Prince Charles

Charles speaks out.jpg

My own view is that the Prince has a perfect right to speak about subjects that interest him

The Prince can say these things precisely because he is not in charge, and his peculiar position means they will be heard, even if we choose to ignore him. That is why we need him to keep it up.

Go on Charles: babble, rage and ignore the treacherous toads

Do you ever feel, dear readers, that the media are engaged in a gigantic conspiracy against the truth? Have you ever rubbed your eyes, and wondered why they are not making the obvious point? If you have, then the answer is almost always that you have stumbled across a story where the media’s own interests are at stake, and when the interests of the press are at stake, the reality of the position is quite irrelevant.

Consider the business of the Prince of Wales and the Mail on Sunday. To judge by the headlines, old Charlieboy has broken off from chatting up his begonias and dropped the most phenomenal clanger. He has said or done something quite preposterous – insulted the Luxembourgers, perhaps, or claimed that marmalade can cure acne. He is being accused of “meddling”, of shooting his mouth off, and failing to bite his tongue.

One after another, the self-interested editors of our media organisations line up to accuse him of being a headline seeker. What has prompted this orgy of abuse? Has he said that government ministers should not be driving 6-litre Jaguars? Has he complained about the destruction of the Green Belt? No: it is only when you read the papers quite carefully that you discover that the Prince has not said anything new at all.

On the contrary, it turns out that the Mail has illicitly obtained his private diaries, his private diaries, and has splashed them over several pages, including some quite fruity stuff about the handover of Hong Kong.

Like any other person, the Prince is trying to assert his sovereign and inalienable copyright over his private diaries, and to prevent the paper from publishing any more. In order to defend its conduct the Mail has found some disappointed ex-courtier who has been prepared to describe how, from time to time, the Prince does indeed say things which he knows will make headlines.

I hope it is not prejudicial to the case if I say that I think it an utterly pitiful defence. The diaries were lifted by some secretary, photocopied by the paper, and the Prince should have as much right as anyone else to protection of his private writing; and anything he says in his diaries has a completely different status from anything he says in public. But you won’t read much of that in the papers this week, because every editor in the world wants to establish the principle that they can print whatever the hell they want.

So they make a great hoo-ha about the Prince’s alleged courting of headlines, as if his occasional decision to say something in public validated their decision to breach his copyright, and they drown out the truth with a chorus of baying “constitutional experts” warning about what the Prince can and cannot say.

“The Prince has gone too far”, says the Daily Mail, in an ecstasy of hypocrisy, since its sister paper is determined to publish documents that the Prince would much rather keep private. The bewildered public takes away the impression that the papers want the Prince to shut up, at the same time as wanting the right to make him say more in public. Which is it?

My own view is that the Prince has a perfect right to speak about subjects that interest him and about which he cares; and the whole point about being Prince of Wales is that he can do so and attract headlines, without any real political consequences. He is not a minister. He cannot make laws.

He is a 57-year-old landowner with a not particularly good degree in anthropology who talks to flowers… By dint of heredity he happens to occupy a unique place in people’s loyalties and affections, and if he thinks he can do some good by some pronouncement, I don’t see why he shouldn’t say more or less anything he pleases.

Under the modern British constitution, he is a peripheral figure. He can rage against modern architecture, but unlike John Prescott he cannot carpet rural England with new developments. He may have his views about GM crops, but he cannot do a thing about the regulations that will call them into being.

He has his views about the advantages of a traditional approach to education, and learning poems off by heart, but he has infinitely less influence on the British educational system than the equally unelected Lord Adonis. He is far less powerful than the meanest minister in Blair’s government, and he is of course much less powerful than the editors of the Daily Mail and the Mail on Sunday.

In terms of cosmic influence, it is like comparing the Sun to Pluto.

Indeed, it is a measure of his lack of gravitational pull that this ex-courtier Bolland has so readily decided to betray his boss and say things that he hopes will be obliging to the Mail. And yet it is, of course, this very powerlessness that gives the Prince his value. He is criticised for saying (in his private diary) that the Chinese leadership looked like “appalling old waxworks”, and for noting the electric fans they used to keep the flags fluttering. He is attacked for failing to attend the banquet for the Chinese president in 1999, a move he intended to be a snub.

But there is hardly anyone in government who would wish to say anything remotely difficult about China or Tibet – not when Britain and China have such huge and growing interests in common. You can’t expect Rupert Murdoch’s press to duff up the Chinese, not when he wants to beam his balderdash to a billion satellite viewers.

The Prince can say these things precisely because he is not in charge, and his peculiar position means they will be heard, even if we choose to ignore him. That is why we need him to keep it up.

Go on Charles: you keep firing off those green ink letters to ministers; you keep going with the unfashionable causes; keep babbling away to the herbaceous borders; don’t stop caring about Tibet and the Book of Common Prayer; don’t worry about the treacherous toads who defect to a self-interested media. The Prince’s actions are completely harmless, and sometimes useful.

Can I have my knighthood now?

35 thoughts on “Prince Charles”

  1. I enjoyed Boris’s article this morning. Every unpleasant comment about the PofW increases my admiration of the man and Boris gave a great lift this morning. I hope the Prince is reading this column.

  2. The idea that someone in the publci eye has no right to keep a private diary and that stealling from such a diary is ok, is unbelievable.

    Thanks for sticking up for him.

  3. Brilliant article, Boris. The Prince should have every right to air his opinions on the subjects he feels strongly about. As far as I can see he has done no harm but irritate the gutter press and a few politicians which is commendable in itself.

  4. If Charles were 100th in line to the throne would comments like: “he’s not entitled to a private opinion” be supportable? What about 50th or tenth in line?
    My question is, at what lineal distance from the throne of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland does he regain his rights to privacy according to this bumptious crew of self-righteous pirates?

    Perhaps it isn’t his proximity to the throne which is the subject of debate. Maybe it’s because of the station of wealth and privilege he enjoys. If so, how much money does one need to have for the Mail to be entitled to publish one’s personal and private journals? Is it Boris Johnson rich, David Beckham rich, Richard Branson rich?

    I can GUARANTEE that , had these ignominies been performed on Bill Gates, the editorial team of the Mail would be walking the plank over some shark infested water even as we speak (AND considering themselves lucky to have gotten off so lightly)

    All this publicity and harassment is fundamentally because the British press don’t like him.

    As some guy(?) (perhaps inappropriately in terms of being on topic) suggested on the discussion about Elf & Safety laws, does British copyright law somehow spontaneously combust in the presence of a member of the Royal family? (Och Seymour-Anne takes the credit for this observation)

    Carry on YRH. You may be a bit of a geek at times (and who isn’t?) but you’re our geek!

  5. >Carry on YRH. You may be a bit of a geek at times (and who isn’t?) but you’re our geek!

    love it, Joe M!

    Exactly – it can’t be freaky to be a bit geeky

  6. Slightly off topic to start with. I posted this on another thread but possibly no one is looking at that one (numbers 26, 27 and 28 on Boris’ account of trying to be rector). Anyway if you are interested in supporting medical research, the right to work and liberty and law take a look at

    Where the folks organising the demo in Oxford against the animal rights lot, who are trying to stop Oxford University building new labs, have a website.

    The demo is at 11.30 this Saturday in Broad Street Oxford.


    You are and Oxford man
    You live near Oxford
    You are shadow minister for higher education.

    Why don’t you join us?

    wrt. HRH

    It’s very difficult being a republican nowadays. Just as you ahve worked yourself up into a righteous frenzy about the unfairness of monarchy along come a load of tenth rate tabloiders (and no doubt to be followed by some of those oh so funny BBC satirists) whose comments make the Royal Family seem cheerfully quaint rather than a threat to democracy.

    Long live Our Own Dear Queen!

  7. I’m no great fan of Charles, but I think he has a perfect right to express his opinion. All the more so, if it challenges the interests of powerful agribusinesses, and conventional wisdom of every kind.

    But Janet Street-Porter says in the opening words of her column in today’s Independent that

      We are told that Prince Charles… write[s] journals on his travels which are subsequently copied and circulated to more than 50 people.

    If this is true, then it’s not quite the same as having a private diary “lifted by a secretary” from his bedside table. If this is true, then Charles has been in effect publishing his journals among a select group of friends – one of whom has presumably taken them to the Mail.

    If Charles wants his friends to read his journals, perhaps he would like an even wider readership. And perhaps the friend who spilled them did so with a nod of agreement. All publicity is good publicity, after all, they say.

  8. Has anyone considered the implications of Charles’ private diaries in the context of the recent legislation on supporting terrorism? During a chat yesterday evening, a mate of mine proposed a scenario which might leave Prince Charles in a spot of bother.

    Enter stage left:The recently presented terrorism bill

    1) The original text (preferred and defended by Mr. Blair at PMQs for the purpose of: “clear message sending”) provided for the glorification of terrorism as opposed to the slightly more sensible amendments of the Lords. Nebulous and purple though glorification undoubtedly is in terms of the act, its dictionary definition can be effectively reduced to ‘praised’. So: we musn’t ‘praise’ terrorism or terrorist groups.

    2) The definition of terrorism boils down to a group which systematically uses violence and intimidation to force political concessions. Well, we could reasonably apply that to China, the USA, Israel, and a lot of the Russian federation (probably the UK too). Remember, if governments are somehow exempt from this statute then it’s perfectly (if somewhat inconveniently) okay to support Hammas and their terrorist activities! If they are not, we need to be very careful about the definition of terrorism.

    I haven’t bothered to insert all the exact wording from the act here because its dreadfully stodgy and long-winded stuff and my paraphrasing gives the gist of it.

    3) The intent of the act is to suppress the publication or public dissemination of opinions which “glorify terrorism”. It does not provide for private thoughts and notes.

    4) Charles has written private diaries which, though no fault of his own, have been publicly disseminated under the pretext that his views are never private and the disclosure of his personal thoughts and opinions is in the public interest.

    So, strictly speaking. If HRH had, in these diaries, expressed support for (say) the Palestinian people and/or (particularly) Hammas, he could be in breach of these proposed anti-terrorism laws and consequently liable to have his collar felt to the tune of seven long ones.

    The upshot of all this is that, if the Crown finds against Charles (bit dodgy having your Mum on the other team, innit?), the implication is that he may not, even in the quiet of his soul or written in tiny writing on the back of Rizzlas, hold any views on virtually any government or political group (which possesses an army or militia) or any views on religious or ethnic issues either, because, according to the Mail: his private thoughts are public property and consequently fall under the provisions of a number of acts limiting what one may or may not say!

    What happened to mens rea?

  9. Quite right in the analysis of HRH’s position, but what happened to the literary bits? While I like the idea that someone would entertain the fantasy of using marmalade to cure acne, the talking to flowers trope (used twice) is redundant. Think about it: what happens, in a scientific sense, when you walk over to a plant and start chatting? You soak it in CO2, which it absolutely loves. If more people talked to plants we could hypothesise that they evolved flowers deliberately to attract humans.

  10. Poor old Charlie can’t break wind without making the front pages. Imagine what it’s like going through life with that level of attention (mine win attention, but of a different kind).

    The press hang on to his every utterance and turn it into what they like. It’s a dirty game. They do at least acknowledge that some of his pronouncements – on the environment and architecture for instance – were ahead of their time.

    For all the privilege, I don’t envy him.

  11. I think he talks to the plants because he knows they don’t talk to The Mail on Sunday.

    No paper would publish Bill Gates’ diaries, because Gates has, and has been known to use, real power. That Charles can’t even get an injunction shows how lame-duck his position is. If his personal popularity with the public were higher (like his eldest son’s), no paper would publish the diaries for fear of the blowback and cancelled subscriptions. So he’s powerless, friendless, and yet still newsworthy. Poor man, the only power left to him is the power to make news, and when he tries to do that he’s castigated…by newspapers. Doesn’t matter if the papers were privately circulated, posted on a blog, or scribbled on the lining of a Burberry in the darkest hours of the night, copyright applies and no paper should be allowed to publish them. I’d like to think if I were editor, I’d resist, but if I did, I know for sure I’d publish a summary and analysis.

    Can I have Conrad Black’s title? He won’t be using it much around Toronto.

  12. Whoa, I just noticed this blog is licensed under a Creative Commons license. That is brilliant, and sets a great example. Congratulations on being so smart!

  13. You know, it amazes me that when one of J K Rowling’s ‘Hairy Rotter’ novels got pinched few days early, they virtually had the army out.

    When I saw the news showing a load of cops and snipers, SWAT advisors etc. all crouched down and looking highly threatening, I remember thinking: “Crikey! Suburban, British terraced house? Odd place for Osama to be hanging out.”

    But no, it was because some exponent of the Axis of Slightly Nasty had the temerity to kidnap a copy of Rowling’s ‘Goblin for Hire’ before its official release date.

    Well, perfectly natural to send in the troops, obviously a matter of national security. Gary Trotter on sale early! Shameful!

    In respect to Charles’ current difficulties, I have to opine that I don’t understand why the judge didn’t find for him in the first 15 nanoseconds. I find it utterly astonishing that the judge has had to reserve his judgment! Bit rusty on copyright law are we M’lud? I’ll lend you a book if you want.

    I won’t risk contempt of court by writing the only thing I can conclude from the learned judge’s curious behaviour but I will commit it to my private journal (any offers?).

    Press privilege doesn’t cut it here either because “public interest” doesn’t have the same meaning as “interest to the public” which seems to be the route the Mail is pursuing. Public interest can only come into play if Charles has the ability to act on his views which he clearly does not.

    Still I’m glad they didn’t do it to me because, at eight to fifteen grand a day, QCs are a bit out of my price bracket to argue something as spurious as the Mail’s case appears to be.

    While the Mail’s at it why don’t they nick Alistair Campbell’s journal too? That probably really is in the public interest, if only so we don’t give labour another term!

    Prince of Wales, of course, abbreviates to POW. I wonder if he ever feels like that?

  14. Joe Mental writes: Press privilege doesn’t cut it here either because “public interest” doesn’t have the same meaning as “interest to the public” which seems to be the route the Mail is pursuing.

    On a point of order, Joe, isn’t “public interest” part of a defence against defamation, not copyright infringement? (an expression of opinion, based upon fact, made honestly and without malice on a matter of public interest).

  15. Well said Boris, I agree with every word!

    Given the news this morning about Ken Livingstone being found guilty of bringing the London mayor’s office into disrepute, are you reconsidering your support of him? (I hope not).

  16. I don’t care about Prince Charles. Or the Queen. I don’t understand why we keep banging on about them. One way or the other. They’re about as important a part of our culture as Jordan or whoever-was-a-celebrity-in-the-jungle-that-I’ve-already-forgotten-about. Nice of Boris to stick up for poor Charles, but frankly he gets paid a shedload of money for doing an awful lot less than most of us have to do, and his opinions are neither here nor there. Just like the opinions of the idiot newspapers who can’t think of any real news to write about so they pretend to be all hot under the collar about something none of the rest of us ever give a moment’s thought to.

    If we’re going to make people famous, for God’s sake let’s pick the ones who’ve actually achieved something.

    I’m bored. I’ve got a stinking cold. I’m writing about toiletries, and I’m losing the will to live.

  17. It’s generally held that a matter is in the public interest if it:

    a) may adversely affect public health and safety;
    b) exposes misleading or misrepresentative actions or statements by an individual or organisation;
    c) involves a crime or (possibly, depending on its severity) a misdemeanour.

    Item (c) falls away unless the Mail allege that Charles was guilty of (or recorded his intent to do) some opium smuggling or similar.

    The provisions of b) fall away because these were private journals and it would be a thin defence if the Mail alleges the content of the journals somehow misleads the public (or part thereof) in a way which would benefit Charles directly or through a third party (and wherein he intended the misrepresentation and consequent benefit). They would further have have to demonstrate his intention to disseminate the material to a wider audience.

    With the qualification HRH doesn’t record that he has contracted avian ‘flu’ and intends to spread it around Buck Hice, the case appears to turn on the issue of safety.

    So what could possibly be in these documents which may affect public safety? Declaration of war on China? Intention to give the Chinese head of state a bit of a happy slap? Statements like: “Appalling old waxworks: just don’t cut it. Sure it’s offensive and, if we were in a Hollywood movie, might precipitate world war three, but the only reason the Chinese know about it is because the Mail released it into the public domain.

    Something else occurred to me about this action and why the Mail is so anxious to prove ‘public interest’ and defending this application so vigorously.

    Copyright issues aside, strictly speaking, a theft took place. As I understand it, there was a physical theft of the journals (while they were copied), and the subsequent theft of Charles’ intellectual property (the latter being covered by law governing movable intangible assets).

    The actual charges brought against the Mail would hinge on whether or not the CPS felt it could demonstrate that the Mail instigated the theft (or conspired with the thief) or were merely the recipients of stolen property.

    The former charge may be neatly inferred if the secretary (who originally took the manuscripts) was engaged in conference with representatives of the Mail before the copies were made and sent to the Mail. In the event that it could be proved that this conference took place, even if the Mail didn’t actually commission the theft, it would be reasonable to argue that the Mail induced someone commit a crime or conspired with them to commit a crime.

    Put ’em on trial Charlie! Get your Mum to sign the docket if the CPS won’t. (Or bring a civil criminal action if the CPS go all ‘windy’)

  18. Having considered this discussion for some time now, I think I’m getting a clearer picture of what the government and the press seem to find so offensive about Charles’ comments.

    For the purposes of my argument, I’ll need to digress a little.
    I fancy myself as a bit of an artist on the quiet. My works are rarely abstract (except by accident) and I prefer my paintings to look (recognisably) like the subject they portray. That’s not to say that I don’t appreciate abstract art it’s simply that, If I were brutally honest with myself, my compositional skills aren’t good enough to make it work.

    Now, in the last 20 years, various exponents of post modernism have been scraping a number of barrels to find something new and, in my (admittedly unqualified) opinion, more often than not failing miserably. When I attend exhibitions featuring post modernist work, I often think to myself: “Yes, I can see what the artist was doing here, and this is a valid piece.” I would have to add that the VAST majority of these works, even when I understand the purpose, wouldn’t be allowed within a parsec of any wall or plinth in my humble abode. Further, with my advancing years, I find myself thinking, more and more: “Blimey, how the hell can anyone take this seriously??!” This reactionary expostulation used to account for about 15 – 20% of the works on display, now it’s probably more like 50 – 65%. I’m not sure if this is because I’m becoming more conservative (small c) in my advancing years or because contemporary art has hit the skids.

    I recall an exhibition recently where, whilst examining a sculpture, I asked the artist (a rather bedraggled specimen of adolescence who would have benefited enormously from a wash and national service) what he was trying to achieve with a particular work. I was immediately informed that if I was too stupid to see it for myself, he wasn’t prepared to explain it to me (how charming). I’m forced to admit that there’s only so much my limited intellect can infer from a chunk of driftwood with some bits of red wool tied to it.

    I also remember (must be about 20 years ago now), wandering around the Tate gallery and, just beyond the Ngo head in the entrance atrium, there was a selection of tools strewn around on the floor, “Funny” I thought, “they must have the builders in.” I looked up and around the gallery for these elusive workmen and spotted one of the gallery attendants having a titter in my general direction. On interrogation he said: “It’s an exhibit sir. Everyone seems to think we’ve got the builders in.” So I toddled off in search of some art.

    I could not, and still can’t for that matter, equate a pile of tools lobbed (apparently randomly) around the floor, with a legitimate art work. I didn’t have a great deal of time for the “Pile of bricks”, or the “Soiled Nappies” either. At the dimmest limits of my artistic vision I can just make out that there might be the tiniest glimmer of deeply exploratory art in this sort of junk….. sorry, art, but I could say that about my PC with an axe through it or a broken coffee cup. Almost everything we see has some additional meaning if only if it’s a neuronal association with some historic past event tucked away in our memory. Humans see things in the white tiles on toilet walls and on blank sheets of paper for Christ’s sake!

    Now, back to the point. Charles (bless) was brought up in buildings that probably have more old masters per square inch than anywhere except the National Gallery and the Louvre. I would suggest that a) his artistic taste would be, justifiably, even more conservative than mine and b) his tastes and opinions, if only through osmosis, are significantly better educated and refined than most art history graduates and 99% of, so called, art critics. When Charles described the National Gallery extension as a carbuncle, I knew exactly what he meant. I disagreed with him only as a result of semantic analysis because a carbuncle will eventually burst and/or heal up!

    As Boris alluded in his article. People are afraid of what Charles says not because he wields enormous power or can sway public opinion with a well timed sound bite, but because he says what he thinks; he tells the truth as he sees it. So, when he doesn’t like something or finds something offensive he has the embarrassing temerity to say so out loud and in public! The problem with this is that too many proponents of, so called, innovation are aghast when their exhortations that a piece of art, architecture or politics is: “…far too complicated for you to comprehend so leave it to the experts” are ignored and Charles charges in ‘boots ‘n all’! Frankly Scarlett, he couldn’t give a damn!

    This brutal, uncompromising honesty is very frightening today because we are so unused to it in public persons and celebrities. When Charles says: “It’s a bloody monstrosity” it isn’t because he wants to be controversial, excite debate or to appeal to a section of the public (voting or otherwise) it’s because he thinks “It’s a bloody monstrosity!” As David Irving said from jail: “Freedom of speech is the right to be wrong. Sometimes I’m wrong.” Sometimes, Charles, as I’m sure he would be among the first to admit, is too. But, when he calls a building a monstrosity, we can be pretty confident that it isn’t because he was the building contractor who didn’t get the tender; the politician getting a back hander from the other team or the arts minister who’s just blown half their budget on a pile of doo-doo that subsequent generations of arts graduates will point to and say: “….and this is what happens when you have an artistically delinquent electorate.”

    From my own experience I know that I react most vigorously to criticism from the handbrake when the observation hits closest to the mark. The more deserving I am of some note of contempt, the more explosively vituperative my subsequent outrage. It’s said that a true friend is the one who tells us the truth about ourselves, even when it’s unpleasant. Truth is a bit of a slippery customer but honesty isn’t. Unfortunately, our old chum Charles has the unfortunate habit of telling us that the Emperor has no clothes on and the spin doctors and pseudo-intellectuals don’t like it because, if we are honest, the Emperor’s tackle is often well and truly on display.

    Or it could be Tourettes.

  19. Joe M: well expressed if I may say so.
    Charles is the scion of a dynasty whose various members , over many years have said things with which the hoi polloi may not agree .

    He has a father, we must not forget , a particularly forthright speaking person, who has done much to modernise the public’s perception of the Royal family.

    Feet do get stuffed in mouths from time to time, that’s part of the human condition.
    The Windsors, when all’s said and done, have no real power , and are thus not able to change British , or anyone else’s politics, but because he cares about the environment, he is, in my opinion , entitled to air his views on matters ecological, amongst other things.

    What he says, in his own circle of friends; not all royal; is his personal and private business, even if in written form. Long may he throw stones in the dirty pond of politics , just to let us know that a ripple is still the result, however murky the water..

  20. What often puzzles me is why so much credence is given to pop stars, footballers, ‘modern’ artists and other ‘celebrities’ when they talk about the third world, war, politics, science, how to live your life, animal rights etc. etc.? HRH ain’t no Einstein and he does lead a rather sheltered life but he does compare favourably, even when he’s talking to the flowers, with tarot reading, crystal gazing, Kaballa chanting celebs.

  21. Thank you Macarnie, you’re very kind.

    With regard to your comment about feet in mouths, I take the view that the person who hasn’t said: “…errm, what I meant was…”, is almost certainly mute or a Labour back bencher perhaps; they don’t seem to say much either these days.

    As Jack has observed, it is extraordinary how glib, uninformed opinions expressed by virtually any celebrity are endowed with almost oracular properties.

    On the other hand, there are rare instances of common sense and humility like Johnny Depp who, when asked about some political issue (I forget what) explained his views to the interviewer and then said (I paraphrase): “…but what do I know? I’m an actor!”

    I think Clint Eastwood put it best though: “Opinions are like assholes; everyone’s got one!”

  22. People are afraid of what Charles says not because he wields enormous power or can sway public opinion with a well timed sound bite, but because he says what he thinks; he tells the truth as he sees it. (Joe Mental)

    I think this is quite true. And it makes him something of a loose cannon, in a time when it seems that everybody in the public eye is more or less required to spout the conventional wisdom on any matter, so as to ‘set a good example.’ Charles is not politically correct. And this is refreshing.

    However, even if he tells it like he sees it, I always feel that his is the perspective of an antediluvian imperial era. Charles, more than anybody, feels the loss of the British Empire in ways that, say, David Beckham probably does not.

    That does not, however, invalidate his point of view. If anything, it highlights a submerged British cultural conundrum: what is Britain’s place in the world after the end of Empire?

    It seems that there have been two broad strands of opinion on this. The first holds that Britain should become more or less the 51st state of the world’s current greatest empire, and in this manner continue, via some sort of special relationship, to vicariously enjoy the fruits of empire. The other view holds that Britain should give up all illusions of empire, and recognise itself to be a small island off the coast of Europe. The first view would have Britain tied to the skirts of America. The second would have us rejoin Europe. They thus tug in opposite directions.

    The peculiar merit of the first view, regardless of the various arguments in its favour, is that it requires no thought, but merely continues a pre-existing and habitual imperial mindset: one goes on as if nothing had happened.

    And, perhaps for this reason, the first view is the prevailing opinion. But if America should stumble, dragging Britain down with it, I suspect that the second view will begin to appear rather more attractive than it presently does. In time, we shall no doubt see.

  23. Well, I’d look at the trends: America doesn’t appear to be on the way up, it appears to be on the way down. The 20th Century really was the American Century, and the 21st appears to be up for grabs.

    In quality of life measures and now security and economic measures, the US isn’t looking too good. Whatever economic growth they are experiencing is a temporary result of the artificial war situation, and cannot last. It’s a bubble. It’s also, IMHO, a cynical attempt by the Republicans to try to stimulate the economy just long enough to squeeze another few years out of White House occupancy. You can expect the war to last long enough to influence the next Presidential election, but I don’t think it can be maintained beyond that. This will provide a convenient excuse for the next Republican candidate to campaign as a war-ender, cutting the legs off the Democratic candidate. The Republicans aren’t all knuckle-walking neocons; they are aware this situation cannot be maintained forever, and have developed an exit strategy, at least as far as the politics go. As far as the country of Iraq goes, does anyone think they really care? There are no Republican voters in Iraq.

  24. I’ve been reading this post with interest, but saying nothing since most people have already said it for me!

    I agree wholeheartedly with Boris, with JackR and JoeM, and everyone else. I think that the behaviour of the newspapers has been rather disgraceful, and would like to see them taken to court. I’d also like to see their visibly pathetic defence be completely demolished.

    On to the topic of imperialism etc., I think we’re looking at a problem that every major world empire has faced. Have a look at the world’s successful empires which later collapsed, and the state of them now ‘a few years on’. Spain? Rome? Mongolia? Egypt maybe? One thing that one always notices about past imperial powers, is that they rapidly sink into a sleepy ‘can’t be bothered’ mentality, focussing on hom affairs and largely withdrawing from the international arena. There also tends to be a slump in productivity and enthusiasm for growth. If Britain wants to buck this trend, it will be an uphill battle, but would make the world’s greatest ever empire the world’s only successful post-empire too! A feather in our cap if ever I saw one…

  25. The behaviour of the papers as regards any member of the royal family should not be viewed as disgraceful. The majority of our news media is owned by one person, a committed republican (and major contributor to the liebore party). The papers are merely expressing HIS views, not necessarily their own.

    It is he that is disgraceful. Wonder if he is from convict stock?

  26. The Prince’s private and public views all seem to be tosh to me but I totally respect his right to keep his private tosh private.

  27. There is no point in working as hard as people have to enshrine the rights to free speech and to privacy, if you are going to say, “Oh, but not for those people, they’re [fill in the blank: royals, black, female, etc, etc].”

  28. Reply to Vicus:

    >Vicus Scurra said:
    February 2, 2006 05:05 PM | permalink

    What is your policy on the environment?
    If it can be proved that action is needed, and that legislation is needed to curb the excesses of both the corporate world and the private citizen, will you invoke it, or will you, like the Conservative party to date, refuse to interfere with the business world, and try to get us to believe that they are capable of regulating themselves, and if allowed to do so will automatically arrive at an ecologically sound solution?


    Of course we need regulation, and every Tory has believed that since Disraeli brought in the Clean Air Acts – I am just wary of superstition.

    Best wishes

  29. In quality of life measures and now security and economic measures, the US isn’t looking too good. Whatever economic growth they are experiencing is a temporary result of the artificial war situation, and cannot last. It’s a bubble. (raincoaster)

    Also relevant is the fact that both Iran and Venezuala plan to sell oil in euros rather than dollars.

      Western media is paying little attention to Iran’s oil bourse, which is expected to open on March 20 using a euro oil-trading mechanism.

      The move will allow investors to buy or sell oil for euros to transact on the exchange, thereby circumventing the U.S. dollar and Europeans will no longer have to buy and hold dollars to secure their payment for oil…

      On Dec. 30, Venezuela’s central bank said it plans to approve the use of the euro to service demand from foreign companies as well as to further distance the country from its dollar dealings.

    This sort of thing could have a severe impact on the dollar. The real Iranian threat may well not be nukes, but instead selling oil in euros. I think Saddam Hussein tried that.

  30. Thanks idlex, interesting stuff. Americans have controlled the oil market since they got control of Saudi Arabia’s mineral (and oil) rights back in the early Twentieth Century. The famed Petrocrisis was nothing more than the Saudis regaining rights to their own nation’s natural resources. Independance of the oil market has to chill the heart of every American…assuming Cheney has one. But he must: they put the pacemaker somewhere, didn’t they?

  31. There’s a copyright advocate group meeting up for a session of Speakers Corner-ing, Sunday, March 19. Details are here, from BoingBoing.

    If you’re interested in issues of copyright, patent, trademark, free information, access — that kinda thing — you’re invited to come to Stanhope on March 19th for an 11AM-1PM brunch and then to come and give a speech at Hyde Park’s legendary Speaker’s Corner, just over the road.
    March’s event is co-sponsored by EFF, Open Rights Group, the Foundation for Free Information Infrastructure and the Open Knowledge Forum Network.

  32. Raincoaster:
    Judging by some of his utterances , I would hesitate to guess just where they planted Cheney’s pacemaker. It must be uncomfortable, wherever.

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