What kind of Wales should we have?
Let’s establish a foundational principle right now: the people of Wales must have the powers to decide their own future. Wales must be a democratic country, in the fullest sense.
If we as a people value our democracy then this has implications. We cannot sustain, endorse, or even tolerate any hereditary public roles whatsoever.
We need a clean break from United Kingdom’s model for the head of state, which is fundamentally flawed. In this model, the role of the monarch is simply passed from one generation to the next. There is no public accountability over the monarch’s actions nor use of the budgets, let alone any constitutional method of choosing a different monarch or voting the current one out. It’s all pre-decided through birthright, and that is outmoded, exclusive, and institutionally racist.
The monarchy, in the form of the present queen or king, is certainly the most visible example of a hereditary role with power, wealth, land, property, influence, and privileges. But let’s not forget the titles borne by royal family members and other nobility such as dukes, marquesses, earls, viscounts, barons, and lords.
This is more than one person sitting on a throne. It is an entire network, designed to keep power and privilege in the hands of a few people.
The monarch has almost unimaginable levels of influence over Westminster politicians. There are weekly personal meetings with the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and monthly decision sessions with a group of senior Westminster politicians known as the Privy Council. The term in Welsh, Cyfrin Gyngor, jolts us into realising its secrecy. There are other flows of information such as disclosure of cabinet papers to the royals and letters of reply. These interactions are not transparent, documented, nor subject to Freedom of Information requests.
Hereditary roles and privilege are the diametric opposite of fairness, and not fitting for the Wales of our aspirations. They are one of the primary reasons why our development as a nation is stilted or stalling in many areas. Opulent lifestyles of the born wealthy are a necessity, and public services are a luxury to be cut – and never vice-versa. This was never justifiable and cannot be allowed to continue any longer. This fundamental lack of democracy at the heart of the economic and social system is one reason why poverty afflicts so many people in Wales. As one person is given a head start, born into a prestigious role with instant wealth, others take their roles in having nothing. It’s a lethal equation.
Wales must become a republic – for practical reasons and for moral reasons. There can be no hereditary Queen, no King, no Prince of Wales, and no Princess of Wales. We reject these offices and institutions. This is not a personal issue. It’s just the way that our country needs to be run – democratically.
We also reject the ‘Most Excellent Order of the British Empire’, a series of honours bestowed in a completely opaque process at the whim of the monarch. The very existence and naming of these British Empire awards – CBE, OBE, MBE, and so on – is not just an embarrassment, it is scandalous.
The prospect of growing a strong democracy with no royals will already have an appeal for many people. For anyone who is already supportive of the people of Wales having full responsibility for their own country, it’s a given.
To be clear, we should not allow the title Queen of the United Kingdom to be replaced by a title like Queen of Wales, or King of Wales for that matter. We of all nations cannot risk compromising like this, in the way that Canada and Australia have, especially with the real risk of ongoing interference in Wales’ governance. Any role for non-elected monarchy in Wales falls short of the ideal. In an independent Wales that would be even more of a crass anachronism.
A person cannot be pro-democracy and pro-hereditary monarchy. One of the two views must ultimately give way to the other, to resolve the contradiction.
For the same reason, being neutral on the issue of the hereditary monarchy involves a serious weakening of one’s support for democracy.
Let us never make excuses for hereditary roles and privilege in any form.