The Centre for Citizenship
Our vision is of a nation in which deference to family, position or wealth is an eccentricity; a democracy of citizens, not "subjects." A nation without monarchy or aristocracy. A nation in which the rights of the people and the duties of the government are set out for all to see in a written constitution. A nation in which all the institutions of government are subject to the will of the people. And more: a nation that is infused with the spirit of democracy.
An End To Monarchy
In the United Kingdom now it is still acceptable to describe a citizen as a "subject" of the "Crown."
An essential inequality from birth is not merely accepted. It is revered. How can it be otherwise as long as our head of state is neither elected by the people, nor appointed by their parliament? How can it be otherwise when we allow our chief public office to be the property of the Windsor family?
How is it possible for achievement to be respected more than inherited right when the head of the democratically elected government is expected to live in a terraced house while the "Queen" is provided with palaces? While the "Queen," born into her position, is greeted abroad by cannonades but the Prime Minister, the indirect choice of the people, is met with a mere handshake?
An End To Aristocracy
In Britain an "aristocracy" that should have been left to be picked over by anthropologists and historians, is recognised by the state. Countless persons claim the right to be addressed as Lord, Duke, Lady, Sir etc. Not as Ms, Mr, Mrs, Dr or another title that at the most conveys a status that has been achieved through ability or hard work. In Britain it is not enough that personal achievement should be recognised by one's peers, the market or history. The government decides who is worthy of honour. It hands out hundreds of honours each year. Jazz singer Cleo Laine is a "Dame." A former chairperson of the Equal Opportunities Commission was a "Commander of the British Empire"! Tom Stoppard, the playwright, is a "Knight" without shining armour. Others are "Companions of Honour," "Members of the British Empire" or "Knight Commanders of the British Empire." The list of catchpenny distinctions seems endless.
An End To The House of Lords
In Britain now some of some of our legislators have inherited their seats in the legislature from their parents. Others were appointed to this privileged position for life. None of these "members" of the "upper" house of the legislature were chosen by the people. None may be called to account by the people. These legislators are at the apex of the class structure. They are "Peers" with the fairy tale titles of "Lord," "Baron" and "Baroness". Their legislative chamber is called the "upper"house. The elected representatives of the people sit in what is known as the "lower" chamber.
A Written Constitution
In Britain now it is Parliament that is sovereign, not the people. There is no written constitution to guarantee the rights of the people, or limit the power of the government. Members of Parliament are elected but the government derives its power from the "Crown." There are no rights that Parliament cannot take away.
We The People
Britain is not a nation founded on principles. Its system of government has grown over many years and has grown inelegantly. British people are not generally inclined to be serious about the nature of their society or to examine its weaknesses. Rather there is often a chauvinistic pride in country that is unrelated to its merits, and that denies it failings.
Many British people, who have never lived in a society without princesses and lords, do not recognise it as the affront to democracy that it is. Republicanism is often seen as a radical threat, that is plotted by Leninists or eccentric Labourites. Criticism of monarchy can provoke irrational and violent responses. Until recently any discussion of a republic was considered taboo by the British Broadcasting Corp.
In a system in which political parties compete for a "winner takes all" form of power, the understanding of minority rights has not got much past a defence of the rights of ethnic minorities. Few in Britain understand that the majority is not necessarily entitled to impose its will on a minority. That even if a majority want a monarchy, it is a breach of the civil rights of the rest to impose one on them.
The Centre for Citizenship looks forward to a Britain in which the will of the people is supreme and in which the people are the source of the government's legitimacy. A Britain in which the people delegate their power to Members of Parliament but only for a limited period and for limited purposes.
On this Web site we draw attention to some of the evils and some of the absurdities of British life. We try to counter the fiction that by clinging to feudal ways we protect ourselves from the evils of the modern world. And we promote practical ideas for reform of the government of this country. We hope also to offer a source of strength for those in Britain who want to replace a "democratic monarchy" with a citizens' democracy.
Although our objectives are wider than the achievement of a republic, we do give great emphasis to that cause. In part that is because until now republicans in Britain have failed to make a wide impression. If they have tried to advance the cause, they have done so in a rather elitist, "behind the scenes" way. And they have chosen the miscalculated and confusing approach of expressing respect for those who benefit from the institutions that those republicans say they despise.
The United States
You will see in this site that The Centre for Citizenship refers often to the United States. In part that is because that country gave us all a great example when 200 years ago it threw off the British monarch.
The United States has never provide a perfect example of democracy. No country has. Nonetheless, there is a democratic spirit there, in the widest sense. The influence of pressure groups there is also an inspiration for the Centre for Citizenship.
And because ill-informed criticism of the US is often used in Britain as a defence against change, we also try to expose the misunderstandings and prejudices about the US that are widely held in the UK.