Republic Versus Monarchy - part two, section two
[Arguments for the Monarchy & the answers to them]



The Monarch is politically neutral


Early Monarchs were definitely not politically neutral, and were active in the political affairs of state. The British Monarchs' alleged political neutrality is, historically, a relatively recent event. George Winterton states that "since the reign of George V, the Monarch's reputation for even-handedness has been well deserved"(34). Ironically, one of the foundation stones of the Monarch's "political neutrality" was the advent of George III becoming insane. As Tom Nairn puts it: "In this sense the King's developing madness... was one of Monarchy's outstanding gifts to England... Now that the Throne was harmless it could be made the focus for a 'pure' patriotism perceiving the existing State as an apolitical foundation for 'everything worth defending' about Britain".(35)

However, the claim that the Monarch is politically neutral is not completely true. Indeed, the differences between Queen Elizabeth II and Margaret Thatcher (when she was Prime Minister) over British foreign policy became publicy known through the media.(36)

Perhaps lesser known is Queen Elizabeth II's veiled rebuke to Scottish and Welsh separatists in a speech made in May 1977, her critical comments on the Fijian situation (regarding the 1987 coups), and her influencing of James Callaghan, the British Foreign Secretary, regarding the Rhodesian problem in 1976. Because communications between The Queen and her Ministers are confidential, it is impossible to know the extent of her influence until the Royal Archives for her reign are opened.(37)

Trevor McDonald , author of The Queen and the Commonwealth, has accurately described Queen Elizabeth II as an "internationalist". Indeed, the international nature of the British monarchy itself has sometimes been advanced as an argument for retaining the monarchy. However, the Queen's internationalist views have put her at odds with some nationalists. In her Christmas broadcast in 1983, she stated that "the greatest problem in the world today remains the gap between the rich and poor countries ... We shall not begin to close this gap until we hear less about nationalism and more about interdependence." As this Christmas message was a "personal message from the Queen" she was attacked by nationalists who disagreed with her politics.(38)

It has also been argued by Colin Macinnes that the Monarchy is not neutral from a "social" perspective because "as it is hereditary (it) is by essence a conservative institution, and because of its possessions, a capitalist one". Communists have taught that "royalty is an archaic device to keep in power an elite of landowners and hereditary wealthy who manipulate royalty as a front for their own domination and acquisitions". Following this, one could see the argument, from a communist perspective, that the Monarchy is definitely not politically neutral. We may not agree with the perspective, but the point is quite valid.(39)

In Australia the Monarch's representative, the Governor-General, has not always been seen as politically neutral, indeed, Governors-General McKell, Casey, Hasluck, and Hayden were seen by many as politically partisan appointments. It almost goes without saying that the action of Governor-General Kerr in sacking the Whitlam government in 1975 was widely perceived as overtly political. Indeed, it has been argued that since the Queen is "politically neutral" and therefore has to follow the advice of the Prime Minister, that Whitlam could have had Kerr sacked and replaced, (before Kerr had a chance to sack Whitlam), whereas that couldn't happen to a Republican Head of State, except through strenuous proper channels.(40)

A Republic can have a politically neutral Head of State by the careful framing of suitable machinery for the election of an essentially ceremonial position.




Republic Versus Monarchy

Australian Nationalism Information Database - www.ausnatinfo.angelfire.com/~natinfo