Monday, 29 October 2007

The Royal Taboo

No, not sex, drugs, or blackmail; just republicanism.

Alun Cairns' inbuilt hyperbole engine went into overdrive at the end of last week when he discovered that Plaid AM Leanne Wood was attending a conference of republicans in London.
By some process of logic which probably only he himself can fathom, Cairns apparently sees attending a UK-wide, cross party meeting of republicans as being a 'call for further isolation'. Better yet, cranking up the engine to even greater levels of nonsense, he goes on to describe republicanism as having no sort of logic to it. This is an interesting way to describe the system chosen by most countries in the world for selection of their head of state – and is somewhat lacking as a rational defence of the hereditary principle.

It may be that Cairns’ basic underlying assumption – that republicanism is inherently unpopular – is correct. Perhaps people in the 21st Century really do still believe that heredity is a good basis for selecting a head of state. But, even if he is correct on that point, it doesn’t mean that there should be some sort of taboo around debating the subject. Creating a taboo is something that people only do if they can’t handle a proper argument. And condemning someone for simply taking part in a conference to discuss the issue is hardly a mature contribution to debate.

Wood has always made her republicanism perfectly clear to all, as have a number of other members of her party. (Although it is not correct, as Ordovicius suggests, to say that Plaid is a republican party. It is not. The issue is one which the party has studiously – and timidly – avoided debating or taking a position on, preferring to argue that it’s an irrelevance to the real issue, which is about the powers of any Welsh Parliament or Assembly).

It’s not exactly a secret that many members of the Labour Party are also republicans; indeed it would be a surprise if that were not true given the party’s roots in a sense of egalitarianism. Few of them, however, choose to argue the point openly.

Cairns is surely aware that there are even some members of his own party who recognise that there is no sensible argument for a hereditary monarch, although they carefully respect the taboo in public.

The Labour government has quite properly started to tackle the nonsensical hereditary element of the House of Lords, although they have not gone as far or as fast as I would have liked, and have yet to commit to turning that House into an elected chamber. Having started to challenge the principle, surely it is only proper that we should have more debate about whether the head of state should be appointed purely because of who his or her parents were.

Wood doesn’t always do things in the most subtle of ways, but she’s honest and forthright with her views on this issue. If Cairns believes that he can justify a hereditary head of state, let him say so, and explain why – in short, he should enter into the debate, rather than merely playing to the gallery.


Anonymous said...

No, when I first joined Plaid Cymru in 1990 the emphasis in the manifesto was quite clearly on an elected welsh Head of State. Ergo Plaid IS a republican party.

alanindyfed said...

Absolutely correct in your analysis of Alun Cairns and his comments.
Let him join the debate if there is one.
Some politicians probably believe it is treasonable to question the monarchy, but we are not living in the days of Henry VIII.
Let Wales choose - a republic or an elected Prince.
Otherwise it's the status quo as in Canada and Australia etc. where it has little relevance.
They are virtual republics.

Ceredig said...


I bow to your superior knowledge of Plaid manifestos. I don't remember one saying that, and I cannot recall any of the party's leaders actually voicing such an opinion publicly.


Be careful that you don't fall into the mindset of Cairns and others.

The issue of republicanism has no real link with the issue of Independence. It's as much a British (sorry to use a word that you don't like a lot) issue as a Welsh one. It is perfectly possible to argue for the continuation of the Union and at the same time argue for an elected head of state, which is the position taken by many republicans.

It is also perfectly possible to argue that Wales should be independent with dominion status - as you point out, like Canada and Australia. Notwithstanding Ordo's comment, that was my understanding of your party's position.

alanindyfed said...

I agree.
They are different issues.
The point is :
democracy decides.

Anonymous said...

I think that if you trace back Labour at its roots also is republican. I remember many labour politicians who spoke out against a system of monarchy. I think that its now out of fashion to say these things, that’s why Plaid is fudging it and labour tends to skirt around it.
It would be interesting to look back as Ords did into the original ILP manifesto

Ceredig said...


Yes indeed; if they looked to their roots they would find that their party's founders were very much in favour of democracy rather than heredity.

It is a measure of how far that they have come that so many of them now feel that the monarchy is an institution which needs to be revered and protected, and that anyone who advocates an elected head of state is being un-British or disloyal.