Magazine article The Spectator

Snap out of It, Twigg: Show Charles the Tolerance You Demand for Yourself

Magazine article The Spectator

Snap out of It, Twigg: Show Charles the Tolerance You Demand for Yourself

Article excerpt

Alastair Campbell has not yet told us what transpired between the Prince of Wales and Tony Blair on Monday in St James's Palace. All we know, from the advance publicity, is that this was going to be one of those painful, hurts-me-morethan-it-hurts-you kind of interviews, in which the Prince was to be asked to bend over and grasp the underside of some gilt chair while Tony dealt with him in the way he once dealt with his fags at Fettes.

The Prince, you see, has been found guilty of lese-majeste. He has been accused by Labour ministers of interfering in public life, and the Prime Minister is even said to believe that the Prince is a 'goon'. Listeners to the Today programme will have heard the arch Labour loyalist, Stephen Twigg MP, laying into the Prince the other morning, assisted by Mark Leonard, the teenage founder of Robin Cook's ludicrous ethical foreign policy think-tank. There are three charges against Charles. The first and most serious is that he caused Tony Blair and Robin Cook embarrassment by not showing up for a dinner in honour of the Chinese leader, Jiang Zemin. The Prince checked his diary and found he had an un-get-out-- able date with Santa Palmer-Tomkinson, sister of the famous It-girl, Tara.

This perfectly good excuse was rubbished by Alastair Campbell, and it has been sub Bested that the Prince was trying to make a point about China's systematic humanrights abuses, penchant for mass executions, and so on. It is one thing, says an enraged Labour government, for the Tory opposition to hint at the vacuities of the new 'ethical' worldview. But in exposing our hypocrisy, say Labour sources, the Prince is pushing his luck.

The second charge against His Royal Highness is that he has spoken out against genetically-modified foods, when we all know that Labour is in league with Monsanto and other breeders of the killer tomato. The third is that he has offered to be an `ambassador for British beef. a gesture which is said to have ruffled the feathers of Nick Brown, the agriculture minister who has proved so utterly feeble in persuading the French and the Germans to lift their ban.

So the nation lay listening gloomily to the Today programme and wondering whether to get up, and, apathetically, which of the three supposed royal offences Twigg and Leonard would choose as grounds on which to bash the Prince. Would they side with the Beijing government and its lust to decapitate criminals? Or with the American gene-tampering multinationals? Or with those who refused to eat British beef? Of course they were far too fly for that.

The Prince had apparently been meddling in an entirely different debate. What caused concern, said Stephen Twigg, with massive pomposity, was his actions at the weekend. He had allowed his son, Prince William, to be photographed hunting; in fact (more amazing pictures, pp.24-25), William was pictured on a socking great grey horse jumping over a hedge. It was regrettable, said the egregious Twigg, that the Prince of Wales should have butted into an important public debate. This should properly be aired on the floor of the House, he said. At this point I - and I cannot believe I was alone - was wondering whether to throw the radio and the Toady programme out of the window, so great was my rage. …

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