NOP Poll: Britain is bored with stories about the Royal Family: . . . so here's another one

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The Independent Online
BRITAIN is bored with the troubles of the Royal Family. At the end of a week in which sensational allegations about the Princess of Wales have dominated newspapers, television and radio, four in five Britons say they are fed up with reading about royal misbehaviour.

They are not, however, fed up with the royals themselves. Despite the almost farcical nature of the latest stories - involving anonymous telephone calls and secret assignations between the Princess of Wales and tabloid newspaper reporters - two in three people remain solidly behind the monarchy. They want it to continue indefinitely and they say they have 'a fair amount' or 'a great deal' of respect for the Royal Family. Even if Britain did become a republic, the Princess Royal would probably top the poll for a president.

The findings come from a poll of 1,100 adults carried out on Friday by NOP for the Independent on Sunday. The poll suggests that the inevitability of a divorce between the heir to the throne and his wife is now widely accepted. Asked if Charles and Diana should get divorced, 68 per cent agreed and only 19 per cent disagreed. When NOP asked a similar question for the Mail on Sunday last December, 57 per cent favoured a divorce while 28 per cent were against.

Most people, according to last week's poll, believe that Charles should still become King even if he is divorced.

Last Sunday, the News of the World reported that the police had made inquiries into a series of silent calls to the home of Oliver Hoare, an Old Etonian art dealer and friend of the Prince and Princess of Wales. The calls were traced to the princess's private line at Kensington Palace, her mobile telephone, her sister's home and several public call boxes, but no action was taken. In an interview with Richard Kay, a Daily Mail reporter, the princess said she had not made harassing telephone calls and nor had she had an affair with Mr Hoare. The interview was supposed to be secret; but a photographer from a rival paper took pictures of the princess and Mr Kay getting into a car.

Today's News of the World reports that another friend of the Princess, James Hewitt, received about 10 silent calls last year and that he says he occasionally still gets them. But Scotland Yard said it had received no complaint.

Last week's reports seem not to have damaged the princess - only 8 per cent blame her for the royal marriage break-up while 20 per cent blame Charles and 33 per cent blame them both equally. Just over 10 per cent blame the Royal Family as a whole, 18 per cent blame the press and 11 per cent cannot decide. Similar uncertainties emerge from answers to other questions - presented with the statement that 'the monarch should continue to be head of the Church of England', 50 per cent agreed, 32 per cent disagreed and 18 per cent did not know.

But on one issue the public spoke loud and clear: asked if they were fed up with reading about royal troubles, 80 per cent said they were. No other question in the poll got such an overwhelming response.

The poll found that, if there were a general election now, Labour would get 54 per cent of the vote, the Conservatives 26 per cent, the Liberal Democrats 16 per cent and others 4 per cent. Labour's 28 per cent lead is similar to that found by other polls since Tony Blair's election as party leader.