Sunday, 9 May 2010

Republican Britons

In all the calculations about possible coalitions, everybody seems to think it normal that the Sinn Fein candidates elected on Thursday will not be able to take their seats in Parliament. Little has changed in sixty years. I remember listening to the election results in 1951, when I was twelve, and asking my father why it was that in Northern Ireland, over and over again, we heard that the Sinn Fein candidate had the most votes but the Unionist was elected.

Well now at least we allow the Sinn Fein candidate to be elected, but he or she cannot come to Westminster. And why is that? Because M.P.s have to take an oath of allegiance to the Crown, which of course a republican cannot do. There was a time when the oath had to be sworn on the Bible, which ruled out anyone who was not Christian of Jewish. We changed that, and it would surely be equally easy to change the terms of the oath of allegiance.

This is why we have no Republican Party in Great Britain. Those of us who would prefer to elect a president cannot have our views represented. We cannot even test how many people would vote for such a change. It is one more reason why it is very difficult to call the country a proper democracy.

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