John Harris

Journalist & Author

‘Essentially, the monarchy is corrupt’ – will republicanism survive Harry and Meghan?

The campaign group Republic is committed to bringing down the House of Windsor, despite a wedding that may deepen the public’s emotional bond with the royals. Is it right to argue that this soap opera is less popular than people think?

On a scorchingly hot Saturday lunchtime in Leeds, the varied strands of the British left have gathered outside the city’s art gallery for their annual May Day parade. They are all here: the Labour party, the Communist party, the Socialist party, a smattering of trade unions, the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty and a handful of vegans chalking slogans on the paving stones. Meanwhile, under a green gazebo adorned with the tagline “End the Reign”, activists from a radical organisation that resists any left/right stereotyping are setting up their stall and hoping for a decent couple of hours’ business.

On a trestle table, they have arranged a handful of laminated blowups of newspaper articles, mostly from the Guardian, about Prince Harry being interviewed by police about the killing of rare birds, the Queen’s £82m income and the “black spider letters” – named after Prince Charles’s eccentric handwriting – that revealed the future king’s efforts to influence some of the policies of the last Labour government. The basic point all this bumf is intended to illustrate is presented in a four-page A5 leaflet. “Monarchy must go,” it says, explaining why having a hereditary head of state “goes against every democratic principle”, as well as claiming that looking after the royals costs the public purse £334m a year.

We’ve got to start from somewhere, and that’s what we’re trying to do – plant seeds in people’s minds

If corruption is the abuse of public office for personal gain, that is what the monarchy does

Related: I wouldn’t go to Harry and Meghan’s pay-as-you-go bash. It’s pure meanness | Suzanne Moore

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