The British Republican movement has announced it will call for a referendum on abolishing the monarchy after the Queens dies, The Guardian reported on Wednesday.
Graham Smith, Chief Executive Officer of the anti-monarchy Republic movement, which campaigns to replace the United Kingdom’s constitutional monarchy with an elected head of state, says the death of Queen Elizabeth II will mark a turning point in public attitudes towards the monarchy.
In a statement published to the group’s official website on the eve of the Queen’s 90th birthday, the groups claims that anti-monarchy and republican sentiment is now stronger than ever, and that the event “reminds us that support for the monarchy is bound up with support for the Queen.”
“In a hereditary monarchy the Queen’s age becomes a political issue,” Smith added. “Long before the Queen dies the country will need to debate what happens next.”
Apparently being careful about seeming callous about the Queen’s birthday, the homepage of Republic’s website also sports a purple banner reading, “Happy Birthday Mrs. Windsor,” though it is accompanied by the hashtag “#StopTheReign.” Republic is currently the main group campaigning for the establishment of a republican constitution for Britain, and views the continued influence of the crown as harmful, according to the Independent.
“Republic, a grassroots movement that has over 5,000 members and 35,000 supporters, claims the British monarchy is not the ‘harmless tourist attraction some people think’ – rather, it has a history of abusing public money and meddling in politics.”
Smith says that the view of the organization is that the U.K. must hold a referendum as soon as possible, and that it must be a free and fair election. Smith expressed this view at a meeting of the Alliance of European Republic Movements, of which Republic is a member, that took place in Madrid over the weekend. It had speakers from leading republicans from all over Europe.
In a video recording of the event, which was posted to YouTube, Smith said the period of time between the Queen’s death and the coronation of Charles would be the most favorable time to call for a constitutional reform referendum.
“So that will be an opportunity, after the funeral and before the coronation, for us to do some campaigning and say, ‘Hang on a minute, this is the 21st century, if we are going to have a new head of state then perhaps we want to have a vote.’ Then if we have that vote, it can’t just be, ‘Do you want Charles?’ It has to be ‘Which person do you want?’ and it has to be a free and fair election.”
The annual republican conference was held at the cultural institution Ateneo de Madrid. Smith also noted that when the Queen dies, it will be the first time many people in Britain have seen the change of a head of state, and that seeing “hereditary power in practice” will alienate many U.K. citizens from the concept of monarchy, noting that even if a referendum lost, it would change the nature of the public debate.
“That [the Queen’s death] will make a big difference. In the UK a lot of support for the monarchy is to do with the fact that we have had the same Queen for a very long time and most people can’t remember a time when she wasn’t on the throne.”
Jon H. Leren, whom The Guardian identified as the international secretary of Norway’s republican movement, predicted that Spain would be the next nation to overthrow its monarchy. The royal family in Spain is decidedly unpopular, with 45 percent of the population supporting the establishment of a republic.
“If one of our nations manages to overthrow the monarchical system there we be a domino effect,” Leren said. “So Spain, you are closest, you go first and I promise we will come after.”
Republic’s website claims the total annual cost of the British monarchy is 334 million pounds, more than eight times the official figure published by the British royal household.
[Photo by Facundo Arrizabalaga – Pool/Getty Images]