Why we must protest at the jubilee pageant

19 March 2012

In an email to supporters Republic's chief executive Graham Smith explained why the movement must challenge the jubilee. Here is the text of the email:

I don’t usually write long emails but this is important. I wanted to tell you about why Republic is going to be staging protests at the jubilee Thames pageant on June 3, and why your support is so crucial in this jubilee year. With hundreds already pledging their participation in the protests and full details and resources due to be announced tomorrow, I wanted to make it absolutely clear why it is so important we protest at the jubilee celebrations. Of course our jubilee strategy is already underway with action taken over the BBC and the responsibility of schools to provide balanced education on the issue of the monarchy. Small protests have also been held at a number of engagements where the Queen is attending as part of her jubilee tour – with parliament the next stop tomorrow morning. Already this strategy is paying off, provoking debate in the wider media and generating exposure for Republic. I and my colleagues have been interviewed on the Today Programme, Radio Five Live, BBC News and a host of local and international radio and TV stations. Major national newspapers and local press around the country have been reporting on our actions and responding to our challenge to the jubilee. These are all signs of our strategy paying off, and our protest is a key part of driving our campaign much further forward over the coming months. What we’re campaigning for As republicans we want to see Britain become a more democratic society, we want our political system to be based on the power of the people, not on privilege and inheritance. That’s why, as well as being advocates for a positive alternative, we are staunchly opposed to the monarchy – challenging the institution and members of the royal household. The royal jubilee is a very public rejection of what we stand for and a celebration of what we’re against. It is a major event designed to reinforce support for the monarchy, to celebrate the inheritance of public office. The jubilee rejects the idea that public office should be limited and accountable. The way in which our media and politicians talk about the jubilee and the Queen makes no room for any sense of public accountability or scrutiny. The logic of the jubilee is simple: the Queen is a great monarch and so the monarchy is a great institution we must unquestioningly celebrate. That cannot go unchallenged. Challenging the jubilee, promoting the alternative If we’re to promote the values of republicanism, values about accountability, equality and democracy, then we must be prepared to challenge the jubilee head on. We must question and reject the idea that we should all be brow-beaten into a fawning view of ‘our marvellous monarch’. And we must put into practice our view that those who hold public office should be open to challenge and scrutiny. The Queen is flesh and blood like the rest of us and she has a record in office that can be scrutinised and questioned. It’s not good enough to simply go along with the hype about ‘hasn’t she done a good job’ when we owe it to ourselves and to the country to have an intelligent and mature debate about exactly what kind of head of state she has been. Those who oppose the Queen’s position as head of state must be free to do so vocally and visibly. Let’s not forget that the Queen is not just monarch, she is a monarchist and an ardent defender of the institution we want abolished. She has systematically resisted all reforms, she has secured more favourable public funding for herself and her family and has ensured absolute secrecy in all that she does. By calling for a democratic and accountable head of state we must challenge the view that what we have is a dutiful monarch who has never put a foot wrong. And we must challenge a major celebration of an institution that is morally and politically indefensible. Provoking debate and leading the movement for change Previous generations of republicans have been too timid in their approach to this issue, treating it as a badge of honour or an intellectual exercise rather than a real ambition for change. Republic is here to achieve real success, to build public and political support for abolition of this deeply entrenched institution. That’s not going to happen if we aren’t prepared to provoke debate and lead from the front, to face down our critics and challenge their assumptions. I am well aware that monarchists and some in the media will criticise and attack us for daring to challenge the jubilee, for wanting to use the celebrations in London to promote our cause. I know that some republicans will criticise us too, whether they believe it would be a tactical error because ‘everyone loves the Queen’ or because they want the debate to remain intellectually removed from attacks on the monarchy. I also know that whatever we do, we will have our critics. If we do nothing we’ll be portrayed as weak and irrelevant, if we do something we’ll be portrayed as out of step with public opinion and offensive to the Queen. We mustn’t let our critics shape our strategy. This is much more than an intellectual debate, it is a real campaign to take power from the powerful and hand it to the people. There is a great deal of vested interest and prestige attached to the monarchy that many people don’t want to lose. There is a great deal of sentimental attachment to the institution that many will fight to protect. So we must be prepared to lead from the front, to provoke debate and to demand change. We must have the courage of our convictions and confidence in the power of our ideas. We owe it to the millions of people out there who want an end to the monarchy to speak out, to stand out from the crowd and to represent their views. We want this to be a mass movement that speaks for all those who have for too long had their voices marginalised by the media. For all those who will criticise republicans for protesting there will be many more who will engage with the issue for the first time and who will sign up to the cause. This is the start of bigger things to come Our jubilee protests are a huge opportunity to put us firmly on the political map, to grow our movement and strengthen our cause. We’ve already got hundreds of people pledging their support for the protests, a growing network of local campaigning, newly formed groups in Scotland and Wales and a growing media presence. The jubilee protest isn’t the pinnacle of what we can achieve; it is the base camp from which we will grow into a major force over the coming years. It will be followed by more protests, more campaigns that will challenge the power and influence of the monarchy, more work to promote the positive alternative of a democratic republic. Whether we have hundreds or thousands protesting on June 3 it will be the biggest republican protest in modern times. That’s something worth being a part of and something that is going to make a difference. Now is the time to stand up and be counted Tomorrow we’ll be announcing full details of our June 3 protest, selling coach tickets so supporters from around the country can make it London on the day and providing a range of resources for you to promote the cause where you live. On June 3 I’ll be on the banks of the Thames, calling for change, demanding a republic and setting out our case for the abolition of the monarchy. I’m asking you to join me, to be part of something really exciting. It will be a great day out for everyone there and an opportunity to stand up and be counted, to really make a difference to this hugely important campaign. I look forward to seeing you there on June 3 – to pledge your participation in the protest just visit www.jubileeprotest.org.uk and look out for all the details and resources we’ll be launching tomorrow.

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