OPINION POLLS, who would trust them? And yet (see reports on pages 1 and 2) this newspaper has commissioned another one. In the spirit of objective and scientific inquiry, we thought we should test the place of the monarchy and its various appendages in the national affection. We sensed - who hasn't? - that the recurring coverage of the Royal Family's follies and sadnesses might be kindling a new spirit of republicanism in places where it actually matters; that is, not among what France would call 'intellectuals' but among the population at large, among the people Britain calls 'ordinary'. We shall refrain from the word disappointment. Let us say instead that the results were a surprise. Two in three Britons would like the monarchy to continue indefinitely and have either a fair or a great respect for the institution. No more than one in five would like it to end, either now or when the Queen dies. And if it did end, whom would the people like to see as President? Why - a lovely paradox - the Princess Royal of course. No, what Her Majesty's subjects are fed up with is not the monarchy itself but stories about it. Four out of five say they are bored with them - fed up, browned off, unsurprised, stretching and yawning with uninterest. Diana in phone pest scandal shock? Pass the ketchup, there's a pet.
The media seems to have got it wrong. Like Hollywood, it has got stuck with the notion that the best recipe for success is the previous recipe for success. It has gone on too long, and the error is not confined to tabloid newspapers - see the BBC news or any broadsheet newspaper last week. Today, therefore, we apologise for our royal story on the front page. We shall try (deaths, abdications and divorces permitting) not to let it happen again.