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Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 September, 2003, 15:50 GMT 16:50 UK
Bid to put monarchy to vote
Queen Elizabeth II
'Time people were given a choice', LD's young members say
The Queen should lose her automatic right to be head of state, according to a motion to be voted on at the Liberal Democrat conference.

Under the proposal, members of the Royal Family would have to jockey for election with commoners to take the title for a fixed term.

The idea, put forward by the Liberal Democrat Youth and Students, is certain to embarrass leader Charles Kennedy who is trying to position the party as a credible alternative to the Conservatives in the run-up to the general election.

While he brushed aside any irritation at the move, claiming he was pleased to have young members taking part in democracy, Mr Kennedy said he would be taking no part in Sunday's debate or vote on the motion because he would be "in meetings".

They are truly out of touch with people of Britain who show great affection for the monarchy
David Davis
Conservatives

The LDYS says a national referendum is needed on the future of the monarchy, in which the Lib Dems would be committed to campaigning for an elected head of state.

It also calls for the royal prerogative to be put under the scrutiny of Parliament and for the lifting of the ban on MPs debating the nature of the UK's head of state.

"No person should be born into a position of authority over others," the motion says.

"It is time that the people of the United Kingdom were given a choice on the future form and powers of their head of state."

Cannabis

But David Davis, the deputy prime minister's Tory shadow, said the proposal was "further proof that the Liberal Democrats are not a credible party, let alone an effective opposition".

"They are truly out of touch with people of Britain who show great affection for the monarchy," he said, adding it was "breathtaking" that the Lib Dems were shying away from the issues "that really count".

Charles Kennedy
Kennedy: 'Perfectly healthy debate'
It is not the first time the Lib Dems youth wing has caused a headache for the leadership at conference.

In recent times, delegates have been asked to consider giving 16-year-olds access to hard-core pornography, the legalisation of cannabis and ending the Queen's right to be head of the Church of England.

Mr Kennedy said: "I think it is a sign of a healthy party that the youth and students should be coming up with motions that other parties might consider in the taboo category. It's a perfectly healthy debate to have."

If the motion is supported, it would become official party policy, although officials have indicated that this would not guarantee it a place in the election manifesto.

The war on Iraq and the detention of Britons by the United States military in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, are likely to be among the more heated discussions at this year's conference, in Brighton.

Smacking

Members will be urged to support calls for the nine detainees to be returned to the UK for trial.

A vote will be held on a leadership plan to give responsibility for co-ordinating emergency planning to a senior Cabinet minister, like the Minister for Homeland Defence role envisaged by the Conservatives.

The very clear strategy for this party is a steady building process
Charles Kennedy

Members will be expected to back a motion adopting a smacking ban as party policy.

They will also be called on to support a series of policy papers on energy, business policy, the economy and pre-manifesto for European elections in 2004.

Mr Kennedy rejected claims that he had failed to deliver the decisive breakthrough some Lib Dems were hoping for after last year's conference at which he forecast the biggest upheaval for 100 years in British politics, with a pledge to "quicken our pace" in the race to bypass the Conservatives.

"I've always said - before, during and since the last general election - that the very clear strategy for this party is a steady building process," he said.




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