Anti-monarchy voice strains to be heard amid baby fever

In the general excitement surrounding the imminent arrival of a future British monarch, it is easy to forget the country's minority of republicans calling for an end to royal privilege.

dBut under the hashtag #bornEqual, the anti-monarchy pressure group Republic has launched an online campaign "to encourage the media and the public to think about the very serious questions a royal birth raises about Britain and our political system.

"Shouldn't every child be born equal? Doesn't this royal child have the same rights as the rest of us? Is this an intelligent way to decide our future head of state?" asks the group, which boasts 20,000 supporters and claims to represent Britain's "10 to 12 million republicans."

Republicans have, on average, made up around 15 percent of Britain's population over the past ten years, according to polls.

As part of the campaign, the group's website is selling bibs, babysuits, T-shirts, mugs and badges carrying republican slogans. But here also, the group faces an unequal fight in the face of a mountain of trinkets and souvenirs celebrating the arrival of the "royal baby."

While the world's media have been camped out for ten days in front of London's St Mary's hospital, where Prince William's wife Kate is due to give birth any day, Republic promises to cater for "the millions of people in Britain whose voices are being drowned out by the disproportionate, superficial and intrusive coverage of the royal birth."

"There are huge demands from the media outside the hospital but when you walk away from the hospital, the rest of the country doesn't really care," Republic CEO Graham Smith explained to AFP.

"This campaign is part of a wider movement," he added. "The birth of the royal baby raises serious problems about what are the democracy values in this country."

"We've tried to build upon every royal event for the past two or three years."

But with the monarchy's popularity soaring and the general feel-good factor of a new arrival, it is proving difficult to recruit new members to the republican cause.

"There is not much space in the mainstream media for people that have republican leanings to have their voice heard," says political scientist Tony Travers, from the London School of Economics (LSE).

"The monarchy is popular and sells newspapers," he points out.

The Guardian and The Independent, which usually support the left of centre Labour and Liberal Democrat parties over the Conservatives, are the papers most likely to promote the republican position.

In addition, regime change is not easy to implement, notes Travers.

"Australia in the past wanted to get rid but actually can't find an alternative," he recalls.

Graham Smith admits that he would prefer his voice to carry more weight, but accepts it is currently difficult to fight against the "royal baby mania".