Major: monarchy is rock-solid

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The Independent Online
John Major yesterday declared Britain's constitutional monarchy to be "rock solid", predicting that any changes in its style and duties would be "gentle".

But as the Prime Minister restated his own royalist beliefs, poll figures confirmed a growing public disenchantment with the monarchy and a preference for the Princess Royal to succeed the Queen, not Prince Charles.

Twenty-three per cent of people questioned for a Mori poll said Britain would be better off without a queen or king, compared with only five per cent who thought so 12 years ago. Though Mr Major, in a pre-recorded interview on BBC television's One O'Clock News to mark the Queen's 70th birthday on 21 April, was eloquent in his praise for the Queen and her understanding of politics, he made no direct reference to any of her family.

Asked in general terms about recent troubles, he said: "Well obviously that turbulence has been very unwelcome...but the constitutional monarchy itself, in my judgement, is rock solid. I can't conceive of this country having anything other than a constitutional monarchy.

"The monarchy is a very powerful institution indeed, and I think this Queen is a very fine exponent of a constitutional monarchy, so I think that the monarchy will emerge from its present troubles.

"I see no reason for revolutionary changes...these things evolve. That there will be changes, I think is certain, but they will be gentle and they will be consistent with the rhythm and tenor of the age."

The Prime Minister was confident that people would instinctively and intellectually decide Britain would not be better off without a monarchy.

The Mori poll, commissioned for last night's World in Action on ITV, showed a continued majority for the monarchy, but the 2,000 voters questioned had a worrying message for the Royal Family.

Asked who should succeed the Queen, the Princess Royal came top with 33 per cent, leaving Charles on 26 per cent. Only 47 per cent thought the Prince of Wales could be a good monarch, compared to 82 per cent five years ago.

Sixty-one per cent wanted a referendum on the monarchy's future, though 62 per cent said they would still vote for its retention.

Support for the monarchy was particularly fragile in Scotland and Wales, where 71 per cent and 70 per cent respectively said they wanted a referendum at some point.