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Highlighting news stories important to the Civic Republican
particularly those that are overlooked or little covered in the main media.
At the Cambridge Union Society on Thursday, 27th February 2014.
Speakers have each 10 minutes. Interruptions from the floor are allowed. Peter's address to the Union took three parts
Thank you, Madam President, first of all, I am here to say to you tonight that I really could not care less, about the monarchy.
I propose the motion before this house because I am passionate, about Republicanism.
Republicanism is what drives me, and inspires me.
But we need to abolish the monarchy so that this country can have a mature modern truly democratic government and a better richer society.
There are many great Republicans in British history: John Milton, James Harrington, Percy Shelley, Joseph Priestley, Oscar Wilde to name just a few in a very long and distinguished list. Some were imprisoned or died for their beliefs.
So when I think about Republicanism I am strongly aware of the bond it gives me with British history.
What do I mean by Republicanism? Republicanism is defined essentially by one simple principle. The Romans were the first to formulate this principle.
The problem they sought to address which is the same problem that has pre-occupied republicans ever since is how to prevent tyranny or - as we would say - dictatorship by a single all powerful leader.
The solution they invented was a system whereby the different functions of government are divided between different institutions. In modern terms the executive, who decides overall policy, was separated from the legislature, which makes the laws.
This is broadly the system used by republics ever since.
Now this separation of power is exactly what we don’t have in Britain today. We do indeed have the two institutions of state in the executive, that is, the monarch and the legislature, that is Parliament, but there is a problem.
The executive has no power.
And the result of this is that all the power flows to the office that does have power, the head of parliament – the Prime Minister. In 1978, Lords Hailsham, a distinguished Tory, described the office of British Prime Minister as an “elective dictatorship”.
We see how this works out in practice in the line of headstrong, divisive prime ministers we have had recently. Thatcher, Blair and Brown all ruled as if Britain were a laboratory for their ideological ideas.
The power of the British Prime Minister is greater than that any present day leader of any advanced democratic country.
Of course, when a Prime Minister does not have a good majority, his or her room for manoevre is more limited, but this does not affect the general principle.
Sometimes Prime Ministers, as was the case with Blair are accused of acting like a president. But this is an ignorant remark, for the Presidents of republics such as USA and France have nothing like the power of the British Prime Minister.
The latter can even change the constitution at will as easily as passing a statute – a situation that would be incomprehensible to citizens of any modern republic.
This is my central objection to the monarchical constitution today.
We cannot safeguard ourselves against Prime Ministers wielding the unrestrained enormous power they have.
This is why we must abolish the monarchy and establish a separately elected democratic head of state with real power which will balance the power of parliament.
In case you are wondering we have not been asleep during the rather long gap since the last website.
The old website was drastically in need of an overhaul. We now have ready to launch a completely new improved website.
In addition the committee have been working on the strategy for the General Election 2015
This will go online next Saturday, 1st March 2014. There is a blog for practically every page so join in the discussion.
If you are a member you will be able to join the debate running up to the publication of the DRP manifesto for the election of 2015.
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