the_21st_century

    “About three years ago I wrote an essay on constitutional reform in the UK.”

    Wow, the 11+ is getting harder.

  • kensei

    II

    “P. O’Neill”, in his poorly written, poorly thought out post forgets to add that the unwritten “constituation” (sic) of the United Kingdom is the same one that applies to the R.O.I. for all laws passed pre-1922. ”

    Wrong. The only Constitution that applies is Bunreacht na HEirinn, and pre-19222 laws have a nasty habit of being struck off. They was a high profile case recently.

    Dev

    “Judges cannot rule a law ‘illegal’ as this would conflict with the Sovereignty of Parliament, one of the most fundamental aspects of the UK constitution.”

    Also appalling. The people should be sovereign, and not subservient.

    “The Judges can declare a piece of legislation as incompatible with the ECHR and then leave it to Parliament to sort it out.”

    And if they don’t it lives in a malevolent afterlife, still affecting people. Parliament is above the law. I know how it works, just not very impressed.

    “Who ever said separation of powers was such a great thing anyway?”

    The founders of the US and a lot of other states. Most people with an interest in protecting against abuses of power dislike large concentrations of it and conflicts of interest.

    “The UK has no real separation of powers, what with the executive being taken from the legislature and the highest ranks of the judiciary sitting in the legislature as well. Contarst this to the USA, which is plagued by legislative gridlock so that even measures such as universal healthcare, which are popular with the majority of Americans, can’t overcome the constitutional hurdles put in place as lobbyists and vested intrests can always bribe/give financial support to enough senators and congressmen to block any legislation (as happend Clinton in the 1990’s).”

    So, to conclude: the legislation was blocked because the legislature blocked it. How would that be different if the powers were unified. Surely the democratically elected politicians would have “been bribed” just the same?

    “The UK constitution guarantees inalienable rights just as well as any other it simply does so through individual judgements and Acts rather than one piece of paper. Also, exactly why would you want to permanently subjected to the opinions of people who wrote a document 200/300/400 years ago? It’s vitally important that a constitution can change to reflect the society it’s supposed to apply to.”

    Parliament can pass any amount of authoritarian legislation more or less without check or balance. I want inalienable rights to be inalienable. I don’t see why the right to life, of freedom of expression, to not being denied liberty should ever become out of fashion: they are eternal principles. The US Constitution remains an extraordinary document. You also ignore the fact that Constitutions can be and are amended, and that ability is also important.

  • Martin

    ”may as well find canutes relatives whie we’re at it!”

    Nope J, Canute was Norweigan an had an even flimsier claim to English throne than Liz Winsor-however Edmund Ironsides had two sons who were exiled to Hungary it might be worth looking for descendants

  • DK

    “depose the Saxe coburg usurper,scion of the bastard Tudors”

    Tudors – long extinct? Electress of Hannover surely:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Succession_to_the_British_Throne

  • jpeters

    maybe its me! grovel you oafs!

  • Martin

    DK,

    yes and no

    Electress of hanover was descended from the stuarts –who in turn came to the English throne from Tudor Descent–Mary queen of scots, mother of James the 1 AND 6TH was the grandaughter of margaret Tudor sister to Henry 8TH

  • Dev

    “Also appalling. The people should be sovereign, and not subservient.”

    The people are sovereign through Parliament, unless you want 60 million people each to have an equal say on every issue that may affect the governance of this country?

    “The founders of the US and a lot of other states. Most people with an interest in protecting against abuses of power dislike large concentrations of it and conflicts of interest.”

    US-style separation of powers makes legislating an incredibly slow and unnecessarily drawn out process. In theory it looks sensibly but in reality it’s supposed benefits are outweighed by it’s disadvantages.

    “So, to conclude: the legislation was blocked because the legislature blocked it. How would that be different if the powers were unified. Surely the democratically elected politicians would have “been bribed” just the same?”

    No, the legislation was blocked because vested interests can use their massive wealth to exploit the checks and balances placed in the US constitution so that the legislation doesn’t get passed. The point is that due to the system set up in the US constitution policies which are popular with the majority of americans can still fail to be passed into law whereas here the same wouldn’t happen.

    “Parliament can pass any amount of authoritarian legislation more or less without check or balance. I want inalienable rights to be inalienable. I don’t see why the right to life, of freedom of expression, to not being denied liberty should ever become out of fashion: they are eternal principles. The US Constitution remains an extraordinary document. You also ignore the fact that Constitutions can be and are amended, and that ability is also important. ”

    So are you saying that Parliament could end the right to life, and free expression as well as suspend habeus corpus and nothing would happen? You actually believe that would be the case? Despite the fact that the whole 90 days detention fiasco caused a massive uproar in the press and debate within the populace, and MP’s reflecting the will of the people refused to pass such a provision in the legislation. 28 days detention may not be what you or I think is an equitable compromise however it was a fair arrangement in the eyes of most people otherwise there would have been a public outcry. You seem to be too worked up about the theory rather than the reality, it has been said that Parliament could pass a law banning smoking in the street in Paris and it would be held as a valid law in UK courts, doesn’t mean that Parliament actually would do this or that in reality it would have any effect.

  • Pól

    I dont know how any intelligent person could support a monarchist system and call themselves a subject.

    I can see the tourism benefits but giving liz real power?? I am perplexed.

  • dub

    existing uk precedent says that “Laws are made by rulers for subjects”. Not every citizen in the UK is equally amenable to and answerable to the law in other words. Royal prerogative.. i.e. arbitrary power wielded by the Executive in the name of a hereditary German dictatorship with no reference to Parliament… and relevant in mundane matters such as planning, the declaration of war etc… still exists. The monarch is actually above the law. There is a state religion whose leaders are appointed by the head of the executive. These leaders also sit as of right in the second chamber. This privilege is not extended to other religions leaders. Excepting the very significant executive powers which may be effected with no reference to parliament, parliament itself is said to be “supreme”. Thus if a law were passed in Parliament that every left handed person should have his hand cut off then no UK legal power could stop this although the Judges may make a declaration of incompatibility with the ECHR and award damages to people maimed by it. The head of State may not belong to the Roman Catholic faith nor marry anyone belonging to that faith. The head of state is also the head of the state religion previously referred to. The head of state is one of the richest individual in the world not due to acumen in business but due to monies derived from centuries of robbery and land grabbing. No effective land reform has ever been carried out. The chief legal officer of the state is also a member of the government. A territory belonging to the State and administered by it is one where the parties which aspire to govern the state have never traditionally organised thus depriving the citizens in that area of the ability to elect their rulers. Only one of the three principal political parties has broken this tradition but has organised only comparatively recently and in a very half hearted way. This party has been in oppposition for a very long time and is not expected to win the next General Election.

    This is the organic unwritten constitution of the UK of GB and NI which is so admirably flexible and capable of seamlessly keeping up with changing circumstances unlike the backward usa and priest ridden republic of ireland.

  • kensei

    “The people are sovereign through Parliament, unless you want 60 million people each to have an equal say on every issue that may affect the governance of this country?”

    It’s the problem with the whole mentality. Parliament should be sovereign through the people, not the other way about.

    “US-style separation of powers makes legislating an incredibly slow and unnecessarily drawn out process. In theory it looks sensibly but in reality it’s supposed benefits are outweighed by it’s disadvantages.”

    Remind me, who is the current sole superpower in the world? The US system could be streamlined a bit certainly, especially in regard to campaign finance, but Republic doesn’t equal the USA system.

    “No, the legislation was blocked because vested interests can use their massive wealth to exploit the checks and balances placed in the US constitution so that the legislation doesn’t get passed. The point is that due to the system set up in the US constitution policies which are popular with the majority of americans can still fail to be passed into law whereas here the same wouldn’t happen.”

    No, because there would never allegations of sleaze and inappropriateness in the British system. I mean, the idea, that say, Rupert Murdock could get a media bill that loosed the ties on ownership of media companies, or that the head F1 could get an exemption from a cigarette advertising ban or people could trade money for a position in a legislative body is ridiculous, isn’t it?

    “So are you saying that Parliament could end the right to life, and free expression as well as suspend habeus corpus and nothing would happen? You actually believe that would be the case?”

    I believe it make sit theoretically more likely. I believe it makes it easier to nibble away at personal freedoms, certainly.

    “Despite the fact that the whole 90 days detention fiasco caused a massive uproar in the press and debate within the populace, and MP’s reflecting the will of the people refused to pass such a provision in the legislation. 28 days detention may not be what you or I think is an equitable compromise however it was a fair arrangement in the eyes of most people otherwise there would have been a public outcry. You seem to be too worked up about the theory rather than the reality, it has been said that Parliament could pass a law banning smoking in the street in Paris and it would be held as a valid law in UK courts, doesn’t mean that Parliament actually would do this or that in reality it would have any effect. ”

    No, I’m not. A Constitution and inalienable rights are there to guard against excessive populism, a point of which you may seem blissfully ignorant. For many years unelected Kings and Queens were popular. At risk of invoking Godwin, Hitler was popular. Democracy is about more than just voting, it also incapsulates ideas of equality.

    90 Days is on it’s way back and winning, by the by.

  • Rory

    Given that Lillico’s musings have more than a faint whiff of Blackadder, P O’Neill’s mention of Tony Robinson in the first response raised a chuckle.

    The headline’s in tonight’s London Evening Standard which announces ” Camilla – ‘I don’t want to be Queen'” brings hope. Since she must have been the last person* in the UK, other than Charles himself, who wanted Charles to succeed as King perhaps this loving spouse can do everyone a favour by granting his dear one’s expressed wish.

    THe Queen herself, in any case has said in an address to the European parliament within the last while that “constitutional monarchy was no longer necessarily the only form of government suitable for the UK”. A clear indication to her subjects that in fact she now accepts that the days of monarchy are over. Would that she would tell the boy.

    *Oh, OK, perhaps his pal, Billy Connolly as well – but that’s it!

  • Prince Eoghan

    >>My argument is that those things are enhanced by a written constitution, because rights and responsibilities of both citizens and state are much more clearly laid out, if still not perferctly. It works better again when people have real pride in it, like in the US.
    Posted by kensei on Jul 17, 2007 @ 03:54 PM<< Hear Hear! A US style bill of rights would have made it difficult for perfidious albion to ignore the goings on in the north of Ireland for near 50 years. Not to say a two-tier sectarian state of sorts couldn't have existed altogether though. Perhaps Unionists would have been forced to enact something similar to the 'Jim Crow' laws that their intellectual comrades in the American south used against their black countrymen.

  • Outsider

    The monarch does have one power and that is they can disolve parliament at any time they deam necessary.

    I would be in favour of the monarch having some more power because at present it is too symbolic.

  • Germany in the ’30s and Zimbabwe today are examples of bad Republics. Just as Japan in the ’30s and Saudi Arabia or Bhutan today are examples of bad monarchies. What’s this bloke’s point?