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Gary Younge
A new politics: Ditch the monarchy

Thanks to hanging chads and the supreme court, the left could poke fun at the electoral credibility of George Bush during his first term. And given the labyrinthine deals that take place in Brussels, Eurosceptics can scoff at the legitimacy of European commission president José Manuel Barroso. But when it comes Britain, there can really be no debate about the democratic credentials of our head of state. She has none.

For all the fetishisation of modernity that has gripped the political class over the last decade, there is one glaring omission in the mainstream agenda – the abolition of the monarchy. Power has been devolved to Scotland and Wales, cities have mayors and there will soon be a supreme court. But when it comes to the little things like declaring war and peace, dissolving parliament and ratifying treaties, all power lies with the monarch.

Those who insist the role is merely symbolic miss the point. It symbolises something extremely corrosive in our history and culture: the notion that your life chances are determined not by what you can do, but to whom you were born – which is the very cornerstone of a society riddled with class prejudice and privilege. Moreover, it enshrines the notion that power can be unaccountable at the very pinnacle of our system of government.

Since no mainstream political party is willing to argue for the dissolution of the monarchy, it is hardly surprising that it retains some popular support. Republicans still have a case to make, and the tendency to point out the personal deficiencies of the nation's first family is understandable, but flawed. This is really not about them.

"Kings were put to death long before 21 January 1793," wrote Albert Camus, referring to Louis XVI's execution. "But regicides of earlier times and their followers were interested in attacking the person, not the principle, of the king. They wanted another king, and that was all. It never occurred to them that the throne could remain empty for ever."

The issue is not the individuals but the institution, not the personalities but the politics. The Queen is, I'm sure, a lovely woman. It's the monarchy that's the problem.

A call, then, to remove the Queen's constitutional powers might well attract broad support, leaving us with the ceremonial and symbolic and little else. That would be a start.

The thread below is your space to add ideas for what may prove a historic opportunity to reform our democracy. Cif editors and contributors will be involved in the discussion as much as possible, so please join us

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