Labour republicans stir up calls to abolish monarchy

Keir Starmer introduces National Anthem at Labour conference

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Republicans including a Labour MP have called for the removal of King Charles III as Sir Keir Starmer attempts to rebrand the party. Guests, including Leeds East MP Richard Burgon, discussed the case for abolishing the monarchy at a fringe event at Labour’s conference in Liverpool.

Panelists appearing at the debate included author Paul Richards, Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee and Dr Adam Tucker, a specialist in constitutional law at the University of Liverpool.

Mr Richards drew laughter from among the audience by opening his address by welcoming them to the “naughtiest fringe meeting” of the conference.

Mr Burgon responded to critics who said before conference that it was inappropriate to discuss abolishing the monarchy after the death of Queen Elizabeth II.

He said: “In 1993 the law was changed so that the monarch wouldn’t pay inheritance tax on private assets… as opposed to state assets – so private assets.

“I think these are still legitimate matters of inquiry. And people who respect the Queen’s service… can still hold these views. It’s not an insult to anybody. It’s a legitimate discussion in a democratic society.”

Ms Toynbee told the event she would have liked the Queen to be “Elizabeth the last”, but did not recommend Labour call for the abolition of the monarchy at the next General Election.

She said: “Our job is to persuade people gradually, which is working as the tide is moving slowly and in a republican direction, until such a time there’s a majority of people also want to open up the whole issue, have a proper discussion about it.

“There is of course never a right time, because either Queen Elizabeth is alive and that’s not a very good idea or she’s died and then that’s not a very good idea, either. So there never is a perfect time to talk about this.


“I would like her to have been ‘Elizabeth the last’ but there was no moment, there is no fraction, no nanosecond between her drawing her last breath… and the crown falling upon her son the next instant.

“There was no moment when we were allowed to discuss it, even.”

Dr Tucker claimed King Charles III could be less well equipped than his mother to walk the tightrope of the country’s politics, constitution and ceremony.

Mr Richards said it was the right time for scrutiny after the Queen’s death.

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A leaflet available at the event warned Britain faces a future with a white, privileged male as head of state at least until the end of the century.

It read: “There’s little doubt that this will only accelerate calls for an end to the monarchy.

“Labour for a Republic believes that accident of birth is no qualification for our country’s top job and is completely incompatible with Labour’s values of democracy and equality.”

Labour has stressed it is not responsible for the content of fringe events.

Sky News presenter Kay Burley told shadow minister James Murray it seemed inappropriate to debate abolishing the monarchy at the conference.

He said: “The fringe events are not organised by the Labour Party or endorsed by the Labour Party. That’s not the view of the Labour Party frontbench. That’s not the view of myself or Keir Starmer.”

It comes after former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who now sits as an Independent MP, said it was odd the party had decided to sing the National Anthem at conference.

The MP for Islington North said singing the anthem was excessively nationalist and had not been done before at a Labour conference.

Diane Abbot, who was Mr Corbyn’s Shadow Home Secretary when he led the party, said she would have sung the National Anthem had she been at conference.

She told the BBC: “Had I been there, I would have sung as my parents were very strong royalists and they would have been very disappointed in me had I not sung the National Anthem.”

Meanwhile, Sir Keir Starmer will be buoyed by promising polling for Labour as he accuses the Tories of losing control of the economy and vows to get the UK “out of this endless cycle of crisis” in his speech to conference today (September 27).

Sir Keir will quote Sir Tony Blair to dub Labour the “political wing of the British people”, as a new YouGov survey suggests the party has opened up a 17-point lead over the Conservatives – the greatest since the firm began polling in 2001.

The phrase Sir Keir is expected to use is a rephrasing of a traditional Labour expression that the party is the political wing of the trade union movement.

Ms Abbott said she hoped Sir Keir’s use of Sir Tony’s phrase was not an attempt to distance himself from the trade union movement, adding that would be a mistake.

Sir Keir will outline an ambition to “turn the UK into a growth superpower” as he argues Labour is the party of financial responsibility after the pound plummeted in response to the Tories’ plans to borrow billions to pay for massive tax cuts. The party’s leader will also argue Labour is now the party of sound money.

But his direct quoting of Sir Tony, the last Labour leader to win a general election, also seeks to put further distance between himself and his predecessor, Mr Corbyn.

Ms Abbott urged Sir Keir to be radical. She said: “I do hope that in his speech today he is offering people radical policies that offer people hope.”

The MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington welcomed Labour’s pledge to nationalise the railways and reverse the Tories’ cutting the top rate of income tax to help fund the NHS.

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