The Case for a Republic

07:40 Friday 1st June 2012
Peterborough Breakfast Show
BBC Radio Cambridge

PAUL STAINTON: We’re not all celebrating the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. .. Nick Sandford is Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Peterborough, and a member of the Republic Group. You won’t be celebrating this weekend.
NICK SANDFORD: I am speaking here in a personal capacity, not on behalf of the Liberal Democrats, although a number of Liberal Democrats do share these views. i think it’s absolutely right in these times of austerity that people want to have a party, want to celebrate. That’s really great. I think it’s also right, the Queen as you say has served the country for over a 60 year period, it’s quite right to recognise that.
PAUL STAINTON: You’re a party pooper.
NICK SANDFORD: All I’m saying, and all that Republic are saying is that when we come to choose who our future head of state is, do we want to rely on this very unreliable hereditary principle, or do we want to do what the majority of other parliamentary democracies do, and actually give the people a choice?
PAUL STAINTON: Is there any real appetite to get rid of the royal family? They bring in billions, don’t they? The pageantry’s loved by people across the world, and people in the UK. You’ve only got to drive through Castor and places like that. Everybody’s in love with this weekend. They’re in love with the royal family, and William and Charles.
NICK SANDFORD: All opinion polls consistently have shown that round about 20% of people would prefer the country to be a republic. It’s been as high as 35% on occasions when the monarchy has been unpopular.
PAUL STAINTON: Who would be president? I can see Tony Blair coming back. I can see David Beckham getting voted in. David Beckham running the country?
NICK SANDFORD: I think the problem is if you rely on the hereditary principle, if you go back to the 17th century, we had two kings who had to be removed by Parliament for grossly abusing that power. We had George III who was certifiably insane for a third of his reign. We had a king in the 1930s who was flirting with Nazi Germany. And the problem is that the current queen is quite popular, but when she goes, you’re going to end up with King Charles.
PAUL STAINTON: Do you think that’s an opportunity then to get in there are get the discussion going for a republic?
NICK SANDFORD: Absolutely. And I think that’s all that we’re saying really, that you’ve got a situation where in the Commonwealth, over two thirds of the countries are republics. In Europe it’s 22 out of 27. So we do need to have a discussion about this. One of the things that people don’t realise is the powers that the Queen actually has. And more concerning is the powers that the Prime Minister exercises on behalf of the Queen. The Prime Minister can take the country to war, he can sign treaties, he can appoint judges.
PAUL STAINTON: Wouldn’t a president be able to do that though?
NICK SANDFORD: Well you would be able to more clearly define the powers of a president.
PAUL STAINTON: And what sort of model are we talking about? We don’t want the American model do we? Because that is not open to the public effectively is it? It’s open to people with loads of money.
NICK SANDFORD: Yes. You have a certain model. You have the French and the American model. where you have an executive president. What Republic actually advocate is to have a parliamentary republic like they have in the Irish Republic, like they have in Germany and in a number of other European countries.
PAUL STAINTON: It will be tough for you to get that message across though, don’t you think?
NICK SANDFORD: Well I think what we want to have is to try and get people thinking about it. And you mention the point that everybody’s joining in the Jubilee. There are a number of celebrations happening. I looked on the Council’s internet site to see how many street parties there were in Peterborough. There’s actually 12. So I think that this idea that everybody’s mad passionate about the Jubilee is slightly in question at the moment. I’m as patriotic as anyone else. I was at the Test Match at Trent Bridge supporting England. I may go to Wimbledon to support Andy Murray.
PAUL STAINTON: Well good on you. I wouldn’t do that.
NICK SANDFORD: What we have to break is this link that says that in order to be patriotic, in order to support everything that’s great about our country, that you have to support the continuation of the fact that our head of state is not chosen by the people, and is just there because of this hereditary principle.
PAUL STAINTON: Different points of view. That’s why we’re a democracy.