Labour man seeks vote to end the monarchy

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A Labour MP will this week table a parliamentary Bill aimed at ending the monarchy by means of a popular referendum, writes Paul Routledge. Paul Flynn, MP for Newport West, wants to have the issue debated in the Commons as a preparatory move towards ending the reign of the House of Windsor when the Queen dies or abdicates.

His initiative, which is likely to anger Labour leader Tony Blair, comes as Labour MPs prepare to set up a parliamentary Republican or Royal Referendum Group. This idea was raised by Lynne Jones, MP for Birmingham Selly Oak, at a meeting of the left-wing Campaign Group four days ago, and was endorsed yesterday by Ken Livingstone.

Mr Flynn said last night he had been advised by clerks to the House that a Royal Referendum Bill would be "acceptable and in order". His Bill will propose that at some stage before the Queen dies or abdicates, there should be a referendum to determine whether the country wishes to become a republic. Britain would still have a head of state, chosen by an electoral college composed of MPs and non-hereditary peers.

Mr Flynn argued: "We have a system that is no longer defensible. We need a strong personality as head of state, someone we can elect rather than someone who is there by accident of birth. The Prince of Wales will not unite the nation. He will certainly divide the nation."

Mr Livingstone said: "I think it is important that we should set up a parliamentary republican group, because clearly at some time in the future the British people will have to be consulted about the continuation of the monarchy. My preference would be a referendum that would ask `Would you like a republic to come into being once the Queen abdicates or dies?' so that this is not seen as an attack on the present monarch."

Labour's constitutional policy envisages a reformed House of Lords with only life peers being able to vote. But Tony Blair has rejected any suggestion that Labour would try to change the monarchy and only last month forced his Shadow Welsh Secretary, Ron Davies, to apologise for saying that Prince Charles was not suitable for the throne.

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