For a federal republic

The size of the vote against the monarchy after last week’s television debate shows the potential for a mass republican movement

“The sight and sound of the assembled ranks of loutish ignorance, massed in their thousands, caused one not to question the merits of constitutional monarchy but the merits of representative democracy.”

Strong stuff from the pen of Dominic Lawson, to be found in last week’s Sunday Telegraph in an article charmingly entitled ‘Republican party reptiles’. What was the occasion which put the fear of god into Lawson, and plenty of others besides? A mass, militant demonstration through the centre of London demanding the instant introduction of socialism perhaps? No, Lawson’s bile is directed at the Carlton television programme, Monarchy: the nation decides, which fellow reactionary Sir Robin Day denounced as “the most contemptible programme I have ever watched”.

In many respects, this programme has made the record books. An unprecedented 2.6 million viewers took part in the telephone poll, making it into a sort of ‘pseudo-referendum’ on the future of the monarchy. The result was that 34% of callers were for the abolition of the monarchy - particularly in Scotland, where 56% were in favour of scrapping the institution. By combing this sentiment with the demand for national self-determination, a powerful movement against the bourgeois constitution itself can be developed.

Even though the 34% ‘vote’ coincided very closely with recent Gallop and Mori opinion polls, there can be no doubt that the large ‘anti-monarchy’ sentiment expressed on that night has rattled a section of the British establishment, convinced as it is that everybody - except for a handful of mad Marxists and anarchist troublemakers - loves the monarchy. This contact with reality has left them troubled. Prince Charles seems to have taken note: he has hired a posse of advisers and ‘experts’ to change his image.

It is also clear that for many figures in the ruling class even to discuss at all is tantamount to an abhorrent crime, if not treason. Worse, to let ‘the plebs’ debate it on television is really beyond the pale. What next?

The rank class snobbery, and class hatred, of some pro-monarchist panellists was best summed up by the obnoxious thriller writer Frederick Forsyth, author of The day of the jackal. He dismissed out of hand the views of the anti-monarchists on the grounds that “they came from the inner cities”, and were therefore “malcontents”.

As all those who watched the programme observed, the “loutish” behaviour which so upset Dominic Lawson came almost overwhelmingly from the pro-monarchists. For people who purport to believe in ‘good manners’ and ‘breeding’ they were remarkably rude and aggressive, in stark contrast to the painfully polite republicans - anxious as they were to prove that they were not ‘loony lefties’.

Of course, the Carlton programme was pitifully limited in its scope. The producers wanted it to be a ‘populist’ slanging match, which is what they got. They even employed a comedian to whip up the audience into a semi-hysterical state during the ad breaks and before the show started.

However, for all the commercial machinations of Carlton TV, the vitriolic reaction to it has revealed the deep ‘anti-democratism’ which props up the British political system. Any manifestation of the working class, any opinion which deviates from the norm, must be rubbished and ridiculed. More to the point, we can see that if there was a political movement which seriously challenged the monarchy and all that goes with it, the Forsyths and Lawsons of this world would stop at nothing to save the system - even if that meant goodbye to “representative democracy”.

The working class movement needs to attack the monarchy on all fronts - on the television, in the streets, in the ballot box, in the trade unions. In short, everywhere. We need a federal republic of England, Scotland and Wales.

This is a vulnerable spot for the ruling class and they know it. Let us really scare them.

Eddie Ford