Prince ‘should not be a given’ for head of Commonwealth

Prince Charles should not automatically take over, according to Jeremy Corbyn. Picture: Phil Noble/PA Wire.
Prince Charles should not automatically take over, according to Jeremy Corbyn. Picture: Phil Noble/PA Wire.
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Prince Charles should not automatically take over from the Queen as the head of the Commonwealth, Jeremy Corbyn has said ahead of a summit of the organisation’s 53 members this week.

With Commonwealth heads of government gathering in London tomorrow amid growing speculation about the future of the figurehead role, Mr Corbyn suggested the head of the Commonwealth should be decided on a rotational basis.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson told BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show the question was “a matter for the 53”. The Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Baroness Scotland of Asthal, also refused to state a position, telling ITV’s Peston on Sunday programme: “Fifty-three heads of government are the heads and they will make a decision in whatever way they determine.”

Mr Corbyn earlier told the Marr show: “I think the Commonwealth ought to really get a chance to decide who its own head is in the future.

“The Queen clearly is personally very committed to the Commonwealth, but after her I think maybe it’s a time to say ‘well actually the Commonwealth should decide who its own president is on a rotational basis’.”

Mr Johnson also dismissed suggestions the government should apologise for wrongs carried out by the British state to other Commonwealth countries.

He said: “That hasn’t been suggested to me by any Commonwealth leader, foreign minister or sherpa of the summit that I’ve met so far.”

Mr Johnson added: “It’s not a proposal that, as I understand, carries much support amongst the 53.”

Mr Corbyn had said it was very important Britain recognised its “historical role in many of these issues”, including the treatment of people in Kenya during the Mau Mau Uprising.

He said: “There’s been a sort of apology given on that. On the Chagos Islands, it’s an issue I’ve been very closely involved with for a very long time, that is going to come up ... I think it’s important the British Government just recognises what Britain did with the Chagos islanders was immoral, was wrong and brutal. “Put it right and give them their right of return.”

Chagossians were forced by the UK government to leave the central Indian Ocean territory in 1973 to make way for a US military base on Diego Garcia, the largest of the islands. The agreement secured a discount on US Polaris nuclear weapons.