Not that anyone believed that the Royals were really politically neutral anyway. The only other institution which has an entire department of the BBC devoted to fawning over it is the Labour party in Scotland. They’re deep in mourning over at Pacific Quay. Following the party’s annihilation at the polls last week, rumour has it that John Boothman is writing letters in spindly black writing to government ministers asking for a state funeral to be presented by Nicholas Witchell.
The letters were all written between 2004 and 2005, when Alistair Darling was Scottish Secretary of State. But the Prince Over the Twatter didn’t write to Alistair, he only wrote on topics he cares about, like Patagonian toothfish, the albatross around his neck, murdering badgers, and homoeopathic medicine. This tells us all we need to know about how much he cares about Scotland, but then he’s not exactly Prince Popular here. Seems like the feeling is mutual. Alistair must have been gutted, because he’s the brown noser’s brown noser, and he positively leaps at the chance to fawn over arch Conservatives, as he proved at the Scottish Tory party conference.
The main thing to come out of these letters however is that they are very like the telly coverage of the Royal wedding or the birth of a Royal sprog. Deeply boring, narrow in focus, and entirely predictable, rather like the man himself. Shame really, because we were promised explosive revelations. The last time that a major hype failed to live up to expectations was Labour’s election campaign. Possibly Jim Murphy’s name was redacted from the Spider Memos. It would explain a lot.
Apart from telling us that we don’t need no stinking badgers, another subject of immense concern to the man who talks to plants was the UK’s sufficiency in vegetables. You’d think he only needed to look at his own courtiers and hangers on the realise there was no real shortage there. As long as we have a Royal family, the UK will never be short of brainless ornamental hardy perennials. We have Jim Murphy for that sort of thing too, although he’s more of a persistent weed which you can’t get rid of even after dousing East Renfrewshire with electoral paraquat.
We won’t get to see any other letters written by Charles, or any other member of the Royal family, to the government. The government changed the law so that any letters from Royals are exempt from the Freedom of Information Act. The Royals have a legal right to lobby government ministers on any legislation which has an impact on their own interests, financial or otherwise. But we’re not allowed to know about it. We just have to pay for it.
Right now there’s a slew of bool moothed nonentities on the telly defending the right of Charles to write to the government in an attempt to get laws changed to suit himself or to tout for jobs for his pals. He’s got just as much right to write to government ministers as anyone else, the bool mooths brown nose. Which must mean that any random punter who writes to a government minister about Nissen huts in Antarctica has an equal right to a detailed personally written and signed reply which covers every point raised in great detail and isn’t just a form letter giving the brush off… Oh, wait.
The bool moothed ones tell us that the letters merely show how informed Charles is and how good it is that he’s expressing concern. Which makes you wonder why successive governments fought toothfish and badger claw to keep them secret. They’re simply the sort of concerns anyone who reads the Daily Telegraph or the Daily Mail might have, said a bool moothed type, answering the previous question. They’re not the sort of concerns that anyone who reads more widely than the right wing press might have. The fact we’re faced with a future head of state whose world view is determined by the contents of the Telegraph and the Mail is something of a worry, and not just if you’re Scottish.
The bool moothed apologists have not noticed the irony that they’re defending the supposed neutrality of British institution which is anything but neutral on the BBC, another British institution which is supposedly neutral but which isn’t. We’re living in Narnia, a land of make believe where story telling passes for news. And that’s precisely why a significant number of us want independence – so we can live in a grown up country.
I want to live in a country where we don’t have to fight long and expensive legal cases in order to discover what a future unelected head of state is lobbying for. I want to live in a country where the public broadcaster reflects the discussions and opinions of the public, it doesn’t seek to form them or channel them in pre-approved directions.
We’re stuck with Prince Charles, at least until independence, but we can do something about our other not so neutral British institution before that. Despite the many shortcomings and the obvious bias of the BBC’s McTernan spider memos, we need a publicly funded broadcaster. The Tories are about to embark on an all out assault on the principle of public funding for the BBC, and that’s why we need to ensure that broadcasting is a devolved matter. Then we can have a public broadcaster that really does reflect the views of the Scottish public, and protect it from the Tories at the same time.
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