9 JUNE 2001, Page 27

Saved by Prince Charmings

From Mr Brian Basham Sir: Robert Hardman's claim (`Republican rumblings'. 2 June) that 'support for the Crown has held firm at around the 70 per cent mark' is untrue.

Following the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, support for the monarchy fell to almost 30 per cent and had been in decline for some time before that sad event. It was not until Tony Blair set Peter Mandelson the task of rallying the press that support was jacked up (perhaps `Williamed up' would be a more descriptive phrase) to its present levels.

In any case, to ascribe the 70 per cent support to 'the Crown' is a convenient simplification. That figure applies to the Queen, perhaps her Prince Charming grandsons and probably the Queen Mother — not to the institution and certainly not to other members of the royal family.

In fact, few so-called 'republicans' are that concerned about the Crown. What they want is an elected head of state who would be accountable to the voters. That would pump a shot of penicillin into the arm of our ailing democracy as the first step towards bringing all branches of government (from the Prime Minister through Whitehall to local authorities) out from the 300-year-old, comfortable shade of the monarch in person into the harsh glare of public scrutiny and, consequently, more rigorous accountability.

Brian Basham

London NW3