CIVIC REPUBLICAN NEWSLETTER No 7

 

“Constructing a Humanist Politics”

www.republicans.org.uk

 

Issue No 7 Friday 17th October 2008

 

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This week

 

·        Come and vote for Civic Republican motion at Republic Annual Conference next Saturday.

·         (Correction to last week’s story) Measures to deal with the financial crisis in Britain and USA ……….

 

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Current

What is happening now of interest to Civic Republicanism

 

 

DIARY

 

·        Come and vote for Civic Republican motion at Republic Annual Conference next Saturday.

 

The organization known as Republic is probably the most well known republican group in Britain. It states on its website www.republic.org.uk that it holds to:

“the principle that this is our country and we should choose our heads of state.

We should have the right to elect and hold to account all who hold public office and such people must remember that they are there to serve us, and not vice versa.

It is time to claim the right to our own country and to choose our Head of State.”

Republic’s focus tends to be towards concerns about the monarchy and its abolition rather than the nature of the republican Britain that it wishes to establish following abolition. However it does have a clear proposal for the kind of republican constitution it favours and this is set out on its website. Before quoting what this is, it is worth recounting the types of republican constitutions that already exist and so represent possible models.

There are three alternative Republican systems, a Parliamentary Republic, a Presidential Republic and a Semi-Presidential Republic. These will be considered in turn.

A. A Parliamentary Republic is the most similar to what we have now, as a constitutional monarchy. In a Parliamentary Republic, one of the Houses of Parliament, equivalent to the House of Commons, is democratically elected for a limited term and the majority party then forms a government. The leader of that party then automatically becomes chief of the Executive, the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister alone chooses his or her Cabinet.

The Head of State, the President, may or may not be elected, but in any case (as in Germany or Ireland) performs a mainly ceremonial role, rather like our existing Monarch. If the new Republic adopted this system it would be little different from the existing arrangements leaving the Prime Minister with essentially the same enormous power.

B. A Presidential Republic insists on a clear separation of the Functions of Executive and Legislature (as well as, of course, the Judiciary). The example we are most familiar is also the oldest Presidential Republic - the United States.

The United States President is elected on a four year fixed term, which means the election is on virtually always the same date, and then assumes a purely Executive role (with the Cabinet he or she chooses) with all the Legislative Function going to Congress.

Congress, like our present Parliament, has two Houses or Chambers (this is called a "bicameral" or "two-tier" system) which are loosely referred to as the Upper and Lower Houses, the Senate and the House of Representative.

The United States Senate is elected although by a different route from the Representatives and, importantly, for a longer term (six years as opposed to two) and its elective status justifies it ability to originate (non-taxation) bills.

In creating a new Republic with a Presidential System, there would be no obligation to follow the United States in the relationship of two houses of Congress, although we should insist on a vital role for the Upper House and so on a two-tier system. The relationships between each house and the President and between the two houses themselves present a range of options in framing a Presidential Republic.

C. The most significant example of a Semi-Presidential Republic is the Fifth Republic of France. Under a Semi-Presidential System not all Executive powers go to the President and his or her Cabinet, some remaining with the Lower House of Parliament.

In France, this is the House of Deputies (the Upper House being the Senate) and the fundamental division between its powers and the President's is that it is in charge of domestic policy whereas the President is in charge of foreign policy.

Republic on its website makes a proposal for how it sees the role of the President being defined and this is decidedly a parliamentary republican model. It runs as follows:

Very simply, we advocate removing the monarchy and replacing the Queen with a directly elected, ceremonial Head of State.

"Republic advocates a parliamentary system whereby a ceremonial Head of State would be directly elected by the people. This non-executive Head of State would have only limited reserve powers (such as the power to call elections on the advice of the Prime Minister)”

Such a model runs counter to the principles of Civic Republicanism. Curiously the Campaign Manager of Republic, Mr Graham Smith, in the group’s publication Imagine wrote in a well-argued article recently:

“The monarch’s power shrank throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries [and] the roles of the monarch and parliament were reversed, so that by the time Queen Victoria was entering her last years on the throne her role was simply to ‘advise and warn’ the Prime Minister.

“Our parliamentary system, in which a government only exists by virtue of its majority in the Commons means that the executive now controls the legislature. The legislature can barely muster the will to properly scrutinise government legislation, let alone act as a check against the executive’s power – because for a parliamentary majority to attack a government would be to attack itself. With the executive and legislature rolled into one, and with the former controlling the latter, the winner really does take all in the Westminster system.”

Such a view would appear to argue for a presidential republican model but this is not what Republic advocates. The reason why it proposes the parliamentary system as given on the website as follows:

  1. “This Constitutional Presidency model is closest to what we have now - a Parliamentary democracy with a titular Head of State.
  2. Moving to this system would require the least upheaval and is therefore the quickest and simplest route to a democratic future.
  3. Opinion polls show that this model is by far the most popular option among the British people.”

All these reasons come down to the same thing – expediency.

Next Saturday, October 25th,  1pm - 5pm, the Republic Annual Conference will take place at the Charity Centre, Directory of Social Change, 24 Stephenson Way, London NW1 2DP. It will feature the launch of How to Win the Argument, a new booklet from Republic and talks by journalists, Joan Smith and Mick Hume.

In addition CRN editor, Peter Kellow, will be proposing a motion that seeks to change the constitutional model proposed by Republic to that of a Presidential Republic.

This motion reads as follows:

Republic campaigns for the abolition of the constitutional monarchy, in pursuance of the goal of a Modern Republic for Britain.

I move that the Modern Republic model advocated be based on tried and tested, widely recognised, Republican Constitutional Principles, as follows:

  1.       There shall be a Separation of Powers between the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary

  2.       The Executive shall be invested in the Office of President which shall be independently democratically elected and shall assume full executive powers.

  3.       The Legislature shall be invested in Parliament which alone shall pass laws.

  4.       The relationship between the Separate Powers of government shall be subject to a system of Checks and Balances.

Peter Kellow will address the conference from the platform to propose the motion which will be voted on following a short debate.

If you are a member of Republic, please turn up and vote if you can. If you wish to join Republic go to the website and you can join for as little as two pounds a month. If you join now you will be able to vote.

The passing of this motion would be a step forward for the cause of Civic and Constitutional Republicanism in Britain.

Even if it is not passed it will hopefully provoke an interesting and lively debate.

The full text of Peter Kellow’s address to the conference and a report on the outcome will be published in a future edition of this Newsletter

 

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News Stories

Highlighting  news stories important to the Civic Republican view, particularly those that are overlooked or little covered in the main media.

 

 

CONSTITUTION

 

·         (Correction to last week’s story) Measures to deal with the financial crisis in Britain and USA ……….

 

It was stated that the British proposals for bank bailout were first announced at 11am to the Press Conference at 10 Downing Street. In fact the first announcement was to the City of London at 7am. So the sequence of announcements was as follows

 

  •  7.00am          announcement to City of London

  • 11.00am        announcement to Press

  •  12.33am        announcement to Parliament

 

This sequence clearly shows the governments order of priority which reads

 

  1. Financial world

  2. Media

  3. Democracy

 

The situation thus is even worse than we first reported

 

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If you wish to comment on these articles or any other matter emal

peterkellow@republicans.org.uk

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…….Until next week