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TB and Prince Charles in today’s Guardian – some context

Posted on 2 July 2011 | 6:07am

It must say something for the media’s belief in the public’s insatiable diet for Royal stories that for two volumes running, The Guardian has led its serialisation of my diaries on Royal stories.

With volume 2, Power and the People, it was the arrangements for Princess Diana’s funeral, and the vexed issue of whether the two young Princes would walk behind their mother’s coffin with their father and Charles Spencer. Today, for volume 3, Power and Responsibility, the main focus is on relations between TB and Prince Charles.

Of course with the memory of the marriage of Kate and William fresh in people’s minds, the focus on matters Royal was perhaps inevitable.

I always get irritated when authors allow bits of their books to be published, as a way of drawing attention to them, and then say ‘people really need to read the whole book to get the full picture.’

But, well … you know the rest.*

The strength of a diary, I believe, is the rawness and the immediacy, and the lack of hindsight. All the entries quoted by The Guardian are in there. But what a serialisation can’t do, of course, is provide context.

The big picture context is that so much else was going on. This is a volume that starts amid the Kosovo conflict and ends on September 11. In between there was a general election, (complete with JP punch), a new Millennium (complete with Dome, London Eye and lots besides that went wrong,) a new London Mayor, a Downing St baby, a new US President, scandals and resignations, floods and Foot and Mouth Disease, ups and downs in Northern Ireland, ups and downs in Europe, ups and downs with colleagues, downs and downs with the Women’s Institute, and lots of steady progress on delivery on the main policy fronts.

It would be pretty hard for a newspaper to reflect all of that if a few thousand words, I accept. But if I look at the index, and the page on which Prince Charles features, he has fewer mentions throughout the book than fellow names beginning with C as varied as Jacques Chirac, General Wes Clark, Charles Clarke, Bill Clinton and broadcaster Michael Cockerell. Relatively, he is a small part of a very large book.

The other context of course is one of time. Prince Charles at the time (this covers 99-01) had a media team which I did believe was seeking to create a very distinct profile, and part of that was about showing differences of opinion about government policy.

TB always valued their discussions, and contrary to some of the online commentary this morning he did not come back and deliver blow by blow accounts to his staff. Nor did he show us the private correspondence between them. But often the issues in them were being put into the public domain, and I was having to talk to him about how we handled that. Hunting was perhaps the most obvious issue. But China, GM food, agriculture and our handling of FMD were others where differences of view were made very public and my job was to handle the fall-out. It is often said ‘the Royals can’t answer back.’ But in fact in these situations it is the politicians who have to stay quiet and their spokesmen who must minimise any differences.

At the time Prince Charles had media advice from Mark Bolland and as I say in The Guardian today, I felt that just as Charlie Whelan was sometimes damaging to GB’s interests, so was Bolland in relation to the Prince of Wales.

— There is one other line running from the serialisation which I want to clarify … TB is quoted as saying that for the Israelis to hand Jerusalem to the Palestinians would be like us handing Westminster to Germany. This time the lack of context is my fault. I should have made clear that he was saying to his team, me included, that this was how many Israelis viewed the issue, as a way of emphasising why it was so fraught. It was their analogy, not his.

* Mitigating factor to my ‘you need to read the whole book’ argument. Though I have allowed The Guardian to run two extracts (more on Monday), I am not doing the usual media rounds on this one, so don’t expect to see me popping up left right and centre as I have done with other books. It is also purely by coincidence that I am on Irish TV tonight, doing a long arranged interview with Miriam O’Callaghan on RTE. I’m just hoping it doesn’t clash with the boxing (and not because I’m worried about viewing figures, but because I want to watch the fight!)

  • Excellent – now I need to make it clear to family what Duncan wants for his birthday. All the best to you.

  • Ehtch

    Prince Charles has had an excellent time here in Carmarthenshire and West Wales my, ahem!, close sources have told me. He is good for us, he likes us, he likes our dark sense of humour, missing in his life.

    Anyway, Kate has made his year, annus spectaculous, or whatere it should be called, because the royal family managed to get some genetic variation, with love included, which is a bonus, mind you, even with the usual court polital crap that has been going on since 1066.

    Prince Charles is made up. Could post an ironic welsh song on him, where we say one thing, but then another, ah damn, why not, sorry Alastair,
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z7_y1CkbOHg

    Please english royalists, take it in the proper manner – slighty subversive, with a fair big (poor) dab of understanding of love in it.

  • Ehtch

    Latest uploads yewchewb clips of Kate and Wills in Canada – looks like everyone and them are enjoying it, as it should be, in this day of age in some sense in the UK and Canada,
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N2P-dk7WaIM

  • Ehtch

    Oh dear, just read it on the Guardian online front page – you weren’t a happy bunny with him, were you? I don’t blame you. Ol’ Prince Charlie does test several peoples patience, it is said. To me, Wren’s St.Pauls Cathedral is a carbunncle on the London skyline, but I suppose it is a matter of taste.
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/jul/01/alastair-campbell-tony-blair-prince-charles

  • TP Archie

    He’s a Royal (thumbs down)
    He expressed an opinion (thumbs down)
    Underlying principle: freedom of expression if you don’t count, everything else must be on our hymn sheet.

  • Ehtch

    I have suddenly realised why the Aussie are so fascist about immigrants! – they have not got a big enough Navy for their vast coastline! It is a simple equation.

    1968, with the Oz band backing them, The New Seekers,
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mpd_9l9w4RI

    I am sure I speak sense…..

  • Ehtch

    I am already waiting for the Queenies Libby 2 spech will be this Xmas day – she is going to be 1005 totally made up. As long Phil makes it, the old git, or not….

  • To my shame I am still reading Volume One BUT that’s because I have heavy crafting commitments (v small business!), fiction-reading commitments (monthly readers group plus like to read at least one other novel), and I am habitually slow with non-fiction.

    That said, I am enjoying your diaries like none other before precisely because, having lived through the period of history/politics covered, I am able to read between the lines, fill in the context and use my own perceptions of what happened, in fact, have those perceptions challenged. Another reason I am taking so blinking long.

    So…as a Grauniad-reader (sic), I will ignore these excerpts in order to save them for when I read the real Volume Three – in about 2050 at the rate I am going. But I’ll still have my memory…just about as I’ll be 95 so maybe I’d better get a move on. In fact, yes, my July/August challenge has been set.

  • Ehtch

    By the way, if you do not support Adam Boulton, watch the semi-finals southern hemishere Super 14 here – paid by Norwegians to be available on the web free, from their oil and gas,
    http://www.norwaysport.co.uk/

  • Ehtch

    For the four home nations, including our friends of southern Oireland, an inspiational set ot of videos as you head south coming autumn – think Carwyn James, but I hope us Welsh hope most, but with an NZ coach, that might be diffiicult,
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DjLzZmTgwYY

  • Ehtch

    It doesn’t make any difference which four our sides win it from up this end, as long as it is not the english,

    CLASSIC RARE 5-9 WALES WIN clip verses France at the start here,
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/player/sol/newsid_6290000/newsid_6291700/6291769.stm?bw=bb&mp=rm

  • Yossi

    The relations between Tony Blair and Prince Charles reminds me of the complaints of Israel’s first president Chaim Weizmann who used to complain about the limitations of his ceremonial post – joking that:

    “The only place I am allowed to poke my nose is my handkerchief…” 

  • Ehtch

    She needs to fill out if she is planning to push out babies, as my grandmother would say….

  • Dave Simons

    I seem to remember Tony Robinson doing a programme around 2004 in which documentary evidence had been dug up proving that Edward IV was illegitimate, and that therefore all succeeding monarchs claiming descent from Edward IV had no legitimate claim to the British throne. The true claimant – via the Plantagenet line – was living in Australia and didn’t have the slightest interest, in his relatively classless society, in exercising his right to ascend to the British throne. The Edward IV business is of course referred to in Shakespeare – Richard III, if I remember correctly.
    I spoke to Tony some weeks after the programme and asked him about the response to it. He said he’d been inundated with angry letters from Royal supporters, but there had been a deafening silence from the Royal Family and its entourage. And so the matter remains and has died the death, and that’s just how the Royal Family would have wanted it. Why let issues of mere legality interfere with a good collective fantasy?

  • Olli Issakainen

    Just arrived from a holiday and have not read the papers or the blog for three weeks. But interesting headlines on the blog, so I am looking forward to catch up with things.

    Ps. As for royals, I am currently watching the wedding at Monaco…

  • Ehtch

    Oz will have a big problem when Papua New Guinea sort themselves out and send heads attatched to Oz for cash up front, oh yes. More The Seekers,
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Ga9Bs4fzSY

  • Gilliebc

    Olli !  Good to see you back.  You’ve been missed.

  • Gilliebc

    Hi Dave,  I remember watching that programme too.  It was very interesting.  Have to say though that the Australian man wouldn’t quite cut-it as a royal!  Even if he were genuinely entitled.  Better the devils we already know, I think.

  • Gilliebc

    Me too Shirley, still reading Volume one, that is!  Well worth it though.

  • Dave Simons

    Or none at all, I think!

  • Dave Simons

    I was right – he was on ‘olliday’!

  • Robert

    Welcome back – we were concerned for you!

  • Robert

    I have the greatest respect for Prince Charles – he held his 40th birthday party in one of the more impoverished parts of Birmingham during the Thatcher years.

    Similarly his sister – the Princess Royal – for coming to Summerfield School in Winson Green – a stone’s throw from where I was born. In her interview with Parkinson(??) she said she could usually spot the visits she did where the people showing her around clearly hadn’t a clue about how the organisation ran – but had elbowed the real grafters out of the way.

    Good people, both of them.

  • Ehtch

    Good luck Prince Albert – I like Monaco, even though I’ll be effed if I can afford to visit there. privately….

  • Have an order for Volume 3, at the moment reading Volume Two, Power and the People, 1997 – 1999. How in the earth did you cope with GB having CW as his press man, would have driven me up the wall, when it comes to GB must admit TB does not come out well, your in essence telling him to sack GB and he’s just not listening, also the Cabinet Secretary had good advice that TB needed more allies in the Cabinet, if he had GB might have had a contest in 2007. As I lived through this period one has to lift one’s hat to you, you managed on the whole to keep the real terrible relationship between TB and GB out of the press for a very long time, agree with CB that GB comes across as a sad man who was blinked by how own ego! What does TB think of your telling of the fraught relationship between CB and AH, are the Blair’s comfortable with you releasing of this kind of stuff, cant wait to read the third volume!

  • Dave Simons

    I don’t know either of these ‘good people’ you mention, but I’d suggest that the great ‘insight’ described in the second paragraph is a common characteristic of most hierarchical organisations, public or private, and especially including that long-outdated institution, the monarchy. Also rich, advantaged  and powerful people are always having themselves photographed ‘slumming it’ because it helps to keep them rich, advantaged and powerful.

  • Gilliebc

    You were entirely right on that Dave, Olli was indeed on ‘olliday’
    Wonder if he might tell us were he went?  Not that he has to of course.
    I’m just curious, as always!  Somewhere hot probably would be my guess.
    I was about to guess at Egypt, but perhaps not in the light of that country’s recent difficulties, not to mention the rest of that region.  I shall speculate intermittently on Olli’s holiday destination whilst I cook the dinner!  The sun’s in the kitchen now and it’s too hot to cook!  But one has to do one’s duty, I suppose.

  • Gilliebc

    You were entirely right on that Dave, Olli was indeed on ‘olliday’
    Wonder if he might tell us were he went?  Not that he has to of course.
    I’m just curious, as always!  Somewhere hot probably would be my guess.
    I was about to guess at Egypt, but perhaps not in the light of that country’s recent difficulties, not to mention the rest of that region.  I shall speculate intermittently on Olli’s holiday destination whilst I cook the dinner!  The sun’s in the kitchen now and it’s too hot to cook!  But one has to do one’s duty, I suppose.

  • The problem with the royal family is that it creates a class system. How important you are and how much respect you get is largely based on accent and background. Britain is a very snobbish divided place because of the monarchy. Certain people are looked down and called common. This affects their self esteem and their mental health. It also affects social mobility. We British tend to be quite reserved and emotionally repressed. We are careful not to get above our station.

  • Paul M

    True enough Richard although the deference was always greatest amongst the titled, the gentry, the armed services and the respectable classes. More people than ever couldn’t give a toss and the Royal Family seem to have become empty Hollywood celebs without movie premieres. Bring on an elected president for single terms. Mary Robinson was always my idea of the ideal Head of State.

  • Ehtch

    But Paul M, with all its faults, royalty is a buffer to institutional nonsense.

    Royalty has prevented us from becoming totally communist nor fascist, on the whole.

  • Dave Simons

    Edward VIII would have invited the Nazis in if he hadn’t abdicated. ‘On the whole’ is a very partial whole.

  • MicheleB

    Most frightening thought I’ve had recently; can’t remember where I read it but Cameron is supposed to be directly descended from a king of about 300yrs ago, via a mistress.  He must know, perhaps it explains his NQ1ou manner with all and sundry ?

    I didn’t use to support the idea of a monarchy but since those days I’ve been to  a lot of republics (advanced and very much not so) and have come round. 

    The long beauty pagaents that the Americans need for electing their HoS, interspersed with the ones in between that add or detract from his (not yet her) actual power isn’t a system I can appreciate. 

  • Ehtch

    Edward Eight was a shower. No balls at all. Thankfully his brother, Bertie, showed him up what a monarch should be, even if it took years off his life. Edward Eight was a 1920s/30s sloane ranger, very shallow.

  • Dave Simons

    Seconded!

  • Gilliebc

    David Cameron is the great times 5 grandson of King William 1V