086_Global12_CWN_V4

Global issue 12

commonwealth network Commonwealth in Action A question of succession As part of the ongoing debate about the future of the Commonwealth – as reflected in last year’s deliberations of its Eminent Persons Group – the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association in April this year held a groundbreaking discussion on the future of the relationship between the Commonwealth and the British Crown. Debating whether the Crown is ‘An Emblem of Dominion or a Symbol of Free and Voluntary Association’, the speakers looked at possible alternatives to the continuation of the traditional link between the Commonwealth and the Crown. The idea of an election for a new Head was presented by former BBC journalist Michael Cole, who felt that an elected head would be sure to make the Commonwealth more relevant to the citizens of its member states. Opposing this idea were both Bill Cash, a British Conservative MP, and Professor Vernon Bogdanor, Research Professor at the Institute of Contemporary History, King’s College, London. The latter argued that the very act of electing a new Head could polarise the diverse membership of the Commonwealth and perhaps even damage the organisation’s traditions and nature. The debate was chaired by Vijay Krishnarayan, Director of the Commonwealth Foundation.Global here presents the arguments put forward by Michael Cole and Bill Cash. A new beginning: the Head of the Commonwealth should in future be elected Michael Cole, public relations consultant and former BBC Court Correspondent For obvious reasons, the British Empire as Head of the Commonwealth. The Queen was always controversial, and even the has been and continues to be an outstanding recent books on the subject can stir the head. I think it is not too much to describe most heated debates about its faults and her regard for the Commonwealth as a pas- achievements. sion. She cares deeply about the Common- The Commonwealth, on the other hand, wealth and fully believes in it. has almost always been regarded as a I know that some cynical people believe ‘good thing’: a voluntary association of that the Commonwealth exists to give the independent states promoting good gov- royal family somewhere nice and warm to ernment, democracy and human rights. go to in the winter, but I have never seen The Commonwealth has moral authority it that way. The Queen sees the Common- derived from these shared values and be- wealth as a force for good in a threatening liefs. world and that is why she goes further than The question is: Could it be more of a the extra mile to sustain and encourage its The Queen is Head of State of 15 Commonwealth ‘good thing’? And if so, how? realms in addition to the UK work. The Commonwealth’s real problem is But after Queen Elizabeth II, what next? not one of hostility or antagonism but one and membership. There are various appli- The successor to the Crown does not auto- of indifference. Former British Foreign cants who wish to join and I believe the matically become Head of the Common- Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind admitted Commonwealth has nothing to fear and wealth, and there are respectable reasons this when he said its relevance is being everything to gain by being more open to why her successor should not succeed to questioned. He also noted that questions new members. the Commonwealth role. arise over its commitment to enforcing The Commonwealth is not, nor has it ever The roles of Constitutional Monarch and the values for which it stands. been, a political bloc. In future, it should be Head of the Commonwealth are far from So what could be done to make the an adherence to the Commonwealth’s be- compatible, if both roles are to be fulfilled Commonwealth more relevant? Person- liefs, not a country’s historic ties to Britain, as they should be. As sovereign of the Unit- ally, I think it could increase its prestige that should determine its admission or not. ed Kingdom, the Queen has to maintain po- and its relevance by widening its scope This brings us to the role of the monarch litical neutrality, and the same applies in the 86 lwww.global-briefing.org fourth quarter 2012global


Global issue 12
To see the actual publication please follow the link above