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Saturday, July 02, 2011

An errant Prince?

This morning's Guardian contains the latest installment of Alistair Campbell's diary in which he details the full extent of the political interference in Government by the Prince of Wales.

The paper says that Tony Blair believed that the Prince of Wales publicly interfered in sensitive areas of government policy in a manner that sometimes stepped over the constitutional boundaries historically respected by the royal family:

Campbell writes that Blair, who was not invited to the royal wedding, became angry when the prince:

• Made "deeply unhelpful" interventions during the foot and mouth crisis in 2001. Campbell wrote on 16 March 2001: "TB said he knew exactly what he was doing. He also asked whether Charles had ever considered help when 6,000 jobs were lost at Corus [the steel manufacturer]. He said this was all about screwing us and trying to get up the message that we weren't generous enough to the farmers."

• Boycotted a banquet in 1999 for Jiang Zemin, then president of China, a decision criticised by Blair as "silly". In a long paper to Blair the prince wrote: "I feel very strongly about it."

• Challenged Blair on plans to outlaw foxhunting. In what Campbell described as a "long note on hunting" in late 1999, the prince said it was good for the environment.

• Declared in the same note that hereditary peers, the majority of whom were abolished by Labour in 1999, had much to offer. Campbell wrote that the prince had said "menacingly": "We don't really want to be like the continentals, now do we?"

• Insisted that he had to speak out about GM foods after Downing Street had made clear its unhappiness with what Campbell describes as a "dreadful" Mail on Sunday article. In the same note to Blair the prince wrote: "I cannot stay silent."

Campbell said Blair was furious with the prince's Mail on Sunday article in May 1999. "He was pretty wound up about it, said it was a straightforward anti-science position, the same argument that says if God intended us to fly, he would have given us wings. It certainly had a feel of grandstanding."

Campbell writes that Blair thought the prince had a political agenda because he was upset by the former prime minister's speech to the Labour conference in October 1999 in which he attacked the "forces of conservatism". He wrote on 1 November 1999: "TB said he bought the line that because we were modernising, that meant we were determined to do away with all traditions but he had to understand that some traditions that did not change and evolve would die. It all had the feel of a deliberate strategy, to win and strengthen media support by putting himself at arm's length from TB and a lot of the changes we were making."

It is difficult to know if the Prince is still behaving in this way but if he is it is unacceptable. Charles has a privileged job which enables him to access and influence the highest levels of government. However, he is unelected whereas they have a democratic mandate. He should not abuse his position by seeking to second-guess the electorate.
No need to get wound upPeter He is no different from many other Pressure Groups which try and sometimes do effect public policy.
Its our "democratic system"
But that is the point, he is not any old pressure group. He has a privileged position that gives him access at the highest level and he has the attention of the media. And yet he is not elected. It is an abuse of his position.
You aptly decribe any number of pressure groups/individuals.
EG NFU,Legal Profession, Bono, Murdoch Rowen Williams et al.
None of them "elected".
For better or worse we live in a Pressure Group Society.
Democratic accountability is not the sole factor here. It is also about access achieved coutesy of holding a privileged position. There is a clear distinction between the actions of Prince Charles and those of pressure groups.
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