Dominic Lawson: Put A Royal Sock In It!
While Prince Charles is always accorded the reputation of being a ‘progressive’, in fact, he is a spectacularly reactionary figure, whose ideal vision of Britain is a kind of pre-industrial paradise — which never existed. His policies — renewable energy only, no pesticides, no industrial-scale farming — would lead to a crippling increase in the prices of everything from home heating to the cereal we feed our children.
Forty-five years ago this week, at the investiture of the heir to the throne as Prince of Wales, few would have guessed how politically controversial the Queen’s eldest son would turn out to be.
But then, as Her Majesty has herself been absolutely scrupulous in keeping her views and opinions apart from matters of public policy, it was natural to assume that Prince Charles would tread the same self-denying path.
Yet, as a Radio 4 documentary yesterday made clear, the future monarch has been a formidable Whitehall warrior.
Among former ministers to testify to this was Labour’s one-time secretary of state for the environment Michael Meacher, who related how successful the Prince had been in ‘seeking to influence government’.
Much of that influence has been in the form of ‘black spider’ letters — a reference to Charles’ use of handwriting, rather than printed memos.
For some years, the Guardian, invoking the Freedom of Information Act, has been fighting for these letters to be made public on the perfectly reasonable grounds that we should know exactly how the decision-making of elected governments has been influenced by the Prince.
Following a series of legal rulings that we, indeed, did have such a right to know, the Conservative Attorney General, Dominic Grieve, is now appealing to the Supreme Court to block the public from seeing any of this ‘advocacy correspondence’.
Grieve insisted that release of the Prince’s ‘particularly frank’ letters would ‘have undermined his position of political neutrality’ and that ‘inherited monarchy could not be preserved’ if the future sovereign was seen to have abandoned such neutrality.
That really does give the game away: Grieve is admitting it is precisely because Charles’ missives are so controversial that — in the interests of preserving an illusion of political neutrality — they should never be released.
Admittedly, we do have a pretty good idea of what gets the Prince’s goat. He is a passionate advocate for taxpayer-funding of ‘alternative medicine’, including coffee enemas as a cure for cancer. He thinks that man-made climate change is a much bigger threat to life on Earth than anything else that has happened in human history — oh, except for what he calls ‘genetically manipulated crops’, which, despite all evidence to the contrary, he is convinced will lead to mass extinction of our species.
These, more or less, also constitute the official position of the Green party, which in this country has gained a solitary seat in Parliament via election.
The difference between Charles and those Greens attempting to influence public policy is that the latter are obliged to put their opinions up to proper scrutiny and debate. Yet the Prince, while happy to be labelled a controversialist, would never agree to be interrogated and challenged on his assertions by, for example, John Humphrys on the Today programme.
In his rare newspaper interviews, he is inevitably questioned in the way politicians were in the age of deference; his interview in the Financial Times at the weekend was typical in its servility.
Unfortunately, for his entire adult life, the Prince has encountered such sycophancy from anyone in his presence, which is bound to make even a kind person (which he is) suffer from delusions of wisdom.
Perhaps the only journalist to break this pattern was Jeff Randall six years ago, when he gently suggested to the Prince that the future of farming perhaps should be with industrial-scale production, rather than the sort of methods Charles himself practises on his Highgrove estate in Gloucestershire.
The Prince, by Randall’s account, ‘exploded’: ‘That would be the complete destruction of everything!’
Everything that Charles holds dear, certainly. While he is always accorded the reputation of being a ‘progressive’, in fact, he is a spectacularly reactionary figure, whose ideal vision of Britain is a kind of pre-industrial paradise — which never existed.
Like his landowner friends at the Soil Association, Charles preaches something called ‘sustainability’ which they believe can only be achieved by self-sufficiency and a rejection of agricultural science. But global history tells us that ‘self-sufficiency’ is just a euphemism for national poverty — except, that is, for those landowners who can generate enough rent from their tenants so that they can live in luxury. Rather like the Duchy of Cornwall, in fact, which, combined with the Prince’s funding from taxpayers towards his official travel, helped provide an income last year of £21.7 million.
Of course, there is nothing in the least wrong with the heir to the throne being a very wealthy man, who has never for a single second of his life had to worry about the cost of the food on his table. But I can’t believe it is a complete coincidence that the Prince’s own patented policies — renewable energy only, no pesticides, no industrial-scale farming — would lead to a crippling increase in the prices of everything from home heating to the cereal we feed our children.
The point is that all the technological advances the Prince detests have been designed to reduce the cost of living for the public. Yes, the companies that make those breakthroughs are motivated above all by the desire to increase profits — but that does not make their achievements contemptible.
And Prince Charles has even denounced India’s ‘green revolution’, the name given to the plant-breeding technology developed by the late Nobel-Prize winner Norman Borlaug, and which meant an end to the famines which previously slaughtered millions of ‘self-sufficient and sustainable’ rural populations on the subcontinent.
Borlaug made himself clear about environmentalist critics — such as Prince Charles — who regarded this system of plant-breeding, a precursor to what we now term GM, as ‘contrary to nature’: ‘They have never experienced the physical sensation of hunger. If they lived just one month amid the misery of the developing world, as I have for 50 years, they’d be outraged that fashionable elitists were trying to deny them these things.’‘