Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Would a Republic really be worse than the Monarchy?

A freedom of Information (FOI) request from Republic, the group that campaigns in Britain for abolishing the monarchy and replacing it with a democratic republic, reveals that there is no evidence that the Royal family increase tourism to the UK. The request was made to VisitBritain, the tourism agency for the UK, to provide any evidence of the monarchy increasing tourism, and therefore money, into the country.

VisitBritain could not provide any evidence to support this claim, despite the right wing media constantly saying that this is the case. The Daily Express claimed in 2017 that ‘the royal family brought in £550 million a year for British tourism in the past year alone.’ The Daily Mail also got into the act at the same time, and upping the anti claimed, ‘due to its (the monarchy’s) effect on tourism, the media and other industries, the country's economy is boosted by £1.76bn every year.’

So, it comes as no great surprise that with all of this pro-monarchy propaganda from the media, especially the BBC, opinion polls show a big majority for retaining the status quo. This poll from Opinium shows two thirds of the British public think we should continue with a monarchy. There isn’t much detail of the questions asked on the linked piece, which obliviously tends to influence the answers, but only 19% favoured a republic. One ray of light in the poll shows younger people to be less in thrall of the Royals, though.

Of the FOI response the Republic group commented:

“Apparently reluctant to admit the truth, the agency provided unrelated figures to do with heritage tourism and historic sites 'associated with the monarchy'. But they had no evidence that the existence of the monarchy or the Royal Family has any impact on tourism revenue.”

They continue:

"We're always being told the monarchy is great for tourism, so where's the evidence? If the monarchy is so important for the tourism industry you would think VisitBritain would have done extensive research, yet they've got nothing.

This is desperate stuff from VisitBritain. Rather than admit they have no evidence, they have scraped together unrelated stats about heritage sites around the UK. The real test is this: if the monarchy were abolished would tourism revenue fall. Clearly the answer is no."

Britain and Ireland were briefly ruled as a republic in the 17th century, first under the Commonwealth consisting of the Rump Parliament and the Council of State (1649–53) and then under the Protectorate of Oliver Cromwell (1653–58). The Commonwealth Parliament represented itself as a republic.

Cromwell effectively had more power than a monarch as Lord Protectorate, since he didn’t need to abide by various statutes, like Magna Carta, and stuffed Parliament with his supporters, whilst keeping control of the army. His army brutally enforced the republic in the Celtic lands.

Cromwell’s country was a miserable place generally. There was a ban on many forms of entertainment, such as public meetings that could be used as a cover for conspirators; horse racing was banned, the maypoles were famously cut down, the theatres were closed, and Christmas celebrations were outlawed for being too ceremonial. No wonder the Restoration of the monarchy after Cromwell’s death, saw a return to partying, which was generally popular. Cromwell fucked it up.

Perhaps on a subliminal level, this long ago and short lived bad experience of a republic in Britain, still puts people off the idea? Certainly the idea of a presidency rather than a monarchy, seems to be unpopular. Talk is of president Thatcher, Blair or these days Trump, as an example of the alternative. But many countries around the world manage perfectly well with elected heads of state, with the Republic of Ireland being a good example.

The country would be a good deal wealthier if we took back the land and palaces from the Royals and put them into common ownership, and really exploited the tourism potential of the crown estate. Buckingham palace as a hotel - I’m sure they would be queuing up to get a room? We really have nothing to lose, and everything to gain. A modern system of democratic government for the twenty first century. Vive la Republic!

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