Labour disowns Fabian attack on the Queen

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The Independent Online
Tony Blair's aides last night rejected as "complete madness" a Fabian Society report calling for the Queen to be stripped of her powers and the National Anthem to be rewritten.

The report for the Fabian Society, which is independent but affiliated to the Labour Party, proposes the abolition of the Civil List, transfer of the powers encompassed by the Royal Prerogative to the Speaker of the Commons, and new anthems for England and Wales.

It urges Mr Blair to tackle the "last taboo": reform of the Monarchy. It says the Queen should be replaced as head of the Commonwealth by a rotating presidency with a referendum on the Monarchy every 10 years.

The National Anthem could be replaced with a hymn such as "I vow to thee my country" or "Jerusalem". A new anthem could be penned for the millennium by the Poet Laureate with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, composer of Cats, Evita, Phantom of the Opera and the Tory's 1992 election theme.

Still shaken by Clare Short's attack on the leadership, Mr Blair's 'spin doctors' reacted immediately to scotch suggestions that the report by a prospective Labour candidate was likely to become Labour Party policy.

"The idea that we might change the role and status of the Queen and the National Anthem is complete madness," said one leading Labour source.

"Tony Blair has consistently expressed his great support for the fine job done by the Queen. There is no prospect whatever of a Labour government seeking to alter the political role or the status of the Queen in any way.

"The content of this pamphlet which is in no way a Labour Party document will not have any effect on Labour Party policy and the suggestion that the national anthem should be changed is sheer fantasy."

The timing of the 7,500-word pamphlet, Long to Reign Over Us?, could not have been worse for the Labour leadership, coming as the row over Ms Short was still causing shock-waves across the party, and is certain to be exploited by the Tories. Mr Blair will not countenance open debate about a Labour government demoting the Queen.