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The British Republicans

The Ban on Republicans

"I swear by Almighty God that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, her heirs and her successors, according to law, so help me God." Britain's twenty-first century feudal oath

"I do declare and promise that I will be true and faithful to the Commonwealth of England as the same is now established, without a King or House of Lords."
Oath of Engagement, 1649, Commonwealth of England

The 2010 general election to the House of Commons removed the labour party from power and brought about a coalition government. But the law made standing for election to that chamber pointless for one group of British citizens. They are republicans, banned by the Parliamentary Oaths Act from sitting in "the mother of parliaments".

The 1866 Act requires that elected legislators publicly affirm or swear an oath of allegiance to Elizabeth Windsor (the hereditary head of state described in the oath as "Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth"), to her son Charles Windsor and to any member of her family who might follow her as hereditary head of state. Any representative of the people who fails to do so is liable to be fined and to be thrown out of parliament.

Apologists for this law point out that there are MPs with republican beliefs that have sworn or affirmed allegiance to the monarchy in order to take their seats in parliament. This, they say, means that republicans in Britain are not really denied their civil rights.

In truth a law that requires a representative of the people to lie and to make a statement that is deeply repugnant and inconsistent with a belief in the sovereignty of the people before they may exercise a civil right, is a law that denies them that civil right. A democracy that prevents a democratically elected legislator from taking her or his seat in the legislature without swearing allegiance to a feudal institution that is at odds with the democratic spirit and democratic institutions, is a democracy that has no sense of shame.

The Parliamentary Oaths Act has survived in a nation that considers itself a paragon of democracy because to repeal it would be to question the legitimacy of the British monarchy. And those MPs who do question that legitimacy are afraid of the conservative wrath that they would face from both Left and Right if they did so in public.

As so often in Britain's democracy the ease of a shoddy evasion is preferred to the rigours of principle. The mother of parliaments would rather its members swore false oaths and that republicans of deep democratic conviction were denied a basic right, than allow a feudal institution to be undermined.

pointer£500 penalty for being a republican

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