He's Been Labelled a Crank, a Reactionary and a Bore but Here One Writer Argues That, on the Issues That Matter, Prince Charles Has Been . . . VINDICATED
Byline: LEO MCKINSTRY
FEW public figures in modern Britain have been more mocked and criticised than the Prince of Wales.
'Eccentric', 'bizarre', 'ignorant' and 'unbalanced' are just some of the milder epithets used over the past three decades to describe his views.
Only last week he came under fire again, this time over his warnings about the health risks from genetically modified food.
Dr James Watson, whose pioneering work at Cambridge University in the Fifties, with Francis Crick, led to the discovery of DNA, described Charles as a Luddite. As president of the leading molecular biology institute in the U.S., Watson said we should dismiss the Prince's arguments because as a 'rich farmer, he doesn't have to be efficient'.
Such professional condescension follows a familiar pattern, with Charles caricatured as a hand-wringing intellectual who fails to understand his subject and is hopelessly divorced from the real world. As the Prince said last year, when he speaks on the causes he feels strongly about, he finds himself 'swamped with vilification and abuse'.
Today, the Prince will put his head above the parapet again in a major speech on his pet subject, farming. Perhaps there will be someone eager to attack him once more. Yet the truth is that on every one of the major issues he has taken up - from GM food to modern architecture, from education to the environment - he has frequently proved to be ahead of his time and correct.
Far from being a faddist, he has shown greater foresight and judgment about policy than the vested interests which have denounced him. Moreover, despite the accusations of his 'ivory tower' existence, he often has more of an ability to sense the public mood than the political establishment.
On GM food, while politicians and scientists bluster about safety, opinion polls show that the majority of people, like Charles, are deeply worried.
I am certain that the Prince's concerns about biotechnology will prove as justified as his pronouncements in so many other areas. For this is what has happened throughout his career.
Take the issue of education.
Since the late Sixties, the ethos of progressive, child-centred learning has predominated in our schools - any problems over declining standards should be blamed not on this culture, but on 'lack of Government resources'.
When Charles attacked this outlook in a series of speeches in the late Eighties, advocating a return to traditional methods and referring to the way 'our language has become so impoverished, so sloppy and so limited', he was condemned from all sides.
Reality One newspaper called him 'a reactionary club bore'. The National Association for Teachers of English said he was 'talking nonsense'. But parents knew that the Prince had grasped the truth abut the disastrous state of our schools.
Slowly, in the face of fierce and continuing - resistance from the teaching profession, that reality filtered through to politicians of all parties. Now, we have an Education Secretary, David Blunkett, and chief schools inspector talking exactly the same language about education that Charles has been using for years. And standards are starting to rise as a result.
The same is true of architecture. With his innate feeling for tradition, the Prince has long been a powerful critic of the excesses of modern architecture. One of his most famous speeches on the subject was made in 1984, at a banquet to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Royal Institute of British Architects, when he denounced plans for the National Gallery extension at Trafalgar Square as 'a monstrous carbuncle'. …