A ROW over the future of the monarchy yesterday tarnished the opening of the Liberal Democrat conference in Brighton. Plans to build on last week’s Brent East by-election success came unstuck when a motion by the party’s youth wing for a referendum on plans for an elected head of state opened up divisions within the Lib Dem leadership.
While Charles Kennedy tried to distance himself from the debate, Menzies Campbell, the foreign affairs spokesman, backed plans for an overhaul of Buckingham Palace.
The MP for North East Fife said he would like to see a "bicycling monarchy" - a reference to the Royal Families in Holland and Scandinavia who have a more low-key lifestyle. "I think it’s time we looked again," he said.
Mr Campbell’s remarks contrasted with those of Mr Kennedy, who did not support the motion. "I don’t think, on the great scale of things, a referendum on the monarchy is the most important one," he said.
The party leader was saved embarrassment when conference voted against the motion, with many delegates warning that such a move would offer political ammunition to their opponents.
The issue is one of a number on the conference agenda which could prove difficult for Mr Kennedy. Others include sex education and plans to increase the top rate of tax to 50p for anyone earning more than 100,000.
In an interview with The Scotsman today, Mr Kennedy dismisses Conservative jibes that the party’s success in the Brent East by-election, where they overturned a Labour majority of 13,047, was a "strategic blunder".