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An elected Head of State for Britain

The Office of President

A Non-Executive Presidency

No one who has seriously studied the republican option for Britain would desire an executive president, such as those of France or the United States. The confusion of rôles between Head of State and Chief Executive in those countries (and in several dictatorships) has been an embarrassment to their countries.

Good examples of non-executive presidencies are those of Germany & Ireland (especially Mary Robinson).

The rôle of a non-executive president is the symbolic representation of the Nation, as is theoretically the case with the present non-elective office. However, the present system carries much undesirable baggage of deference and inefficiency and, while the theory is that the office is above politics, it is clearly connected to one strand of political opinion. Deference is built into the present system with the shaming status of 'subjects', rather than 'citizens' which defines the people of Great Britain. The only remotely political rôle of a non-executive president is to appoint the Prime Minister when the Houses of Parliament cannot agree on a candidate. In any case, the President would give the Prime Minister their seal of office, as a symbol of this 'back stop' rôle but the other ministers who normally kiss the monarch's hand would receive their office from the Houses of Parliament. The President would perform the State Opening of Parliament - see this link but in a completely different way from now.

The President would also be the last resort in interpreting the Constitution in the cases of disputes that cannot be resolved normally. This power would be a novelty in Britain, as there is no written constitution as yet but a constitutional instrument of some kind, preferably a full written constitution would be required.

Internationally, the rôle of the President would be confined to ceremonial activities, such as reciprocal visits & introducing the Prime Minister to foreign Chief Executives.

It would be the duty of the President to represent the nation at times of national trauma, such as personally presenting the nation's good wishes to the victims of large disasters.

During their term of office and preferably during the election campaign, it would be the responsibility of the President to refrain from any public party political comment, although they would have the right to be informed by the government of their activities and proposals ('doing the red boxes') and the right to comment in private. The government would also be expected to protect the President, and thus, the Nation, from embarrassment. (For example, to ensure that the President is not photographed, especially abroad, with persons likely to come under the suspicion of corruption).

Election should be for a fixed term of four years, with a limit of two terms. (Ken imagines that, as the first President, who would not only have to carry out the duties of Office but also set the standard for succesors, one term would be quite enough).

There is a public fear that the office will be the preserve of 'clapped-out politicians'. Nobody should be debarred from office except members of the present Royal Family for a certain period (100 years, perhaps but this is up to Parliament). However, the non-political nature of the office may make this difficult for hardened politicos & at least, the first few holders of the office would need to be somewhat remote from the exercise of political office to establish the credibility of the presidency.

'President' is a job & would receive a small salary & pension. The expenses of the office, much less than the existing Civil List, would be met by the Treasury. Ken envisages that the office would involve much travelling about Britain, bringing people together in various ways, in the President's rôle as First Servant to the Nation. The President's investments would be put into a blind trust for the duration of office, just as the Prime Minister's are (& the 'Royal' family's are not)

As this presidency is non-executive, we do not really need a Vice-President, unless Parliament should so decide, as the premature departure of a president from office (death, health reasons) could be covered by the Speaker of the House of Commons until a new election could be arranged.

What about the Royal Family?

No longer Royal, they will be able to get on with their lives, hopefully without press intrusion. They may choose to inhabit one of the countries of which their head remains Head of State & Sandringham House is regarded, even by extreme republicans, as their own personal property. They would not, of course, receive the Civil List, although, if a republic was brought in before the death of the present Head of State, she would naturally receive a president's pension.

Glossary of vague terms used above

Any discussion of the presidency involves pre-empting future legislation, hence the vagueness. Ken Baldry sees this in these terms:-

Britain - if the constitution changes necessary are brought in, Britain may be re-drawn. The Nations (Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland) may decide to elect their own presidents. Ireland (which has an exemplary presidency of its own) may be reunited by then. The Channel Islands, which are part of Great Britain but not the United Kingdom, may wish to join.

Nation - a concept embodying the whole population of Britain.

Note that...

...these and other views are Ken's, which resemble but are not entirely consistent with those of 'Republic', the Campaign for an elected Head of State, which can be found on this link.


Other pages:-

The Constitution

Buckingham Palace etc

Personal manifesto

Nominations received

Index page

Contact: Ken Baldry, 17 Gerrard Road, Islington, London N1 8AY, +44(0)20 7359 6294 or e-mail him

URL: http://www.ourpresident.org.uk/office.html

Last revised 26/12/2003

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