Democrat delight as Reagan's son signs up

The Democrats have an unexpected addition to the line-up of primetime speakers for their national political convention which begins in Boston in just two weeks. He is not exactly a Democrat, but he surely isn't a Republican either, in spite of his rather famous name.

He is Ron Reagan, the son of the late former president. Organisers of the convention, which opens on 26 July, confirmed that Mr Reagan will be a highlighted speaker on one of the evenings.

A liberal and a harsh critic of President George Bush, he is none the less expected to speak only about his support for a relaxation of federal restrictions on stem-cell research. "Ron Reagan's courageous pleas for stem-cell research add a powerful voice to the millions of Americans hoping for cures for their children, for their parents and for their grandparents," said David Wade, a spokesman for John Kerry, whose nomination to run for president will be confirmed in Boston.

Recruiting Mr Reagan to their convention stage in Boston is a political coup for the Democrats, even if he restricts himself to the subject of medical research.

Organisers clearly see his appearance, just weeks after the country mourned the death of his father, as an opportunity to embarrass the Republicans, who go on to hold their convention in New York City one month later.

"If they had asked me to say a few words about throwing George Bush out of office, I wouldn't do it," Mr Reagan told The Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper yesterday.

Mr Reagan, 46, has joined his mother, Nancy, in lobbying Washington for a change in policy on stem-cell research. In 2001, President George Bush cut off federal funding for stem-cell research which could help doctors find new cures for diseases such as Alzheimer's, which assailed the mental faculties of Mr Reagan Snr for 10 years until he died, at the age of 94, last month.

Mr Bush has so far made no response to the appeals of the Reagan family. Conservative Republicans strongly oppose supporting stem-cell research, which involves drawing material from one-day-old fertilised human embryos. Critics of the procedure believe that it represents the moral equivalent of abortion.

"This gives me a platform to educate people about stem-cell research," Mr Reagan said of his invitation to Boston.

"The conservative right has a rather simplistic way of characterising it as baby-killing. We're not talking about fingers and toes and brains. This is a mass of a couple hundred undifferentiated cells."

That Mr Reagan, who describes himself as an independent, and his father hardly saw eye to eye politically has been well known for years. The former president was famously dismayed when his son dropped out of Yale University to join a ballet company. There was some consternation, however, when Mr Reagan Jnr appeared to make use of the address he made at his father's funeral in June to take a stab at President Bush over his tendency to cite God in making and explaining policy.

Mr Reagan, who lives in Seattle with his wife, Doria, told mourners that his father "never made the fatal mistake of so many politicians, wearing his faith on his sleeve to gain political advantage". He later said that he had not meant the remark to be taken as a direct criticism of Mr Bush.

He recently turned down a similar invitation to attend the Republican convention in New York, which will stage a special tribute to his father. "I don't think, in good conscience, I could take the chance that somebody could read that as an endorsement of this administration," he explained. "I'll support any viable candidate who can defeat Bush."

Mr Reagan added: "The Republican Party now is not the Republican Party of my father, not that it would be of great concern to me, one way or the other. I'm not a Republican, and I never have been."

In a separate remark recently, he said: "I couldn't join a party that, frankly, tolerates members who are bigots for one thing, homophobes and racists."

Voters in America may be seeing more of Mr Reagan. He recently signed a deal with the cable news network MSNBC to be a commentator for the 2004 presidential campaign.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Field Service Engineer - Basingstoke / Reading Area

£16000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This established name in IT Ser...

Recruitment Genius: Transportation Contracting Manager

£33000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A global player and world leade...

Recruitment Genius: Experienced PPC Search Marketing Executive

£19000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: PR and Press Executive - Beauty

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A leading cosmetics group is lo...

Day In a Page

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map
Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
Paris Fashion Week

Paris Fashion Week

Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
A year of the caliphate:

Isis, a year of the caliphate

Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?
Marks and Spencer: Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?

Marks and Spencer

Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?
'We haven't invaded France': Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak

'We haven't invaded France'

Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak
Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

Why do we ignore the worst of the massacres?

The West’s determination not to offend its Sunni allies helps Isis and puts us all at risk, says Patrick Cockburn
7/7 bombings 10 years on: Four emergency workers who saved lives recall the shocking day that 52 people were killed

Remembering 7/7 ten years on

Four emergency workers recall their memories of that day – and reveal how it's affected them ever since
Humans: Are the scientists developing robots in danger of replicating the hit Channel 4 drama?

They’re here to help

We want robots to do our drudge work, and to look enough like us for comfort. But are the scientists developing artificial intelligence in danger of replicating the TV drama Humans?
Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

'Heritage' is a loaded word in the Dixie, but the Charleston killings show how dangerous it is to cling to a deadly past, says Rupert Cornwell
What exactly does 'one' mean? Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue

What exactly does 'one' mean?

Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue