Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 December 2014

Call to end royal Commonwealth line

The Prince of Wales should not take over from the Queen as the symbolic head of the Commonwealth, academics said
The Prince of Wales should not take over from the Queen as the symbolic head of the Commonwealth, academics said

The post of head of the Commonwealth should not pass to the Prince of Wales but be abolished for the good of the institution, it has been claimed.

Charles would not only be an unsuitable symbol of Commonwealth unity but a positively harmful one, reinforcing the belief the family of nations is merely a throwback to the British Empire, according to Professor Philip Murphy and Daisy Cooper, a think tank director.

Prof Murphy, director of the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, and Ms Cooper, from the Commonwealth Advisory Bureau (CAB), suggest in a joint opinion piece the Queen should be the last head of the institution.

In the article published by the CAB the pair ask: "Is the British monarch an appropriate symbol of Commonwealth unity in the 21st century? Put in those terms, even the most fervent supporter of the monarchy would be hard pressed to agree.

"Apart from anything else, an unelected head of state is hardly an obvious figurehead for an association that espouses the virtues of democracy. Indeed, it is arguable that Charles would not merely be an unsuitable symbol but a positively harmful one, reinforcing the prejudice that the Commonwealth is merely a throwback to Empire."

The modern Commonwealth was formed in 1949 when eight countries - Australia, Britain, Ceylon, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa and Canada - signed the Declaration of London and within a few decades it had expanded rapidly and today has 54 member states.

In recent years some commentators have criticised the Commonwealth for its apparent weakness, illustrated by its "dithering" during the political crisis in Zimbabwe that finally culminated in the country being suspended from the institution. But supporters of the family of nations believe it allows countries to unify on common causes and ultimately, through unity, affect change.

The heir to the throne will not automatically be its next head, it will be up to the Commonwealth heads of government to decide what they want to do about this symbolic role. It has been claimed that at the Queen's funeral they will chat informally about the issue but the article's authors described this arrangement as something out of a Hollywood movie.

They said: "The discussion of the future head of an organisation at the funeral of the previous incumbent is a scenario one more usually associates with the Godfather than with a modern international organisation."

The article argues that without a head the Commonwealth's Secretary-General, currently Indian diplomat Kamalesh Sharma, "would naturally - and rightly - become not just the voice, but the face of the association. The discontinuation of the headship could provide an unparalleled opportunity for the association and its supporters to sweep aside public ignorance and confusion and build support for a modern dynamic Commonwealth."

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