Starling: Democratic Alternative To The Monarchy

July 23, 2013

[Opinion column written by Jonathan Starling] The birth of the third in line to the British throne on Monday has given an opportunity to monarchists to try and outdo each other in their gushing support for the institution of the monarchy.

It also, however, gives an opportunity to step back and consider the relevance of the monarchy today and to express support for a democratic alternative to the monarchy.

To begin with, of course the safe birth of any child is a joyous occasion and I certainly wish the child a long and happy life – albeit one where the child is free to choose his own life-path, religious beliefs and career, rather than it being forced on him.

Reading the various comments of monarchists in the local online media I think it is important to stress one thing right from the beginning here – being for a democratic alternative to the monarchy, for a republic, is an unrelated issue to that of Bermuda’s constitutional relationship with the UK.

Quite frankly, one may be a republican while also maintaining the status quo of UKOT status for Bermuda (and, for that, be a monarchist while advocating for nominal independence for Bermuda).

Nor is republicanism ‘un-British’.

British republicanism has a long and proud history, certainly a longer one than the current dynasty that we now call the House of Windsor.

While attempts to curtail the power of the Crown occurred throughout history (as evidenced by the pressure resulting in the writing of the Magna Carta in 1215), the call for a republic dates most clearly from the Putney Debates that followed the English Civil War which overthrew the monarchy in the mid-17th Century.

In the Putney Debates, a meeting of the victorious parliamentary forces, a group now known as the Levellers argued for a republican commonwealth rather than the military dictatorship of Cromwell.

While ultimately defeated by the forces of the military dictatorship, and the monarchy subsequently restored – only to be replaced in 1688 by a Dutch dynasty – republicanism continued as a British tradition right up to the present.

Much of the political thought that established the US republican system originated as arguments for a British republic, and in some ways the American Revolution may be considered an aborted pan-British Revolution rather than an American War of Independence.

It is perhaps also useful to note that much of what we today associate with the ‘monarchy’ was manufactured during the Victorian era – and, for that matter, replacing the monarchy with a republic does not mean we end such spectacles, they may be continued under a republic if we so choose, or new spectacles may replace them (as we see with the pomp and circumstance around the US Presidency).

The concept of an inherited head of state is fundamentally incompatible with the notion of genuine democracy.

While the British system has some features of democracy – with about half of the British parliament being elected by the people (the House of Lords, like our Senate, is appointed) – that the position of head of state is inherited and left to chance, rather than all children being born with an equal opportunity, even nominally, to become head of state, is fundamentally opposed to the concepts of democracy.

There has yet to be a fair and open public debate on whether or not to maintain an unelected, inherited, head of state.

The institution of the monarchy spends millions of pounds in manufacturing propaganda about itself, while the UK Government generally shields the monarchy from public scrutiny and accountability. The media itself plays its part in its slavish reporting of the royals and side-lining republican arguments, and our children are brainwashed in our schools, and exploited to support royal visits.

In light of the overwhelming machinery that helps maintain the various myths of the monarchy, it is perhaps unsurprising that some opinion polls indicate a majority of British support the monarchy, perhaps more by default than strong support.

There is a difference, however, between being popular and being right.

Many movements, such as the abolition of slavery or universal suffrage, began as minority movements, unpopular to the general public and faced with the machinery of state, money and media opposing them.

However, democracy means the rule of the people, not the rule of the majority (there is a difference), of which rule by inherited right is fundamentally incompatible.

It is my hope that in my lifetime we will see the end of the monarchy and its replacement with the democratic alternative of a republic, along with a written constitution based on democratic ideals.

It is a vision of a democratic future where every child is born equal and free to choose their own destiny, rather than be limited by an inherited head of state, or forced into a life they did not choose.

It is a vision of hope and confidence in the ability of the people to elect a government of, by and for the people.

It is a glorious vision, and one I hope to we will see realised sooner rather than later.

- Jonathan Starling has degrees in Ecological Economics and Urban and Regional Planning, and is well known in the online community through his Catch-A-Fire blog, which he has maintained since 2007. He ran as Independent candidate in C#20 Pembroke South West in the 2012 General Election.

Read More About

Category: All, News, Politics

Comments (31)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Victor says:

    Starling, go get stuffed.

    • JiS says:

      I agree.

      Bernews would not permit me to express my feelings towards this wanna-be-M-P’s opinion.

      Hey, Starling…How many votes did you get as an independent? *crickets*


      • Bermuda Cat says:

        @ JiS,

        Well go over there and live with her. You are a real hater>

        • JiS says:

          Thanks, but I’m happy living where I am; still under her leadership here in Bermuda.

          We should be proud to be an Overseas Territory with such a rich cultural background. The Royal Family are historical figures, they play little role in the running of any country within their power.

          So again, Bermuda Cat, i shout,


          and THE NEW BORN BABY! hear-hear!

          • Mazumbo says:

            So that means when we go Independent ya gonna leave?

            • Mike Hind says:

              More undemocratic talk…

              The people were asked and rejected independence.

              • Mazumbo says:

                Um how long ago was that

                • Anbu says:

                  You actually want independence? U smokin crack or something bie!!?? Pls don’t tell me you’re one of those fools who think we’ll actually do better as an independent nation. Wow. U know that we have NOTHING to support ourselves in the way of export right? Not to mention all the international businesses ie insurance reinsurance and the likes will BOUNCE in a second of the document being signed. Sit down and think about it.

            • Sandy Bottom says:

              I thought Marc Bean complained when it was suggested that certain people who didn’t agree should leave. I take it you thought Bean was talking bollocks then.

              • Robert says:

                At no time did he mention marc bean you dumb a@# !!

            • Lebrun says:

              Hey Mazumbo

              That is the most idiotic comment, are we in the playground?

              And good luck with that visa to Noooo Jersey to get your shopping, or your relatives in Atlanta or your party in Miami. See how good that independent passport is, and how helpful US immigration are, and how dull those fees and queuing are.

        • Mike Hind says:

          Why should they leave? We’re not independent. We’re British.

          If anyone should leave, it’s the ones who don’t like it.

    • Mr Skin says:

      Mr Starling, I quite liked your election angle, a bit naive, but fresh and maybe I would have voted for you.

      This is horsesh!t though. Poorly thought, hippy trash, get used to the day job, you have just pissed a lotta people off.


  2. Really says:

    All the things going on in the world, and this is what you’re hoping for? Watch this video and think about what your priorities are.

  3. Mike Hind says:

    It’s weird how all of these points have repeatedly been debunked, but Mr. Starling just ignores that and goes on with his anti-monarchist rants.

    Promoting a position that goes against the will of the people… and then calling it pro-democracy? How does that work?

  4. Bermuda Cat says:

    @ Mr. Starling,

    Don’t let these peoples opinion sway you in any way. I happen to agree with you with regard to this topic. I personally could care less about royal families, because none of them are royal. They bleed, eat, sleep, and talk just like me. Some time ago someone decided that they wanted to be a royal family, so they did it. As far as we have come with regard to human race, this stuff is outdated, and creates classes of people.

    The only Queen I have is the one I sleep with. That woman who lives in England is just what I said, ” A woman who lives in England”

    • Sooooooo says:

      “Don’t let these peoples opinion sway you in any way”

      Is not the peoples opinion what democracy is all about?

      • Bermuda Cat says:

        @ Soooooo,

        Did you read the article before you commented?

  5. Triangle Drifter says:

    He also chooses to ignore the billions in tourism revenue that the Monarchy generates for Britain every year.

    Americans love the Monarchy. Their President is nowhere near the same. They also love the Britishness & Monarchy connection of Bermuda.

    Love it or hate it the Monarchy is good for business & is responsible for jobs far from the gates of Buckingham Palace.

    • “Americans love the monarchy.” So what! Since when did Americans determine what is right and what is wrong? Is America the only country in the world whose opinion matters? How condescending!

      Personally I have no problem with the monarchy as it is evident the British people support it. However, it is extremely disingenuos for Americans to go ga ga over royalty given the fact their country was founded by people who abhored the institution. After all that’s why they left England in the first place.

      • Triangle Drifter says:

        You obviously have never spent a minute in the tourism business. Americans are the worlds biggest travelers. What they think DOES matter.

  6. Zombie Apocalypse says:

    “While the British system has some features of democracy….”

    Hilarious isn’t he.

  7. Sir George Somers says:

    God save the Queen!

    • Sooooooo says:

      Here Here….

    • Bermuda Cat says:

      @ Sir George Somers,

      The Queen has been saved. How about save the people?

      • Mike Hind says:

        The people save themselves. That’s what democracy is.

      • d.o. says:

        how about save yourself. God Save The Queen

  8. Rich says:

    To everyone attacking Mr Starling, insofar as someone is a subject of Her Majesty’s in Bermuda, they are entitled to express their opinion on the need for a monarchy.

    And this is not unique to Bermuda – there are tons of people who are indifferent towards the monarch in mother England herself (with a strong contingent of anti-monarchist republicans).

    More importantly, it’s entirely possible to be pro-British but anti-monarchists.

    So instead of relying on ad hominem attacks, perhaps those so keen to extol the virtues of the Royal Family would actually care to rebut Mr Starling’s statement on the merits.

    As an example, here’s something that many pro-Monarchists can agree on:

    “The institution of the monarchy spends millions of pounds in manufacturing propaganda about itself, while the UK Government generally shields the monarchy from public scrutiny and accountability. The media itself plays its part in its slavish reporting of the royals and side-lining republican arguments, and our children are brainwashed in our schools, and exploited to support royal visits.”

    • Sandy Bottom says:

      No, that isn’t something most people would agree on. Idiot.