February 27

Intrusion and betrayal


There have been more developments in the case brought by Prince Charles to restrain the Mail on Sunday from publishing his private journals.

The Prince’s lawyers have asked for the newspapers defence to be struck out, and summary judgement awarded to the Prince. The defence seems to be that old fallback of the gutter press-publication is in the public interest. If it is, perhaps the private lives of the journalists, editor, and executives of the Mail should be also be made public.

The judge has reserved his decision.

Of course many in the media are critical of Prince Charles, and think his private journals should be published. There are some notable exceptions, which we shall come to. But in the meantime polling clearly indicates that the British public support the Prince’s attempts to keep them private, and his right to express his views.

There has been no similar polling in Australia, or the other Realms, but I suspect that the Australian public would hold similar views.

Anthony King, reporting the Yougov poll in the London Daily Telegraph of 25 February, 2006, says that one person in five now takes a more favourable view of him than previously and only one in seven now views him in a less favourable light. “This storm, like many others, seems set to pass.”

The public clearly do not think he should be in any way muzzled or censored. Three quarters of people believe he is entitled to make known his views privately to political leaders and others in important positions and two thirds think he is equally entitled to air his views in public. They are critical of the disloyalty of his staff.

The British Prime Minister has now come out in support. According to a report filed on 24 February 2006 by George Jones, the Political Editor of the Daily Telegraph, Mr. Blair said:

“If you look at the Prince’s Trust, it’s probably one of the most successful voluntary sector organisations in the world, never mind in this country, and I think he’s perfectly entitled to express his views and personally I find no problem with it at all."

"It is completely unreasonable not to expect that he has views or that he transmits them to Government ministers, but they are not views that I have ever, ever regarded as party political.”

Charles Moore used to be the editor of The Telegraph, and has now attempted to explain the curious role of Mark Bolland. As I mentioned in my last column, Mr. Bolland used to be the Director of the British Press Complaints Commission. I knew him then, and found him to be a most effective executive.

Mr. Bolland was then recruited to the Prince’s service as deputy private secretary, no doubt because of his media skills. But since leaving the Prince in 2002 to open his own public relations firm, he has, in newspaper columns, revealed private matters concerning the Prince, even criticizing him and his wife. He is now, unbelievably, the principal witness for the Mail on Sunday.

Charles Moore recounted an incident in 1997, two days after the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, when the Daily Mail ran a front-page "splash" headline that said "Charles Weeps Bitter Tears of Guilt".

The paper offered its readers the inner thoughts of the Prince as he grieved at Balmoral. The paper claimed he "stalked the moors", "asking: Why, why, why?”

Mr. Moore says he was struck not only by the absurdity of the Mail’s story (“how could any reporter know what was in Prince Charles’s mind?”), but also by its malice. In the aftermath of Diana’s death, feelings were running high, and damage could be done to the feelings of her sons, to national unity and to the monarchy

The actions of the Mail on Sunday will come as no surprise to readers of this column. The former republican Governor of Tasmania, Richard Butler, as well as the oxymoronic republican Royal Correspondent of Australia’s political email column, Crikey, both rely on an imagined conversation between The Queen and the Prince Phillip immediately after our 1999 referendum to advance their republican cause.

In the alleged conversation, which was included in a book –as if that gave it additional authenticity- The Queen is uncharacteristically and unbelievably uninformed about Australian affairs. On all accounts, The Queen is very well informed about Australia. And the idea that they would have such a conversation in front of a reporter, or a reporter’s stooge, is of course, ridiculous.

Mr. Moore says he spoke about this to Mark Bolland, who encouraged Mr. Moore in calling for a change of heart in the press about intrusion. Mr. Moore writes that he was surprised to read, a few days later, public references by Daily Mail executives to things said in his private conversations with Mr. Bolland. He complained, in writing, to Mr. Bolland who” admitted embarrassedly that he had indeed talked to the Mail.”

From this experience, Mr. Moore learnt two things. “First, that Mr. Bolland could not be trusted. Second, that a man who deals with the press in such a way must be bad news for his boss.”

Mr. Moore says Mr. Bolland played “a dangerous game”, in which he had decided that success for the Prince was to be achieved at “the price of failure for other royals.” He says that after a particularly blatant briefing against Prince Edward and his wife, and a controversial story about the Duke of Edinburgh, he subsequently left.

Then in the Telegraph of 26 February, 2006, Adam Nicolson, asked whether the reader can imagine the world being more satisfied with the Prince of Wales if the causes he espoused were “the promotion of big business, the increasing wealth of the big drug companies, the industrialisation of agriculture, the trashing of urban landscapes, the ghettoisation of poor communities, the mocking of Islam, the enlargement of an impoverished underclass? Is that really what people would applaud?”

He says: “A dissident prince, in a world of an enormously powerful moneyed and media establishment, is the only prince worth having”.

He points out that Mark Bolland has used the word “dissident” in public – “but more to hurt than to defend or support his previous employer. In our previous column, we pointed out that the journals seemed to have come from a former employee, Ms Sarah Goodall. Mr. Nicholson says the Prince’s lawyers argue that Mr.Bolland also"appears to be" one of the sources.

Mr. Nicholson writes:” This bit of treachery has some poetic justice to it. Precisely because so much of the world works in the ways of Mark Bolland and The Mail on Sunday, the Prince must see himself as a dissident within it. Cynical, self-serving, duplicitous and dishonourable establishment behaviour, dismissive of the rest of the world and complacent in its knowledge of how to operate the levers of influence and power, is in many ways exactly what the Prince has devoted his life to fighting. “

He says that there is a “strikingly unworldly instinct” in the Prince. At a “deep emotional level, he identifies with the dispossessed.” He says the Prince’s Trust will “surely be the one lasting monument to his years of banging the table and staring at the ceiling” According to Mr. Nicholson, the key motivating idea of the Trust is “to remove burdens from the very poor and the very down-at-heart so that they might lead fuller, richer and more satisfying lives.”

It is, he says, “simply, an attempt to make the world a little better.”

The work of the Princes Trust is remarkable. The funds raised are enormous, and they are applied effectively. The Prince works constantly to achieve its ends.

He does not deserve, indeed no one deserves to have such an intrusion into their private life. Nor does he deserve such disloyalty.


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