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Why we don't back the Queen's pay claim
RECENTLY I was invited to speak as a Socialist Party representative on a BBC programme The Big Questions, a debate show being filmed in Bristol. One of the topics up for discussion was the monarchy and the civil list.
The civil list is taxpayers' money that goes to the Queen to cover the cost of her household and state events that she holds. This has been set at £7.9 million a year for the last 20 years but now the royal household is requesting an increase of £6 million. This is in addition to other public money they get for things like security.
So, at a time when working-class people face proposed public service cuts that would devastate jobs, services and communities the Queen, with enormous personal wealth, is asking for millions more of our money. The timing of this request shows how out of touch the royals are from their 'subjects'.
Some of the programme's other speakers were similarly out of touch; one described the Queen as "famously frugal." Most people of her age, surviving on a state pension that may be under £100 a week, would struggle to recognise this description of a woman with several palaces and many servants who lives a pampered life at our expense.
The debate quickly moved on from the monarchy's cost to their future and what role they play in society. Other speakers argued that they provide a "democratic safety valve" and a check on elected politicians. I explained that accountability over elected representatives should be held by the people that elect them, not by an unelected monarch.
Right to recall
I said this should be provided by allowing voters the right to recall and replace representatives who they do not feel are standing up for them. These elected representatives should be put more in touch with the people they represent by receiving only an average worker's wage.
Socialist Party members who stood in the general election as part of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition all pledged to take only a worker's wage if elected and we have a long and proud history of sticking to that position. The Queen, with her lifestyle, is a million miles removed from the vast majority of people in the country and cannot speak for us.
In reality the monarchy does provide a safety-valve, though it is not on behalf of ordinary people but of the ruling class. The monarch retains enormous constitutional power, for example, following an election it is up to them to offer someone the chance to be prime minister.
Other powers, such as an effective veto on any legislation passed and the right to dissolve parliament are held in reserve by the ruling class, to be used if they feel their interests are seriously threatened. As recently as 1975, the power of the monarchy was used to dismiss a government in Australia where the Queen is also head of state.
Socialists demand an increase in funding for vital public services and will be in the forefront of the fight to stop the cuts. But we won't support the call for more money for 'Her Majesty'.
As Greek-style austerity measures come to Britain we could also see Greek-style resistance. In this situation the capitalists will seek to use all the powers of the state, possibly including the monarchy, against the working-class to try and defend their system and make us pay for its failings. We must oppose this and demand the abolition of an unelected monarch and the House of Lords with all their powers.
In The Socialist 16 June 2010:
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