Why I’m Not a Republican. Or a Monarchist. And Why Pete Broadbent should Resign

Showing a remarkable lack of judgement, or knowledge of the scorpion that is Facebook, Bishop Pete Broadbent had a pop at Prince William and Kate Middleton, and inviting all good republicans to a party in Calais while the royal wedding went ahead.

Lots of people have come out in support of him, which I hope has more to do with the fact that he appears to have been rather harshly punished, rather than supporting his right as a public figure of the church to have a pop at a newly engaged couple, which was very distasteful.

But I happen to disagree with him. I do not think we should move towards getting rid of the monarchy and having a republic.

Firstly, I’m still to be convinced that a system that would likely see the likes of Jeffrey Archer and Boris Johnson elected president would be an improvement. Presidential governance gave us George Bush. So, no thanks.

But, more seriously, I also like the fact that our constitutional monarchy does a good job of undermining the powerful. The Queen is technically the head of State – she signs bills into law. And yet…she is also powerless too. Her power is symbolic only. So the Prime Minister is also technically the leader of the country – heading the party/coalition with a functioning majority of votes in the House of Commons. And yet…he is powerless too. He has to ask the Queen if he can form a government, and is in service to her.

What this does is create a system where power is confused rather, and thus, I hope, exercised with greater humility and accountability.

However, this is a system we have come to after a great deal of time. If we were creating a new country, the creation of a monarchy would be reprehensible. But given that we have one, I simply don’t think it’s worth changing what isn’t broke. The Royal Family are not much more than a high class soap opera, and certainly give us plenty to laugh about. They aren’t to be taken seriously, and do bring an enormous boost to our economy.

What does rile rather is that as a bishop Pete is in an unelected position which he has come to through someone’s unaccountable determination of ‘God’s will.’ Does this not smack of the same nonsense as monarchy? Of priviledged knowlege and power? If bishop’s posts were open to all, with a transparent application process, we might be able to take his remarks more seriously. Indeed, surely if he is to take his own remarks seriously he should resign from his comfortable post in an established church and get his hands dirty with a normal job and serving God in his spare time. Because as a bishop in an established church with the Queen as head and his appointment in part (as a Suffragan) courtesy of the Crown Appointments Commission, I really think it’s a little hypocritical to wear a purple clerical shirt and bang on about wanting a republic.

That said, it does seem he’s been harshly treated, and the Church should look at being a little more even-handed. What about the sexist guff that a lot of schism bishops are spouting?


14 responses to “Why I’m Not a Republican. Or a Monarchist. And Why Pete Broadbent should Resign”

  1. mm not sure that is very logical. Just because the current queen is benign, doesn’t mean that the system is open to abuse.

  2. Some sympathies with your view Kester – I don’t like the hereditary monarchy (and it really ought to pass to the oldest child whether girl or boy), but what we might get instead doesn’t attract much. OK if we got a President like Mary Robinson in Ireland, but not OK if we get some Tory big shot. Maybe we should elect Bono or Bob Geldof president (oh, they’re both Irish too – interesting…).

    Pete has been harshly treated, but he is indeed in an ambivalent position, having sworn an oath of loyalty to the Queen in a politically established church. Maybe he’d do better as an Anabaptist – we don’t swear oaths at all.

  3. PS It may be that Pete B. wants a republic so he can stand for President himself!

  4. Kester my love, this is beyond barmy. There’s definitely some inconsistency in him being a republican while also defending the Bishops’ right to be in the House of Lords. But MPs also swear loyalty to the Queen, and no one’s suggesting they can’t be republicans.

    More importantly though, there’s a remarkable mistrust of your fellow humans in what you say about presidents. In fact, I can’t really bring myself to believe that you think a system in which oversight of the nation comes by right of birth is superior to one in which the people of the nation get to choose. It’s a joke, right? George Bush is a tosser so let’s stick with quality leaders like George III? For Christ’s sake.

    Power isn’t being confused here in a way that keeps people humble, it’s being confused so that we can’t track it and hold it accountable. It ‘isn’t broke’? My irony radar isn’t especially well developed, but I can only presume this is satire.

    Besides which, he wasn’t having a pop at a newly engaged couple. He was saying that we’re turning a wedding of two people into a nauseating national spectacle, a hypocritical one that will see us following them around wanting the relationship to collapse so we can have some more headlines. You could even say that it’s a critique of an owned news system that results in the election of figures you don’t seem to like.

    But, like I say, I often misread these things. You don’t strike me a barbarously mad generally, so I apologise for not getting whatever angle it is you’ve gone for.

  5. I’m in general agreement with you, Kester, but struggle with the whole issue of royal prerogative. In the UK the prime minister has enormous power because he exercises it in the name of the monarch. Of course, over time this power has been eroded – the latest step being that whenever troops are sent to war parliamaent now has to vote on the issue. This however was not the case with the Iraq war – and though Blair had a debate and a vote in HoC, the vote would not have been binding. Such power in the hands of one person cannot be right. But it is there because of the constitutional monarchy.

  6. Hmm. really can’t defend the bish’s stupid comments, but why are everyone so upset with comment directed at royals? Boris or not, I’m in support of leadership that comes from some sort of merit or value other than figurehead. While I wouldn’t opt for republic immediately the whole business does need major thinning down.£650,000 last yr to Charles for hire of Dartmoor HMP etc…

  7. Thanks Simon – actually made me laugh out loud!

    I don’t think that a system of birth is better. I just don’t think it’s worth changing. Why? Because your system of elected presidential oversight can end up in farce, with very little opportunity for change. The US and Italy are both examples. Obama is a fine president – but has his hands tied. Berlusconi is just plain barking, but you can just blame Italians for that. Plus, my point is this: the Queen has the appearance of power, but actually holds very little. And that’s the best we can get. George Bush had real power. A George III now would have none, which answer’s Joe’s point.

    And, no, I don’t actually think – if we compare to other democracies – ours is broken. Democratic engagement in the developed world is shot all over, but I don’t think our version is faring any worse.

    As I said, it wouldn’t be the system I’d go for if starting from scratch. But with all the time and expense of changing it? No thanks. Not worth it. Just laugh at her Maj & Co. and enjoy it.

    Plus, with regards Pete, the difference between him and an MP is the thorny issue of divine vocation. I think that matters.

  8. I’m still suspicious of your motives here! Why would you compare the Queen to Berlusconi? A UK President would be like an Irish one, no more powerful than a constitutional monarch. Make it the Speaker of a reformed House of Lords, if you like.

    And the thornier issue, with regard to the divine vocation of priests, is their existence in an institutional church at all, never mind who governs the institution. Separate it from the state and it owes allegiance to no King or President.

    It’s the 21st Century, but 69% of British land is still owned by the aristocratic families (0.6% of the population) who owned it in the 19th century. The Queen takes money from the state while making a fortune from land we gave her ancestors (have you seen the stuff about what she’s going to make from sea wind farms on the basis that she owns the fucking water?). A democratic deficit exists for all sorts of reasons, but a pretty damn key one is that fact that none of that is going to change any time soon.

  9. And we haven’t even got onto swans yet, either!

    But yes, it’s all about the institutional nature of the church. That’s where it all goes wrong, with divine-right of the monarchy all tumbling from that.

    Land reform, yes. Balance the democratic deficit, yes. But I see no need to replace the old puppet with anything else. It’s a pantomime, but one the country (mostly) does well out of.

  10. I don’t accept there is a moral or divine prerogative for the Queen to be head of the church or head of the nation. Indeed, I think the gospels say such things are essentially blasphemous.

    That said, I don’t believe in ordination – and hence Priests or Bishops either. I’m generally with Veronica, it is a contradiction for Pete Whateverhisnameis to be an Anglican bishop and hold the kind of views he has, but of course, holding contradictory views has never stopped people from being Anglicans in the past.

    I think the most offensive thing is that Pete thinks he can tell how long a marriage will last of people he has never even met. For all we know, these could be life partners – which one would think almost everyone would want to endorse, regardless of their apparent position in our society.

  11. Kester, no one goes to see the Palace of Versaille because there’s no King in it, eh?

    And Joe, he wasn’t commenting on the love or commitment of the two people in question. He was just pointing out that for all the forelocking-tugging coverage of the last week, within a year we’ll be making life extremely difficult for them — to the extent that the pressure on the marriage will become unbearable. He was being offensive to the media, not the couple.

  12. Now I’m questioning your sanity Simon – you really think his comments were aimed at the media? I think that’s being very generous.

    I’d be very interested to see the figures on profit/loss on her Maj. Personally, I think they’re just a hilarious sideshow, and one that’s pretty cost-effective. If it wasn’t, well, may be you’re right. But then please let’s not have President Archer moving in to Buck Palace.

  13. He said:

    ‘Never underestimate the capacity of the media to descend into the most fawning deferential nonsense and to rake up trivia and irrelevance until it comes out of their every orifice … The wedding belongs to the family. It’s their celebration. Not some piece of national flim-flam paid for out of our taxes, for a couple whose lives are going to be persecuted and spoilt by an ignorant media. I wish them well, but their nuptials are nothing to do with me. Leave them to get married somewhere out of the limelight and leave them alone’

    That’s pretty clear isn’t it? He was, unsurprisingly, quoted massively out of context.

    As a convicted criminal I suspect Archer would be disallowed. Which hasn’t applied to the royals, natch.

  14. So why was Gordon Brown let off ‘scot-free’ when he made rather distasteful comments about an elderly lady pursuing a line of questioning of him? It’s the inconsistency of how people are dealt with depending upon their position in society which I find so nauseating. Richard Chartres is a sycophantic power-crazed bishop who just had to flex his muscles. I wonder how Rowan Williams would’ve dealt with it. Hopefully Pete will now see this as a blessing in disguise and exit stage right from the other quintessentially English pantomime we call the CofE!