'I'll take the Royal out of Berkshire'

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The Independent Online
A LOCAL councillor from Reading who has set his heart on taking the Royal out of Royal Berkshire has launched Britain's first ever regional republican society in an attempt to make his dream come true.

Sick of the "archaic and dangerous sham we call the British monarchy" and goaded on by the MORI poll published in the Independent on Sunday two weeks ago, Paul Simon has put his head above the parapet in a county where republicanism has historically been the political belief that dared not speak its name.

"While a few years ago people in Berkshire thought the Royal prefix something of a cachet, I believe the majority now consider it something of an embarrassment," said the 30-year-old Liberal Democrat councillor. "I want to engage the royalist clique in an open debate and show once and for all that the Royal is bad for Berkshire."

The "bad PR" the monarchy has generated across the world in recent times is hindering Berkshire's efforts to promote itself as a county on the Continent, believes Mr Simon. "I'm convinced that because of the Royal prefix, influential political and business leaders in Europe somehow associate the county with that mess. The Berkshire brand in Europe is being undermined by the antics of the royals."

Since Berkshire is home to Windsor Castle, Eton, which is attended by Prince William, and the prep school attended by Prince Harry, the 750,000 residents of the county pick up part of the security bill for royal visits and schooling. "In part it is funded centrally, but its our local bobbies who do the security work," said Mr Simon. "This year the Thames Valley Police has had to lose 200 positions, and yet local taxpayers are expected to pick up the high cost of looking after a few privileged individuals. It's the little old lady in Reading whose quality of life suffers."

Mr Simon also objects to what he calls the "pantomime aspect of royalty" in Berkshire. "It's only since 1975 that Elizabeth Windsor formally conferred the title of Royal on Berkshire. The royal family is trying to tighten its identity with Berkshire at a time when more and people are critical of the monarchy both locally and nationally."

He is summoning his constituents to rekindle their county's radical roots. "I believe one of the signatories on the death warrant of Charles I was an MP for Reading ... Of course I'm not advocating that ... modern republicans are a much more liberal breed."