May 11

Prince Andrew, Parliament & Caricature Journalism


A British MP, Paul Flynn, is complaining because he can't use the House of Commons whenever he wishes to attack the Duke of York. 

As things stand, I’d have more chance of discussing it in the North Korean Parliament, or in Ceausescu’s Romania,” he says.

This is of course completely untrue. Mr. Flynn surely knows this.  He gives every suggestion of being, as we Australians put it, a whinger.  He is not being gagged.  As an MP he has the enormous advantage that when he speaks in the House he does so without any fear of being sued.

But there can be no free-for-all. The House has rules as to when he may do this.

…peace, order and good government…

The standing orders of the Australian Parliament also placed limitations as to when a member may criticise another member, a judge, the Governor General or The Queen. 

No doubt other Parliaments modelled on Westminster do this too.  This doesn't mean that Mr Flynn can never criticise the Duke of York.  But he has to do this in speaking to a formal substantive motion which he is perfectly free to put.

It seems that Mr Flynn was rightly restrained by the Speaker from mentioning the Duke of York in a discussion on whether there should be a ‘competitive recruitment process for the job of the UK’s special trade envoy’.

If such a competitive recruitment process were established, one would assume that the recipient would receive a substantial salary – which the Duke of York does not. 

…tabloid gossip…

Presumably, Mr Flynn will have little more to add than the unsurprising fact that the Duke has had expenses over the years while fulfilling his duties.  Or that someone says he was rude on some occasion in some distant land.  Or that in the course of his duties he has met some people who have subsequently been shown to be or who have been reported at the time to be rather unsavoury.

In other words the stuff of tabloid gossip.Indeed if the latter were a criticism it would apply to most diplomats and  Ministers of the Crown. 

In the meantime the Duke seems to have considerable  support in relation to the fulfilment of his duties from people who would know.  There has been some criticism, but which public figure does not attract this?

…caricature journalism…

(Continued below) It would seem that the Duke has become yet another target of a particularly for a particularly lazy form of news reporting.

This is caricature journalism. Under it journalists engage in a campaign to reduce  a prominent person, usually a member of the Royal Family, to a caricature.

 In Prince Philip’s case, this has centred on taking obvious examples of humour, and categorising these as “gaffes.”  The contrived journalistic caricature is then of someone who is allegedly "gaffe-prone."  This of course breeds a spectacularly lazy form of journalism where the journalist merely asks someone what Prince Philip said, finds a witty comment and then circulates this as the "shock latest gaffe".

They could produce a computer programme to do this.The unfortunate result is that even fair and experienced journalists will find it difficult to ignore something which has been artificially manufactured as newsworthy.

This contrived capture of the news is something which serious journalists should consider carefully. Should they be mere tools in the hands of people who abuse the privileges which the media enjoy for the most important reasons?

The attempted caricature of Prince Andrew is that he is self indulgent and rude and that he fraternises with the unworthy. Stories are then designed to fit into the caricature.

Prince Andrew is of course a more substantial person than that.    


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