The Monarchy: 44 of Labour MPs say they want a republic

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The Independent Online
MORE than four out of 10 Labour MPs want to replace the monarchy with a British republic, according to a poll by the Independent on Sunday. The vast majority of the rest favour sweeping changes which would turn the Royal Family into a leaner, cheaper and more accountable institution along Scandinavian lines.

One hundred backbench Labour MPs were questioned - a little over a third of the Parliamentary Labour Party. Of these, 44 said they wanted a republic.

Nine wanted the monarchy to go now, 27 after the Queen died - a finding which reflects the growing unease about the Prince of Wales. Eight MPs said they wanted the crown to go at some indeterminate date in the future.

The MPs questioned came from all wings of the party and from all parts of Britain. Although a small majority of the sample were monarchists, only six wanted absolutely no change at all in the monarchy's position. For the rest, there was either contempt for, or disillusionment with, the monarchy.

John Heppell, Labour MP for Nottingham East, said: 'We should become a republic. The idea of a monarchy is outdated. It's a bit daft. We should have a system of government which reflects the times.'

David Hanson, MP for Delyn, said: 'Change is going to happen with the demise of the current monarch. I'm a republican. I don't think inherited heads of state should have positions of political power.'

Most of Labour's republicans favoured a referendum, with the outcome deciding the monarchy's future. 'It depends on public opinion, it is not for politicians to decide,' said one.

Many Labour MPs said the biographical confessions from the Prince of Wales had made the monarchy's position worse.

'I'm gauging the opinion of a lot of people who are fed up with the whole thing,' said one. Another described the Prince and Princess of Wales as 'two individuals who binge on self- indulgence. The victims are the children who must feel hurt and bewildered. It's an atrocious way for adulterers to behave. I think part of the attraction of the Royal Family is their fairy- tale appeal. They're a horror story now.'

Another MP said the monarchy was a 'very outdated institution' and described the Royal Family as 'slightly unhinged due to their inbreeding'.

Llewellyn Smith, the MP for Blaenau, said: 'Their public standing has taken a nosedive. They are spoilt and pampered and in the past. They are making fools of themselves and I couldn't give a tuppence about their love lives.'

Most of those who wanted a republic felt that the decisive moment would come after the Queen's death.

'Prince Charles's judgement is very much in question,' said one. 'There should be another way of selecting a head of state rather than by an accident of birth.'

But one prominent backbencher said getting rid of the Royal Family was 'not worth the political argument'. He added: 'It should be stripped of all its constitutional powers and the royal prerogative. I don't mind it being kept as a tourist attraction.'

Others said the real constitutional issues were reform of the House of Lords and a Bill of Rights and that tackling the monarchy would be a distraction.

'In terms of priorities, democratising the Lords, a Freedom of Information Act and getting rid of sleaze is far more important.'

Hugh Bailey, MP for York, said that, though there should be substantial reform, he was worried about who would become president if the monarchy went. So was Andrew Faulds, the MP for Warley East, who said that no MP would make a good president.

But he echoed many of those who wanted to keep the monarchy when he said it needed to be brought up to date. 'It could get rid of hangers-on such as the aristocracy and lesser relatives. It wouldn't do any damage to look at the Scandinavian model.'

More than a third of Anglican vicars believe that the Prince and Princess of Wales should divorce as soon as possible, according to a poll conducted by MORI for today's Mail on Sunday. Fewer than a third of the 220 clergy polled said the marriage should continue. Despite the Prince's admission of adultery, 80 per cent thought he could still become king.