If You Really Want to Kick Away the Ladder of Social Mobility, You Have to Be in Government
Anderson, Bruce, The Independent (London, England)
The Prince of Wales is an unlucky prince. Through inadvertence, he often allows his enemies to strike at him. The leaked note which aroused controversy was clumsily expressed. Then again, it was a private document, never intended for publication, and his comments were the purest common sense. He did not say that people should be kept in their place. This did not prevent closet republicans - and open ones - in the media from gleefully attacking him, often on the basis of misleading headlines.
The Prince has a further problem. In England, intellectuals have always been a subject for mockery. The public intellectual has never had the status that he enjoys in other countries, and Prince Charles is a public intellectual. Judged as a thinker who repeatedly asks difficult questions and tries to influence government policy, Prince Charles is the most important public intellectual since the heyday of Sir Keith Joseph.
Consider the Prince's record. He has consistently argued for real history to be taught at school. He believes that instead of empathy - imagine you are a cotton-spinner during the industrial revolution - or repeated doses of the Second World War, British children should learn about their own country's past, in a chronologically based approach to the evolution of Britain.
He has also insisted that schools ought to teach much more Shakespeare: that the greatest English writer is part of the heritage of every British child. In neither case, history or Shakespeare, is the Prince suggesting that the natural diet of public school pupils is too refined for the ignorant multitude. A propos of ignorance, in an era when many town-dwellers insist on their concern for the countryside while knowing nothing about it, Prince Charles has done more than any environmentalist to make people aware of the realities of rural life, including hunting
Then there is architecture. Prince Charles has led the battle against the baleful influence of le Corbusier. Corbusier, who even more than Albert Speer was the true architect of totalitarianism, set out to brutalise the urban landscape and to produce housing which would brutalise its inhabitants. A malign alliance between his disciples and cost-cutters in local authorities helped to produce the hideous municipal architecture which not only blights the eye, but blights the lives of those who dwell in it.
Prince Charles has struggled against all this, in practice as well as theory. He has created his own urban-scape, the village of Poundbury in Dorset. It may not be Palladio or Wren, but it consists of humane buildings, good for families. Question: if someone with the Prince's views had been in charge of British council housing since 1945, would Britain's social problems be better or worse? The answer is self-evident.
Then there is genetically modified food. Here, a strong case could be mustered against Prince Charles. He seems to disregard the point that many plants and domestic animals are themselves the product of genetic modification down the centuries. But he has an obvious counter-attack. Slow, gradual, selective breeding is one thing. It is quite another to allow the laboratory free access to the countryside. There is a powerful argument for thought and delay, to ensure that we do not do irrevocable damage to the environment in a fit of scientific over-optimism. Can anyone doubt that Prince Charles was right to highlight the GM question?
The answer to that is yes. This government, which had hoped to sneak GM through with minimum public discussion, was irritated by the Prince. …