Saturday, April 10, 2010

Vote Conservative: Save the Queen

The three major parties contesting the May 6, 2010, national election in the United Kingdom pledge to end, or significantly reduce, aristocratic privilege embodied in the House of Lords. The Liberal Democrats want fairness, first and foremost. Labour is equally committed to fairness, with the Conservatives not far behind. Still, the Tories state their intention to maintain some aspect of non-elected membership, however small, in the Lords.

There is no written constitution in the United Kingdom. Parliament, specifically the House of Commons, is supreme. Over the centuries it has whittled away royal power. Legislation has transformed the Lords from a hereditary body to one chiefly of life peerages. The next reform of the Lords will likely entail an end to hereditary privilege and a gradual phasing out of life peerage as elected members replace lordships. As this unfolds, the British monarch will lose the power to approve lordships. Titles would become honorary, lacking political position.

The biggest problem facing the United Kingdom is its massive fiscal deficit. Avoiding a Greek-like crisis requires freezing or reducing public spending, and imposing new and higher taxes. The “fairness” doctrine will require the royals to make a larger contribution to the running of the country: higher taxes, reduced grants from Parliament (Civil List), even perhaps privatizion of royal palaces.

The monarch has three official residences: Buckingham Palace in London, Windsor Castle outside London, and the Palace of Hollyroodhouse in Edinburgh. Wealthy Russian oligarches, oil-rich Arab potentates, and successful hedge fund managers would pay huge sums to buy a royal palace. A condition of private ownership could require historic preservation and opening to visitors for a minimum number of days a year.

The royal family owns several private residences, Sandringham House (20,000 acres) in England and Balmoral Castle (65,000 acres) in Scotland, along with residences for other members of the royal family. The government could provide an office in Parliament for the Queen to grant her royal assent to legislation and carry out other royal business.

Based on the manifestos of the three parties, the Conservatives appear most committed to maintaining the royal tradition. I recommend voting Tory.

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