30 November 2006

Republic 'best place to live in world'

Monarchists often argue that the without the monarchy the UK would be doomed. Either our tourism industry would collapse, we'd suffer political instability, or our national identity would disappear.

In the first half of the 20th Century one part of the UK did become a republic - Ireland. It gained its independence from the UK and replaced the monarch with an elected head of state.

Far from the ridiculous claims of the monarchists, Ireland has prospered. Its economic growth puts Britain to shame.

The Irish have not lost their national pride or identity - instead they've managed to export their culture and brands around the world.

Ireland has not ended up as a dictatorship - it is a healthy democracy.

Tourism to Ireland has boomed, despite the rather wet climate. And it has managed to shake of its role as a largely agricultural part of the UK to become a forward-looking high tech economy, attracting companies like Dell and Google.

More recently, the Economist decided that Ireland was the best place in the world to live.

Monarchists make many ridiculous claims about how our society, culture and prosperity will suffer as a republic, but this is not supported by the facts - the only part of the UK to have become a democratic republic has prospered.

BBC News - Ireland is named 'best country'

24 October 2006

Charles' tax avoidance questioned

Unlike us poor saps, the Windsors get to decide how much tax they pay, and whether they actually want to pay any tax at all.

For example the Queen wasn't required to pay inheritance tax on the Queen Mother's estate, and the will was made private (wills are normally public documents) so no one outside the Royal family knows how much tax was avoided.

The Queen volunteers to pay some income tax (after a generous deduction of expenses naturally - roast swan isn't cheap).

Charles' income derives from the Duchy of Cornwall. It (like the Duchy of Lancaster that creates income for the Queen) is exempt from both corporate and capital gains tax. No one is quite sure why.

Charles voluntarily agrees to pay some tax on this income (to stop the peasants revolting one assumes). However, since the accounts are closed (unlike every normal business in the UK that has to submit accounts to the taxman) its not clear exactly how much tax is being avoided by these exemptions.

Next time you get your payslip and see the large chunk the government has taken out of it, or have to pay a large inheritance tax bill on a deceased relative's estate, at least you can console yourself with the thought that part of these taxes are being used to support the Windsors living in their numerous homes. And that the Windsors are exempt from the taxes you have to pay.

More info:
The Telegraph - Watchdog investigates Charles' tax record
The Guardian - MPs angry at confidential royal will and tax deal

20 June 2006

Diana inquiry finds new witnesses

According to the Daily Mail, police investigating the death of Diana have obtained statements from new witnesses. If true, these statements suggest that both the Royal Family and the UK Government had advance warning of the death of Diana in Paris.

These include:
- One of Tony Blair's security detail, who claims to have spoken to an RAF crew who told him that they had been on standby for 48 hours prior to Diana's death to fly Tony Blair.
- A wireless operator at the British Embassy in Paris who was on duty on the night of Diana's death claims that 2 "public school" type men burst in prior to the crash and forced him out of the room, taking over his job.
- a note from a source at the CIA, naming two MI6 agents, and suggesting that their roles be further investigated.

If true, the allegations suggest a conspiracy that goes to the heart of the British Establishment. Of course, an establishment capable of carrying out such a conspiracy would likely have the means to suppress it. It seems beyond belief that a member of Her Majesty's Police could determine anything other than a tragic accident as the cause of Diana's death?

More info:
Daily Mail - Revealed: Diana inquiry's tantalising new questions

15 March 2006

Charles's great uncle in military coup plots

A BBC documentary reveals that Harold Wilson not only believed that the secret services were plotting to discredit him, but that they intended to stage a military coup backed by the Royal Family.

Prince Charles's great uncle Lord Louis Mountbatten, who he was very close to, was to be installed as interim Prime Minister following the coup.

While some may dismiss this as paranoia on behalf of Wilson, various other information seems to corroborate his beliefs. New witnesses interviewed for the programme talk about these military coups and Mountbatten's role in them. Journalist Barrie Penrose, who secretly recorded meetings with Wilson, says they confirm such plotting "wasn't in the fevered imagination of an embittered ex-PM".

Penrose concludes his Radio Times article: "You may ask, at the end of the programme, how much of it can be believed. My view now, as it was then, is that Wilson was right in his fears.... in answer to the question 'how close did we come to a military government' I can only say - closer than we'd ever be content to think."

So much for the Royal Family and the monarchy as guarantors of freedom and democracy.

More information
BBC News - Wilson 'plot': The secret tapes

11 February 2006

Tory call to strip the queen of powers

New Conservative Party leader David Cameron has called for the Queen to be stripped of many of her traditional powers.

Although the Queen still legally retains many "prerogative" powers, many of these are now exercised on her behalf by the elected government.

However the Queen retains a number of powers that she exercises personally. These include
- the power to dissolve Parliament
- the power to appoint a Prime Minister
- the power to award some honours

Mr Cameron has recently formed a "democracy task force" which will exam the use of some of these powers by the monarch, as well as the use of other prerogative powers (such as the power to declare war) by ministers.

More information:
The Guardian - Queen's powers should be removed, says Cameron