Despite the House of Windsor remaining popular with the British public there are major events afoot across the world that will challenge the final bastion of British influence over its former colonies. I believe that due to these events, which are going largely unreported, in the next few years the many nations across the world that recognise imposed symbols of British culture as their own will be a greatly diminished number.
The Australian Labor Party is set to vote on Friday as to whether or not the party should be actively supporting republicanism as official party policy. The idea of an Australian republic free from British influence has existed for nearly two hundred years however the modern political movement that exists currently is a legacy of the 1999 Australian republican referendum in which 54.87% of the electorate voted to continue the British monarch’s position as Australian head of state.
A 2013 ABC News Vote Compass poll showed that 38.1% agreed with the statement ‘Australia should end the monarchy and become a republic’, with 40.8% disapproving and 21.5% being neutral on the issue; the most interesting thing about the poll was that among the different age groups 27% of the 18-34 age group where neutral on the issue.
My argument would be that if there was to be another referendum on the issue, a larger number of this 27% would vote for a republic because this age group would not be swayed by the arguments that traditional monarchists were influenced by such as sentimental attachments to the monarchy and identifying culturally with the Royal Family.
If framed by different political parties (left-wing egalitarian perspective and right-wing nationalistic perspective) and with two questions about how the constitutional specifics (first being whether there should be a president, and second whether the president should be elected or appointed by Parliament), I am confident a vote taking place now would provide a narrow republican win and a vote after Mrs Windsor’s death would bring about a republican landslide.
In neighbouring New Zealand the monarchy’s position not as insecure: a poll taken after the 2012 tour of New Zealand by Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall found that 41% of those people surveyed wanted to see New Zealand become a republic after the death of the Queen with 51% supporting Prince Charles becoming the head of state. Admittedly this would result in New Zealand retaining the monarchy if this poll were to be translated nationwide in a referendum, however somewhat of a political consensus seems to have emerged between the two main political parties.
In 2013 the New Zealand Labour Party Conference agreed to have a binding referendum on the issue if they return to power and many notable party figures declaring their support for a republic including former Prime Minister Helen Clark who stated in 2002 that “the idea of a nation such as New Zealand being ruled by a head of state some 20,000km is absurd”; the centre-right National Party also seems to have come around on the issue with Prime Minister John Key, although committing himself to the monarchy during his premiership, has said that the idea of New Zealand becoming a republic was “inevitable”.
As well as the issue of the monarchy, another vestige of Britain’s imperial ties to the country may also soon be removed. Following the re-election of the National Party in September 2014, Prime Minister John Key announced the details of a referendum on whether New Zealand would retain their current flag with all new designs omitting the union flag from the top left-hand corner.
The severing of these imposed ties with Britain is further proof of Britain’s former colonial possessions finally embracing the notion of democratic independence free from the influence of their old imperial masters.
The final country I want to look at is Canada, home of maple syrup, ice hockey and frustratingly polite people. Unlike New Zealand and Australia, Canada has never really had national debate about the constitutional position of the monarchy and the only real political opposition to this British institution has been the separatists in the Bloc Québécois, all of which being removed from Canada if the party was successful in a future referendum on succession. The main political parties in Canada (the Conservatives, the Liberals and the New Democratic Party) all have either committed to the institution of the monarchy or have become purposefully agnostic on the issue for reasons of political expedience.
As a result of the cultural divide between the French and English-speaking populations I would make the assertion that the historic position of the monarchy in Canada combined with the lack of debate over the issue would result in a reactionary response from the Canadian English-speakers against the French-speaking Quebeckers if they were to seceded thus strengthening public support for the monarchy in the rest of Canada.
The only saving grace for the republican cause in Canada is that because of the lack of debate about the issue most people in Canada are largely indifferent to the issue and therefore strong views in support for the monarchy are not held by a great number of people.
Although the issue of substantial constitutional change in this area is not part of the mainstream political discourse, I would argue that it is easier to argue for the abolition of the monarchy to replaced by a democratic head of state who is resident in Canada when most people have no view on the issue, rather than in the case of Australia or New Zealand where the republican movements, although more active, are fighting against a passionate pro-monarchist force.
The UK monarch currently has international clout due to its ability to claim a number of politically or culturally significant countries under its influence. Without Australia, New Zealand, and Canada the influence of the British monarchy would be greatly reduced as the remaining countries recognising the British head of state as there own are mostly comprised of Caribbean and Pacific Islands that lack the political or economic clout of just one of these three. With these three nations voluntarily severing themselves from this archaic institution it shall be shown to the world as what it actually is: a more politically tolerable form of British imperialism that remains unjustifiably influential in the 21st century.