Royally justifying yourself
“All the time I feel I must justify my existence”
So the monarchy is above the law. Last month, a Freedom of Information tribunal concluded that letters from Prince Charles to to government ministers should be made public. Yesterday, the Attorney General, Dominic Grieve, vetoed the ruling to protect Charles’ letters from public scrutiny.
Grieve’s claim is that the letters were part of Charles’ “preparations for kingship”. Unless the letters are leaked, we’ll not know whether that’s true, or that Charles, as a prince, land owner, and businessman, attempted to influence government policy.
The original ruling, after a freedom of information request from the Guardian, declared that releasing the letters would be in the public interest “as to how and when Prince Charles seeks to influence government”.
One of the most commonly used defences of a constitutional monarchy is that they are neutral, above political concerns and don’t interfere with the business of government. This is obviously a myth. Read any prime minister’s memoirs and you’ll at some point find a revelation that the sitting monarch isn’t above voicing strong opinions on state matters. The Charles letters suggest a level of interference beyond outrage at the lack of deference from a government minister or disbelief that an alleged terrorist can’t be deported from the country.
The political neutrality argument is blown out if the water by Grieve’s own judgement:
“They also contain remarks about public affairs which would in my view, if revealed, have had a material effect upon the willingness of the government to engage in correspondence with the Prince of Wales, and would potentially have undermined his position of political neutrality.”
Whether the correspondence is released or not, Grieve has given the game away. Charles has compromised his neutrality.
If the letters are the rants of a politically impotent man blowing off steam, we wouldn’t normally care. But given that this man could be the next head of state surely we should know what kind of man is line for the job? Are the contents so damaging that the government fears the wildfire spread of republicanism? Shouldn’t Charles act with some nobility, take responsibility and release the letters himself?
If the letters are an attempt to lobby government ministers, seeking to influence policy, then they are not ‘private’ letters; they are in the public interest and should be made public. Grieve, by almost invoking divine right in allowing Charles to hide behind the cloak of monarchy, is failing democracy and justice, and the citizens of the UK.
Benjamin Disraeli once said that, “Everyone likes flattery; and when you come to Royalty you should lay it on with a trowel.”
It seems that Grieve is trowelling like mad.