One of the most important benefits of Constitutional Monarchy is that the Monarch as Head of State is able to remain neutral and above party politics, something that is extremely difficult in republics where with very few exceptions the President will always be a politician. If there was an election for the position of Head of State, it would immediately result in the political parties turning against each other to fight for party advantage and control of the position, ignoring the national interest. Whereas at present, the Monarchy is one of the few things that unites most political parties, including the three largest parties that received almost 90% of the vote in the 2010 General Election. The Queen, along with the rest of the Royal family are not members of any political party; they do not campaign for any political party and they do not even vote in elections for any individual or party. This is something that is impossible to replicate in a republic and it is why a republican system will always result in less neutral and party partial Heads of State.
Whilst only the Queen is Head of State, other members of the Royal family carry out many engagements on behalf of the nation too; this allows far more recognition to be given to individuals, local communities, charities, organisations and for those serving in Her Majesty’s Armed Forces and Veterans. Members of the Royal family also represent the Queen and our country on foreign visits regularly; this helps strengthen cultural and economic ties with other nations. The Royal Family combined carry out around 3000 engagements a year. This compares for example to the President of Ireland who has just several hundred a year. The Royal Family are also patrons of around 3000 charities, as well as being actively involved in the creation and success of important charities such as the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme and the Princes Trust – charities that help thousands of young people every year. It also simply means a lot more to many people to see members of the Royal Family or receive recognition from them, rather than from a politician that many will dislike and not agree with due to their political beliefs and platform. This ultimately results in politicians being less respected than members of our Royal family.
Having a Royal family dedicated to the service of the nation means a wealth of knowledge and experience is always maintained. The Queen has been Head of State for 60 years. During her reign there have been 12 Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom and dozens more from other Commonwealth Realms; she has met countless world leaders and is known and respected by millions of people around the world. Prince Charles has been heir to the throne for 60 years and during that time has carried out many thousands of official engagements and represented the Queen around the world on numerous occasions. This has given him more experience than anyone to be our next Head of State, because for decades he has been doing many of the duties involved already, he even had more official engagements in 2010-11 than the President of Ireland. More recently we have seen Prince William and Prince Harry carrying out more engagements in the United Kingdom and internationally. This sort of continuity and shared experience would be impossible in a republic where we would have no certainty over who would be our next Head of State or the experience and knowledge they would bring to the position.
The British Monarchy is extremely good value for money for the British taxpayer, as it contributes far more to the nation than it costs. For the year ending March 2011, the Crown Estate (which does not belong to the Government) surrendered £230.9 million revenue to HM Treasury; this is given to be spent for the good of the nation in exchange for the Government providing the Civil list and Grants-in-aid funding for the monarchy to ensure the important role and duties of Head of State can be carried out. In 2011, the total Head of State expenditure met from public funds was £36.2 million; this includes spending on salaries for staff, maintenance of palaces and travel costs. The Sovereign Grant Act 2011 replaces the Civil List and separate grants with a single grant that will be based on 15% of the revenues from the Crown Estate which will result in a similar amount of funding as under current arrangements. It is also important to remember that in a republic there would still need to be expenditure for the Head of State, although in a republic this would include additional costs such as Presidential salaries (the Queen does not receive a salary) and Presidential pensions (the Queen will never retire), there would also be an election every 4 years costing tens of millions more if the Head of State was directly elected. The 2012 American Presidential Election cost approximately $6 Billion, roughly the same amount or more than the annual GDP of 66 different nations. GDP Figure obtained from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_GDP_%28PPP%29
The Monarchy plays an important role in our national life and serves as a symbol of British identity which is recognised and respected around the world. It was the Union of the Crowns in 1603 (when King James VI of Scotland became King of England and Ireland) that laid the foundations for the political union between England and Scotland which followed just over one hundred years later in 1707. It was also by King James’ Royal Decree in 1606, that the original Union Flag was established as a symbol of unity for Britain. A YouGov / Cambridge University poll of 20,000 people in 2011 found that 70% thought the Monarchy was important for defining “Britishness”. It helps provide countless occasions for the nation and local communities to come together in celebration, from thousands of Royal visits to major national events like the Royal Wedding in 2011 and the Diamond Jubilee in 2012, which were of great interest to millions of people around the world, something that helps the tourism industry with so many people passionate about British heritage. In recent years there has been concern about national identity; it would seem very counterproductive to abolish one of the things that helps bind the British nation together, especially when the alternative is having another elected politician that would become our Head of State. This is something the nation is not going to be able to take much pride in or be recognised for around the world.
Unlike that vast majority of politicians that divide people based on political allegiance and other factors, support for Monarchy brings the nation together across political, economic, social and geographical divides, helping to make the Monarchy a great unifying force for the country. Polls consistently show overwhelming support for the continuation of Monarchy with only a small minority wanting a republic. This helps ensure the Royal Family can lead the nation at important national events without being as divisive as a politician from one political party would be. A directly elected President would also prove deeply divisive because of the demographics of the United Kingdom, with around 80% of the UK population in England, how would people in the other nations of the United Kingdom feel if a political candidate needs only to appeal to people in England to become president. It would become a political issue used to attack the United Kingdom, whereas at present the SNP praise the Queen and say they would keep the Monarchy.
No matter what system of government, there would have to be an individual that would be recognised as the Head of State. Having a Monarch rather than a politician serves as a powerful Constitutional safeguard to prevent the politicisation and abuse of the position. In many republics the president acts as both Head of State and Head of Government, in other republics the same political party may control both positions, all of which creates additional risks. There is often an element of loyalty attached to the office of Head of State in many republics, which can cause potential conflicts of interest. In our system, the Armed Forces serve the Crown and pledge loyalty to the Queen, despite the Prime Minister, Government and Parliament determining where and when they are deployed. In the United States for example, all those who serve in the military must pledge to follow all orders of the President. There is very little trust in politicians in this country, and the idea that we give them additional power is a very troubling prospect for many. It is much more safe to entrust a Constitutional Monarch that remains out of partisan politics and would have no cause to seek more power, to have heirs to the throne we know throughout their entire lives, rather than a politician that nobody can even name yet that will acquire the job if we were to become a republic.
One thing even many republicans agree on is that the Queen has served the nation with great dedication throughout her long and successful reign. Her Majesty is known and respected around the world, often praised by other world leaders and seen as a great ambassador for the nation and Commonwealth. In 2011, one poll of people in Britain showed 80% had a favourable opinion of The Queen, whilst only 11% said not favourable; a second poll showed 59% had a very positive opinion of her, with 27% saying fairly positive, 7% fairly negative and just 3% said very negative. This level of genuine support is something any elected politician would find impossible to maintain and it would mean the role of Head of State could not be carried out as effectively as Her Majesty is able to. Why would we want to replace someone that has done such a great service for our nation over many decades and has such a wealth of experience and support, which a career politician likely to become president obviously will not have.
The Monarchy forms a vital part of our heritage and is one of our oldest national institutions. In a world of constant political and social change, maintaining the Monarchy helps provide an important sense of stability that the majority of the population support. It is not just a change to who would be our Head of State; so many elements of national life would be impacted if the Monarchy were ever to be abolished. From Changing of the Guard at Royal Palaces and Trooping the Colour to mark Her Majesty The Queen’s Official birthday, to how events such as the State Opening of Parliament would take place. Across the country a huge amount of rebranding would need to occur, which would sadly weaken our historic legacy as centuries of tradition are washed away. For example, there would no longer be a Royal Navy or a Royal Air Force; these are not just names that can be easily changed, they help form a strong identity and link with our past that many people take pride in. This was recently demonstrated in Canada where Her Majesty’s Canadian Government reinstated the names of the Royal Canadian Navy and Royal Canadian Air Force in 2011, undoing a change made decades earlier that proved unpopular with many. So much would be condemned to the history books if the Monarchy was ever abolished and that would certainly have a detrimental effect on our United Kingdom (something else that would need a name change).
Unlike in republics, someone cannot use personal wealth to obtain the position of Head of State. Many politicians in countries all around the world benefit from their personal financial positions to get into politics, and in the United States having millions to spend on campaigning for the job of President, clearly can give a candidate an advantage over those with less resources or those unable to get involved in politics in the first place due of their financial position. Whilst it is true the Royal family are financially very well-off, that wealth does not buy the position of Head of State which is instead determined by the line of Succession passed by our Parliament. It is the dedicated service to the nation by the Queen and other members of the Royal family that ensures our Constitutional Monarchy continues to survuve in a modern British state. With Constitutional Monarchy we can say with confidence that a billionaire businessman has as much chance of becoming Head of State as a homeless person. Can people honestly say the same in any republic?