Should British school-leavers be asked to make a pledge of allegiance to the Queen, as suggested in Lord Goldsmith’s recent citizenship review? Possibly, say David Goodhart and Kishwer Falkner in their article in the new issue of Prospect, but there are far more important issues at stake in the citizenship debate.
But I want to take issue with the Goldsmith suggestion. The suggestion of a pledge of allegiance to the monarch violates Lockean republican liberalism—and Britain is a republic with a figurehead monarch.
Lockean theory holds that there is a pre-political people, formed by a social contract—in practice, tacit consent to community membership. This people or nation then creates a state as its servant. Locke was careful to point out that there is no “contract” between people and state—that would imply equality on both sides. Instead, there is merely a “trust,” which is granted to the state by the people and can be withdrawn if the people chooses.
In short, according to Lockean theory, the people could swear an oath of fraternity/sorority to each other, but they should never swear an oath of allegiance to their servant, the government. On the contrary, the government, the agent, should swear an oath to the people, the principal.
It follows that the Queen and/or parliament should swear an oath of allegiance to the four nations/peoples of the United Kingdom—but not vice versa.